By Ryan McCracken on September 22, 2016.
Dylan MacPherson didn’t take the easy route to major junior hockey.
The 18-year-old Redcliff native served a three-year tenure with the Southeast Athletic Club Tigers during a difficult chapter in the program’s history. Despite watching several teammates take the call to play elsewhere, such as the Alberta Junior Hockey League, MacPherson stuck around, soaking up minutes with the midget AAA team.
Sure enough, an even bigger opportunity came knocking.
“SEAC didn’t have a great record for the past three years but I just stayed with them and played hard, and it was nice to catch a break,” said MacPherson, adding he’s seen plenty of teammates make the jump to junior A at an earlier age. “It’s just nice to be able to move along as they did, but to play the full three years and develop more is better… You get a lot of ice when your team is struggling so you just learn more.”
A season rife with injuries forced Tigers head coach and general manager Shaun Clouston to go searching for a capable defenceman to fill an open gap in the team’s depth chart for the remainder of the season. Luckily, he didn’t have to look far.
“We had so many challenges last year with injuries and we were looking for another ’98 defenceman and he just so happened to be in our backyard,” said Clouston. “He’s gotten stronger and still needs to get stronger but he’s working on that, and that’s great.”
MacPherson took in six games with the Tigers last season with a minus-three rating, but he says he took some time to improve the finer points of his game over the summer and it’s been paying off in pre-season.
“I hit a lot of weights,” said MacPherson, who had one goal and two assists in five pre-season games with the Tabbies. “I kind of stepped down speed and cardio and stepped up the weights a whole bunch.”
Clouston added MacPherson’s best asset continues to be his skating. Coupled with a continually growing understanding of the game and a dedicated attitude, Clouston says MacPherson could end up with a spot in the dressing room.
“He can really skate and get back to loose pucks, coming out of the defensive zone he can skate himself out of trouble and I think that’s really important,” said Clouston. “Now it’s about getting the reps in practice and getting the opportunity in games to continue to develop and gain confidence.”
The competition for a permanent place on the back end has been fierce since the onset of training camp, but MacPherson says it’s sure to bring out a better player in all of them.
“They’re all good and they’re all trying to make this their living so to speak, stay in the lineup and not get scratched night in and night out,” he said.