By Ryan McCracken on September 30, 2016.
Medicine Hat Tigers defenceman David Quenneville waited all the way until the 200th pick to hear his name called at the 2016 NHL entry draft. While he was among the final 12 players to be selected by a big league club, the next day he was bound for New York with the Islanders.
The frenetic pace of Quenneville’s off-season never really slowed down â€” from competing with Team Canada at the IIHF under-18 world championship in North Dakota to mingling with the Isles elite and of course lacing them back up with the Tigers at fall camp. But the summer sure ended in fitting fashion on Tuesday when Quenneville threw on the Islanders’ blue and orange and took to the ice at Madison Square Garden for a pre-season game against the New York Rangers.
“You say those words and I think anyone in the world knows where you’re talking about. To play my first exhibition game there was really special,” said Quenneville, who was released by the Islanders earlier this week and will start for the Tigers tomorrow when they host the Saskatoon Blades at 7:30 p.m.. “It was unreal.”
It was an unforgettable experience for the 18-year-old Edmonton native, but a sobering learning experience all the same. The third member of his family to be selected in the NHL draft, Quenneville says getting a taste of pre-season action gave him a much stronger understanding of what it will take to find a permanent place on hockey’s biggest stage.
“The pace they play at in the NHL is so high. Even in practice everyone is going really hard. It’s 100 per cent all the time and they don’t take anything less,” said Quenneville, who put up 14 goals and 41 assists in 64 games with the Tigers last season. “It was really exciting for me to know that I can keep up and play hard with those guys and enjoy it. It was really special to be there as long as I was and take it all in.”
Known across the league for his powerful slap shot, Quenneville added he will be looking to bolster the defensive side of his game after getting a true taste of the speed and skill NHL players bring to the table. While the WHL still provides a hefty challenge, Quenneville says he still has plenty to accomplish in order prove himself worthy of a pro contract.
“You play against your buddies or peers in the Western Hockey League, and for me that’s every day kind of stuff, but in the NHL, playing against guys like Chris Kreider and (Mika) Zibanejad? Those are two guys, for me, who stuck out,” said Quenneville. “They’re big bodies who can move while still playing with a lot of skill and pace. I struggled against those guys so now it’s about learning to play against those guys in the future.”