April 12th, 2024

Tiger prospect Ryan-MacKay not short on energy

By JAMES TUBB on March 23, 2024.

PHOTO COURTESY MARK PETERSON PRINCE ALBERT RAIDERS Medicine Hat Tigers prospect Brayden Ryan-MacKay made his WHL debut during a Tigers' road trip in early March, playing his first game against the Saskatoon Blades on March 8 and suiting up against the Prince Albert Raiders on March 9.

jtubb@medicinehatnews.com@ReporterTubb

Brayden Ryan-MacKay may not be the tallest player on the ice but the Medicine Hat Tigers’ prospect doesn’t care.

The 15-year-old forward made his WHL debut on the Tigers’ Saskatchewan road trip in early March, donning the orange and black for the first time in a 3-1 loss to the Saskatoon Blades on March 8 and suiting up on March 9 in an 8-3 loss to the Prince Albert Raiders.

Ryan-MacKay had some nerves during his debut, especially during his rookie lap ahead of warmups.

“I was pretty nervous, not trying to mess up or fall or something,” Ryan-MacKay said. “But it was just a great experience getting out there and having that 30 seconds where all the eyes are just on you.”

He felt more confident in the game against Prince Albert where he says he was able to make some plays and hold his own. Against the Blades, he says it was about finding his way on the ice at the new level.

The Tigers selected Ryan-Mackay 119th overall in the 2023 WHL draft. He slid in the draft due to a dislocated knee and because of his 5-foot-6 stature not up there with some of the behemoths in the league. He says it meant a lot to him when Medicine Hat took him without a lot of eyes on him with the knee injury that was healed in time for training camp.

Ryan-MacKay says he put in a lot of rehab work to be ready for camp and liked how he was able to hold his own against older and bigger players, something he’s had to his whole life.

“You get used to not taking as many hits and you get your head up a lot more often,” Ryan-MacKay said. “Some bigger guys come into this league and like they’re bigger in our league (U18), so they don’t know how to take a hit or avoid a hit and they just get killed. Where I feel like in my league, I’m just kind of used to not taking hits and moving off of heads and spinning off. I feel better than like some older guys might feel.”

Ryan-MacKay has spent all season with the South Alberta Hockey Academy at the CSSHL U18 level, putting up 20 goals and 37 points in 30 games. He’s enjoyed working under head coach Brayden Desjardins there and the shared game styles the Tigers have under Willie Desjardins.

“Our team was really close this year, it’s been awesome,” Ryan-MacKay said. “The Circle K (Classic) was one of the best experiences I’ve had. We played Edge in quarters and there’s like 1,500 in a tiny barn, it was packed good. They’ve treated me well over there and it’s good to come up with the Tigers once every two weeks.”

Playing just down the road with SAHA at the Big Marble Go Centre, Ryan-MacKay has been part of Tigers’ practices more and more in the second half of the WHL season. Having seen him in practices and his first couple of game from behind the Tiger bench, Desjardins’ has liked what he’s seen from Ryan-MacKay.

“He’s going to be a good player, he’s got good skills,” Desjardins said. “He’s small, he’s going to have to grow, that’s his limiting factor right now. If you didn’t have that, he’d be right there. But he’s going to have to grow and get stronger. With that, I like his skill, so he just has to keep working and developing.”

Until a special elixir is created for growing taller, Desjardins says growing bigger doesn’t only apply to Ryan-MacKay and is an often requirement in the WHL.

“You just work at it but that’s true for a lot of our guys, it’s not just true for him, (Matt) Paranych is the same,” Desjardins said. “Lots of times it’s not just growth, its strength and you can get stronger. Maybe you don’t get bigger, taller, whatever, but you can get a lot stronger and that’s in the gym.”

Ryan-MacKay is one of seven prospects called up as the Tigers ‘black aces’ for the playoffs. Taking part in practices, morning skates and there in case of injuries to fill in. He’s looking forward to not only being part of a hopeful long playoff run but have a front row seat to a position he hopes to experience himself next season.

“I’m very excited to see the guys and see how far they can get, hopefully they can put in some effort and get the result they want,” Ryan-Mackay said.

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