MacKenzie reflects on WHL camp experience
Stephen MacKenzie said he learned plenty when he attended last month's Medicine Hat Tigers camp. (File photo)
Stephen MacKenzie didn't quite earn his stripes, but he's well on his way.
The Grade 11 Portage Collegiate Institute student recently attended the Medicine Hat Tigers rookie camp, and though he didn't crack the roster, he enjoyed his first taste of WHL experience.
"It was absolutely unreal," said MacKenzie. "You see players coming from all over the world — California, B.C. There were guys from Phoenix there.
"To see the level of talent that those guys had is a real eye-opener coming from a small town in Manitoba."
MacKenzie felt he learned plenty from his time in southern Alberta, and now has a beter grasp on where to focus on growing his game.
"Despite not going very far, I got some good feedback from them," said MacKenzie. "They're looking at me early in the season, so I'm excited for that.
"Basically, they told me to work on my leg power, and I need to work on my skating and speed. They said I had good hands, good puck control, I'm good down low with the puck."
MacKenzie said while Tiger star Emerson Etem wasn't around, goalie and Edmonton Oiler draft pick Tyler Bunz was.
"The head coaches were there, the trainers — they had a full staff," said MacKenzie. "Some of their draft picks were there."
MacKenzie was on the ice with the Portage Collegiate Institute Trojans, with whom he scored 12 goals and 14 assists in 21 games. However, he is also trying out with the Manitoba Midget AAA Hockey League's Central Plains Capitals and may forego a second year with PCI.
"Capitals is going really well," said MacKenzie. "Last year, they went really well, too. I just decided Trojans was a better fit that year.
"I have a few games this weekend with the Capitals, and a few practices as well. I wouldn't mind cracking that lineup. I'll make my decision on the last day possible, because it's going to be a tough one."
Trojans co-coach Andrew Cherkas said he'd love to see MacKenzie suit up in maroon and yellow for the 2012-13 campaign, but understands if the sniper opts to move on.
"Whichever decision he makes, we support it, but if he's back on our team, he's going to play a huge role, play in every situation, and given every chance to succeed," said Cherkas. "He'll put us over the top, I think."
Roster-wise, things are a little less hectic for the Trojans right now than they usually are, as much of the roster has been selected.
"Things are looking good for the first day," said Cherkas. "We rostered about 75 percent of our team in the spring just because we're going to Europe over Christmas break, and we wanted to give them the chance to fundraise.
"We have a good idea what our team should be like. We're just trying to fit in the rest of the pieces."
The Trojans are looking to build on a season in which they narrowly missed out on a provincial berth after falling in a pair of wildcard games to the Crocus Plains Plainsmen at the Kelvin Clippers.
For more, please see Tuesday's edition of the Portage Daily Graphic.