July 31, 2014

Mass. native Johnathan MacLeod reminisces about Draft Day

Dracut, Mass., native Johnathan MacLeod provided New England Hockey Journal with an inside look at one player’s journey from amateur to pro prospect and the process leading up to the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. The former Kimball Union standout and forward and BU recruit was New England Hockey Journal’s second-ranked area native for this year’s draft class.

On the experience of draft weekend in Philly: Overall the experience was amazing. It was very intense sitting there waiting for your name to be called. Every time the announcer said, “from the National Team Development Program,” your heart races, as it could be you or one of your teammates.

Best memory from the draft weekend experience: The biggest memory was waking up in the middle of the night Friday night with my heart racing, saying to myself, “Calm down, you will hopefully be drafted today.” Then when the second round began and the numbers started to drop down to the 56th pick in the second round, I thought I wasn’t going to picked, and then I heard the announcer say, “from the National Team Development Program, Johnathan MacLeod,” and I literally jumped out of my seat.

On the NHL Draft Combine and experiences leading up to the draft: Just receiving an email that you are being invited to the NHL combine was an experience you never forget. I had 22 interviews scheduled, and some were very intense. Some of the questions they ask were a little tricky, but you just have to remember to just be yourself and give elaborate answers. The cardio training was crazy. Putting the nose clip on and breathing through the tube was one of the toughest experiences in a training I ever had to do. You say to yourself, “How bad can this be?” Then you and your buddies are getting sick in the back room after its over. Something I wouldn’t want to experience any time soon.

On the NHL draft experience overall: Walking into the Wells Fargo Center for the first time and saying to yourself, “I could be drafted this weekend,” … it was so surreal. The Philly fans screaming at the top of their lungs, your teammates and friends being drafted in the first round … it’s an unbelievable feeling to just be sitting there hoping to be drafted yourself.

On your fondest memory of playing with Kimball Union and how that time helped you develop as a player: KUA was a great experience for me. Coach Mike Levine really helped me to develop as a player. He knew exactly what needed to be done in order for me to make it to the NTDP and beyond.

On entering the USHL as a 16-year-old and how you matured through that experience: It was tough to move completely away from home as a 16-year-old. I was living away at boarding school, but moving to Michigan was not a close drive if you needed something. My host family, Mike and Darla Dubin, welcomed me like I was one of their own, which really made all the difference in the world. The structure and schedule of a USHL player keeps you busy from morning to night, and the grind of the travel on the weekend keeps you busy as well. You definitely mature both as a player and person. You learn how to behave and act accordingly in all situations, because you are representing your country at all times.

On the ups and downs of your U.S. NTDP experience: I think the toughest part of being an NTDP player is your ability to stay focused on your job and not be a normal high school kid. Your job is hockey and when you understand the opportunity in front of you, whether it be your Division 1 college hockey scholarship or your chance to be drafted in the NHL, you have to stay focused and not worry about all of the other high school experiences you are missing, such as attending Michigan football games while you are on a 13-hour bus ride to Waterloo. Your job becomes your passion.

On what lies ahead: Looking forward to attending BU and working with the coaching staff. I couldn’t be more excited to be coached by David Quinn, who was a defenseman, and I think he will be the one to get me ready for the next phase, which will hopefully be playing in Tampa Bay full time.

I cannot wait for the season to start. I am looking forward to getting the skates back on and playing in my first college hockey game.

On being selected in the second round and whether that had been an expectation of yours: Every player’s dream is to be selected in the first round, but it’s just a dream. You read and talk to so many people and you anticipate what they tell you is true, that you are a second- or third-round pick, so that stays in your head. My local paper had me going in the fourth round to Florida, so you just don’t know how and when a team is going to pick you.

On going to Tampa: I am thrilled to be picked by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Did you expect that? Tampa is one of the teams I met with and I thought they liked what I had to offer, but a lot of teams tell you they like your style of play, you just have to hope that one comes through and believes in you enough to pick you in the early rounds.

Do you have any connections to the Lightning or the state of Florida? No, I have no connections to the Lightning or the state of Florida. In fact the only time I have been to Florida is when I was 4 and went to Disney in Orlando.

Have they indicated a “game plan” for how they see you fitting in to that franchise? No, nothing has been officially discussed yet. I am attending the rookie camp this week and we will see what happens after that. I am sure the coaches will be in touch throughout the year with my BU coaches as I grow and develop, and hopefully, I will get the opportunity to make the jump to the NHL when I’m ready.

This article originally appeared in the July edition of the New England Hockey Journal. Click here to read the digital edition for free.

Email: feedback@hockeyjournal.com