For Moose Jaw Warriors forward Kenndal McArdle, the last half year has been terrific.
Just two days shy of the five-month anniversary of the 2005 National Hockey League Entry Draft, McArdle still gets wide-eyed in remembrance of being selected in the first round by the Florida Panthers.
McArdle, who was in attendance for the draft held in Ottawa on July 30th, smiled brightly when recalling his draft day memories.
“The night before I slept fine, I was completely fine walking into the draft room,” recalled the native of Burnaby, B.C. “But after about No. 7 goes and I could go anywhere after that it gets nerve-wracking and your heart goes a little bit faster. It’s pretty nerve-wracking watching the guys in front of you get called up to the stage.”
Selected 20th overall by the Florida Panthers, McArdle quickly became energized by the thought of being surrounded by some of the best young talent in the NHL.
With Roberto Luongo in net, Jay Bouwmeester on defense, and a forward core that includes several former first round selections, McArdle has reason to be excited.
“When Florida called my name the first thing I could think of was their great young players,” admitted the Warrior. “Nathan Horton – having a great year, Anthony Stewart, Jay Bouwmeester, quality young guys. They’re obviously great at developing their young prospects.”
Along with Stewart, McArdle joins a prospect pool that includes the likes of Czech prospects Rostislav Olesz and Lukas Krajicek, as well as Stefan Meyer, to form one of the most talented top fives league-wide.
Being drafted by a non-traditional hockey market certainly wasn’t a negative for McArdle, either, who sits 12th in the Western Hockey League in scoring with 37 points in 36 games.
“As for a particular team, I just wanted to go to whoever wanted to draft me,” said McArdle. “When I put on the jersey it was a feeling of sheer exhilaration.”
McArdle had a quick introduction to the Panthers organization shortly after being drafted. The Panthers, along with the Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens, Carolina Hurricanes, and Toronto Maple Leafs participated in a rookie tournament as part of a six-day rookie camp.
“We didn’t fare so well but it was good to get around the guys and the training staff and the coaches and see how things worked,” said McArdle.
Although McArdle was promptly returned to the Moose Jaw Warriors following the rookie tournament, he left with some valuable advice on what the organization hoped he would work on in the Western League.
“After things were done, I went back to Moose Jaw. They were quite clear that that is where I’d be heading to work on my skills this year,” offered McArdle. “Florida has told me to keep on working on the things that have gotten me this far. There are weaknesses in my game, just as there are in anyone else’s game and they’ve helped me work on those. First and foremost they want me to come out and compete and work hard every night.”
While many players drafted in 2005 came back from camp and have slumped in juniors, McArdle excelled on one of the top junior clubs in the WHL. Playing with Dustin Boyd (CAL) and Troy Brouwer (CHI), who are 1-2 in league scoring, McArdle has blended his physical nature and offensive touch to lead the top 20 scorers in penalty minutes.
“Our team is having a good year this year,” said McArdle. “There is nowhere I’d rather be.”
One place that McArdle would undoubtedly like to be is with Team Canada in Vancouver for the World Junior Championships. Despite playing well in the Canada/Russia Challenge in early December, McArdle wasn’t named to Canada’s selection camp.
He suited up in one game for Team WHL, recording one goal and three assists. Although he played strong, McArdle wasn’t one of Sutter’s selections.
“I felt that I did what I had to do to showcase myself. I played my game,” said McArdle before the selection camp roster was announced.
With Boyd absent to participate in the tournament, McArdle has struggled somewhat, scoring just two points, both goals, since his departure.
It will be up to McArdle and Brouwer to keep the Warriors ship sailing in the absence of Boyd, as they sit first in the East Division.
Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.