Duncan McKie is in hockey limbo.
The Coldbrook native is waiting to see what next season will hold for him and can only hope 2014-2015 gets off to a more certain start than the season just past.
McKie, who will turn 17 in May, was drafted by Charlottetown in the fourth round of the 2013 QMJHL draft, the 69th overall pick. His 2013-2014 odyssey started when he attended the Charlottetown training camp last August. For a while, he thought he might have made the team.
“I went to P.E.I., they enrolled me in school, then two days before school started, they sent me home. The day I got home, I got a call from Amherst.”
The Amherst Ramblers junior A team wanted him to play there. He set up a billet in Amherst, and enrolled in school again.
“I got to school the first day, and that night, they cut me,” McKie said.
He returned home again, and prepared to play a second season with the Valley Midget AAA Wildcats. He also enrolled in Grade 11 at Central Kings – his third high school in the space of a couple of weeks.
McKie spent the season with the midget Wildcats, serving as an assistant captain, a valued defenceman and, even at age 16, one of the team leaders.
Chances to advance
McKie also got to play a handful of games with the junior A Wildcats, and remained on the P.E.I. radar as well.
“I was called up once, and made a road trip with them, which was a good experience for me even though I didn’t get to play in any games,” he said.
Being drafted by P.E.I, and especially being chosen so high, “was a bit of a surprise to me, especially where I hadn’t been ranked by Central Scouting,” he said.
“I can understand why (P.E.I.) cut me. I wouldn’t have played as much there, or gotten to improve nearly as much,” he said.
The Wildcats, while not as successful as in 2012-2013 - when they won the provincial and Atlantic championships and played for the TELUS Cup - had a pretty good team this year, he said.
“We were second at the Monctonian (a large and competitive tournament in New Brunswick) for a second straight year. There aren’t too many teams have done that.”
The Wildcats had a change in coaching, with Dan Turner taking over as head coach from Nick Greenough, who moved up to the juniors.
“They have different styles, but I like playing for both of them,” he said. “For his first year in major midget, (Turner) did a really good job. I learned a lot this year.”
Working on skills
Despite the uncertainty early on, McKie said returning for another year of midget was “not a bad thing,” and was “probably the best thing that could have happened,” at least in hindsight.
“(This season) was a really good learning experience for me. I got to work on my power play and my skating, both of which needed help.”
For the past two years, McKie has trained with skating coach Cheryle Gaston.
“My first year in midget, I’d train with her once a week. This past year, I’d go before school. She asked me what P.E.I. wanted me to work on, and we’d work on that.”
He also trains four days a week with strength and conditioning coach Elliott Richardson at Acadia.
“He’s so knowledgeable, and if I ever did get injured, I’m sure he’d know exactly what to do for it.”
“Not counting my chickens”
McKie plans to attend the P.E.I. training camp again this summer.
“I don’t have a guaranteed spot on the team, but I’m hoping they see how hard I’ve been working and how much I’ve hopefully improved,” he said.
“If I can keep improving, I have a good shot of making it this time,” but with last year’s experience still fresh in his mind, “I’m not counting my chickens.”
If major junior doesn’t work out, he still has a year of midget left, and it’s also possible he could be drafted by a junior a team. Either way, he would get to stay home another year.
“P.E.I. is still my first choice of where I’d like to be. I‘ve been working on everything they’ve asked me to. I feel I’ve improved, and hopefully, they’ll think so, too,” he said.
Between school and a fairly demanding hockey schedule, McKie doesn’t have much time to do other sports.
“I may try and do track and field again this year,” focusing on the throwing events, he said.
Like most players, McKie has dreams of “going all the way” in hockey.
“Like anybody else, I’d like to make the NHL someday, but realistically, I know that doesn’t happen for everybody,” he said.
“I’m prepared to work as hard as I can and not slack off. I’ll be happy with wherever it takes me.”