|Forward Kenndal McArdle, taken in the first round by Florida in the 2005 Draft, makes his much anticipated AHL debut this season with the Rochester Americans.
The Rochester Americans hope that his roll is just getting started.
McArdle and the Amerks look like one of the best pairings in the league at the start of this season. Rochester, a once-mighty franchise that regarded long playoff runs as a birthright, has in recent seasons become lost in the pack.
One of the reasons for that is the Buffalo Sabres, Rochester’s longtime parent club, has shunned big-ticket veterans in recent years; the Florida Panthers, who now share Rochester with the Sabres, have joined Buffalo in shopping in the not-yet-ripe section of the talent market. The Amerks desperately need a young star to justify that philosophy -- and a big winner to send a message of commitment to their fans.
Enter McArdle. The speedster has enough talent to have been the Panthers’ first-round pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. And yes, he has a passing familiarity with success: He won a gold medal with Canada at the World Juniors last season and helped Vancouver advance to the Memorial Cup.
“I was fortunate to win two large championships last year,” McArdle said. “You can only hope that translates over. I think everyone here is confident (the Amerks will win). You have to be confident in your ability.”
McArdle has more grounds for that self-assuredness than most players. For a young man of 20, McArdle has the perspective and speaks with the maturity of a hockey lifer twice his age.
He played 3½ seasons with Moose Jaw in the WHL before the business side of the sport slapped him in the form of a trade to Vancouver. Sure, the swap brought him much closer to his home in Burnaby, British Columbia, and moving up to a Memorial Cup contender was certainly easy to take. But McArdle wasn’t looking for a way out of Moose Jaw and was stunned when he was traded.
“I think trades are something you don’t control. You never know why, or how, they happen,” he said. “We (Moose Jaw) were a struggling team that wasn’t in the playoffs. Vancouver was a team that was hosting the Memorial Cup and needed some experience.”
McArdle closed out the regular season with 22 points in 37 games with Vancouver, and added 11 goals and nine assists in 22 playoff games.
That scorer’s touch was one thing. Derek Dorsett, a forward on Memorial Cup opponent Medicine Hat, recalled the 6-foot, 205-pound McArdle as a power forward stuffed into propane-fueled skates.
“We played nine games in a month and a half, and every game we battled,” said Dorsett, now a rookie in the Columbus organization. “He’s a solid kid.”
There are some plowed-over football players around the Vancouver area who could have tipped off Dorsett. McArdle ran the sports gamut growing up – including lacrosse and track – but his two favorites were football and hockey.
“I was definitely a kid with a lot of energy,” McArdle said. “I felt the opportunity was there in hockey, and I wanted to pursue a career. The game is one that’s played with emotion and intensity. I’m not on my game unless I’m on that edge.”
Amerks assistant coach Jason Cipolla is one of many wowed by McArdle’s pure explosiveness.
|Kenndal McArdle helped the Vancouver Giants capture the WHL Title with 11 goals and 20 points in 22 playoff games.|
Cipolla was speaking of hockey, but McArdle gives the impression that if he had stuck to track, the same could have been said about his sprinting. McArdle says he used to cover 100 meters in about 10.9 seconds, and run the 200 in around 23 seconds. Foot speed doesn’t necessarily translate to skating speed, but the analytical McArdle tries to mine some crossover advantages.
“Normally, your body moves with different muscles,” McArdle said of the differences between running and skating. “But you’re still trying to get from point A to point B as fast as you can. Moving it (running) over to hockey, it’s just trying to create a fluid motion. What can be brought over is the understanding of the movement. You want to be running with no strain or effort. It’s the same thing in hockey.”
McArdle clearly understands you can be great at two things, or maybe more, at once. It’s a mentality beyond his years that he carries to his new job, one in which he wants it all.
Make the NHL? Stick around to help a dipping franchise regain its swagger? Yes to both, please. Why limit yourself?
“Everybody wants to play in the NHL. At the same time, everybody wants to win,” he said. “(Players) understand that winning at the AHL level will bring you there (to the NHL) fastest. I think that’s what winning teams are all about.”
McArdle is someone who should know.