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Fighting for a spot

by Tyson Giuriato / Vancouver Canucks
Evan McEneny has arrived.

He has flown a bit under the radar since signing with the Canucks as an undrafted free agent in September 2012, but after back-to-back strong seasons in the Ontario Hockey League, McEneny appears ready to make the jump to the next level.

“Your goal is to always move up the ladder and play at the next level,” said McEneny, who is eligible to turn pro this season or return to the OHL for his overage season. “I think I can compete for a full-time spot in Utica and that’s what I am going to do.”

After picking up seven points in the first 15 games of the 2013-14 season with the Kitchener Rangers, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound defenceman welcomed a trade to the Kingston Frontenacs, where he was able to notch 35 points (5-30-35) in just 46 games.

“Towards the second half of the year my game started picking up,” said McEneny. “Getting traded to Kingston was a big opportunity for me as they are a skilled team. I thought overall I had a pretty good year. I loved playing in Kitchener, but change is always good. You get to learn new systems and play a different style. It was a good learning experience overall.”

McEneny and the Frontenacs finished the season with the second best record in the OHL’s Eastern Conference and were preparing for a lengthy post-season run, especially after going up three games to none in their first round matchup with the Peterborough Petes. But then things went sideways as the Petes battled all the way back to win four straight and take the series in seven.

Losing like that doesn’t sit well with anyone, but on positive side of things, it allowed McEneny to head down to Utica to grab his first taste of the pro game.

“It was very beneficial,” he said of his time with the Comets. “Practicing with those guys at that high pace and just learning how to be more professional was a great learning experience and I’m glad I did it. The game is played a lot smarter, the guys are a lot bigger and the puck moves a lot faster at the next level.”

The Hamilton, Ontario, product dressed for only one game with Utica, but did manage to catch the eye of Comets head coach Travis Green, who says that McEneny has made strides even since then.

“He played well in the game he played for us last year,” said Green. “His fate will come down to that. How he plays will determine where he ends up this season. He had to get in better shape and get a little quicker but my first impression of him here in Penticton is that he put the work in and did that.

“He is a smart hockey player. He’s a guy that you hope develops another level to his game and I think he can.”

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