Hard work and dedication have gone a long way for defenseman Andrew MacDonald. The Judique, NS native’s journey from his first professional season bouncing around the minor leagues to where he is now makes earning the Alternate Captain title well deserved.
“I thought it was great for the team and good for the organization, especially for the younger guys coming up,” Travis Hamonic, his defense partner of three years, said. “He’s been one of those guys that we look up to every year and plays a lot of minutes for us, does a lot of good things on the ice and in the locker room.”
The 27-year-old MacDonald began his professional career with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League in the 2006-07 season but was demoted to the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies midway through 2007-08 to work on his development.
“Obviously I was pretty disappointed, I wasn’t really expecting it,” MacDonald said. “At the time you don’t realize it but it ends up being a good thing where you can go down and play a ton of minutes and really work on your game, which is exactly what they wanted me to do.”
His effort paid off, as he was able to earn his spot back with the Sound Tigers the next season, and even played three games in the National Hockey League that same year. In 2009-10 he spent one last year in the AHL. He earned a roster spot the following season with the Islanders, and has since become a mainstay.
Coach Jack Capuano has been there since day one with MacDonald and has watched him grow into a leader.
“He knew what he had to do to get better,” Capuano said. “There were certain skills and the physicality part of his game that he needed to work on and he went down and did it. He didn’t sulk and his attitude was great and that was a big part of it.”
Another player who has witnessed MacDonald’s growth is Frans Nielsen. Both played together in Bridgeport and know what it takes to make it at the NHL level. Nielsen believes his teammate deserves everything he has earned.
“I love seeing stories like that,” Nielsen said about MacDonald fighting his way to make the NHL roster. “Guys who have been all the way down and worked their way up and never complained.”
Like Captain John Tavares and Alternate Captain Kyle Okposo, MacDonald has played his entire career with the Islanders organization. He was selected in the sixth round (160th overall) of the 2006 NHL Draft.
“I think they made an honest effort to rebuild from the inside and that’s what they’ve done,” MacDonald said. “It’s great to be able to grow up with the same group of players essentially within the organization and I think it means more to everybody if you can win with a team like that.”
MacDonald has all of the signs of a good leader. He holds himself and his teammates accountable and may not be the most vocal one on or off the ice, but his teammates will attest that he leads by example.
“He plays the game right in my opinion,” Hamonic said. “There is a right way to play and a wrong way to play and he’s definitely on the right side of it most of the time.”
The “A” on his chest is a symbol that MacDonald works hard every night and does whatever it takes for his team to win. His teammates and coaches do not see the new title changing his personality or demeanor.
“It’s the way he goes about his business everyday,” Capuano said. “He comes to the rink and wants to get better and is one of those guys who watches a lot of video and stays on the strength and conditioning program and you get rewarded for that.”