Photo courtesy of Moose Jaw Warriors website
It's a unique situation most players don't find themsleves in.
Kendall McFaull was given a chance to continue playing hockey with a professional tryout contract offer from the Oklahoma City Barons, after spending the last four years with the Moose Jaw Warriors in the Western Hockey League.
“It’s an opportunity that presented itself at the end of the year and I was already starting to think, I would have to go to school. Having a shot at pro hockey is huge for me and I have to make the most of it,” said McFaull.
The 6’2”, 190 lbs, defenceman was drafted in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, 155th overall, in the sixth round by the former Atlanta Thrashers -- now Winnipeg Jets -- and in June of last year, he did not end up signing a contract with the team making him an unrestricted free agent after his season with the Warriors in 2012-13 ended.
“I was a little disappointed but at the same time, I knew if I had a good last two seasons in the WHL, I can make up for it and it paid off.”
McFaull’s last year with the Moose Jaw Warriors was his best year yet as he set career highs in games played and points. He played in 71 games and had five goals and 20 points.
He credits his success to his confidence and being able to play more offensively.
“Just shutting guys down has always been my kind of role all through juniors. The defensive part of my game has been fairly strong but I’m more confident with the puck and I’ve been contributing a little more offensively.”
The Warriors season ended on Saturday after the team failed to make the playoffs but McFaull, who joined the Barons on Tuesday, hopes to be able to make the lineup on Friday against Houston.
“I look forward to playing in general. If I get in the lineup, that’ll be great and if not, I’m here to support the guys.”
One obstacle he thinks he may have to overcome is the speed between the WHL and AHL.
“Everything’s faster. You have to think faster, you have to move the puck harder with everything happening at a high pace so it’s going to take a few practices to get used to that but once I do, I’ll be fine.”
However, McFaull is looking forward to playing with the veterans on the team and feels he can learn more about the game by watching and learning from them.
“There’s a lot of veteran guys like Darcy Hordichuk and Ben Eager, who are here, and there’s a lot to learn about watching guys like that. The way they conduct themselves and the little tricks of the trade will be something I will definitely be watching for.”
The Barons are currently holding down the eighth and final playoff spot with 16 games left in the season.
Joining the team close to the final push for playoffs, McFaull feels his presence will help.
“I’ve worked hard and now I’m here, trying to work myself in the lineup. It starts with practicing and then hopefully contributing to the team making the playoffs. I can provide some depth on defence, pushing other dmen to continue their play while trying to earn a spot in the lineup. It’ll make them go harder.”