by Shane Malloy for NHL.com
Every organization needs players who inspire teammates through on-ice play and off-ice leadership. In the 2005 Entry Draft, the Florida Panthers discovered such a player in Moose Jaw Warriors winger Kenndal McArdle.
The 5-foot-11, 195-pound spitfire, who hails from Vancouver, brings a host of intangibles and is mature beyond his years.
When speaking to him, you realize quickly he seems more like a Harvard professor than a 19-year-old hockey player. His thoughtful responses allow you to appreciate his self-awareness and the responsibility he will soon have as a role model.
"I am not in the NHL ranks yet, and I am not in a position as visible to the children," he said. "But if there are a few kids that have seen me, look up to me, and think that the game is for them ... that is great. That is a role I will gladly take and, hopefully, I can make a positive difference."
Moose Jaw Warrior coach Steve Young said the way McArdle handles relationships with younger teammates will help him in that role.
"He is an excellent leader in that he leads by example on the ice and he does not have to talk very often in the dressing room," Young said. "But he commands respect because he has earned it and he is such a great person."
"Kenndal is a leader and a heart-and-soul player," teammate Dustin Boyd said. "He wears his heart on his sleeve and I have had the privilege to play on a line with him the last two seasons and he is nothing but positive all the time."
Don't be mislead into a false sense that McArdle is soft because you will get a rude awakening. His speed and tenacity are well documented by his teammates and coaches.
"When he is going with his speed, he is a hard guy to contain for the defenseman, especially when he is twisting and turning along the boards," teammate Blair Jones said.
"He has great speed and hands and I have never seen anyone have a better work ethic," Boyd said. "He brings it every night and I cannot complain having him as a linemate."
McArdle took part in both the Panthers' training camp last fall and Team Canada's camp for the World Junior Championships and found positives from both experiences.
"What I brought back from the Florida camp was the confidence that I can play at that level and it allowed me to realize that I can come back to the WHL and contribute in every aspect of the game on a nightly basis," McArdle said.
"The one thing that really stood out for me, spending time with the NHL players, was the attention to detail they have in their preparation," he said. "You understand quickly because you do not have the time to make plays like you do at the junior level. With professional players being that much faster and stronger, it introduces you to a new game due to the pace of the tempo."
The message delivered from the Florida coaching staff was one of keep on, keeping on.
"They spoke to me and said to continue to work hard and remain focused, be a leader on the team and put myself in a position to be a go to guy not only on the offensive side, but defensively as well."
The fact he was not selected for the Canadian World Junior team gave him something else to work towards and he knows he has one more chance.
"Next year I have another chance to be a part of that team and it is up to me to earn the right to represent my country," McArdle said. "I must let my play turn some heads and the onus is on me to change the decisions of Team Canada's staff so it becomes an easy one for them to make."
McArdle knows his strengths and weaknesses and understands what he needs to work on before he takes the next step.
"I think my speed is my biggest asset and it is something I bring every night. I create a lot of chances off it and like to have my game attributed to that for sure," he said.
McArdle sees himself as the perpetual student of the game, always learning something new.
"You have to learn the game in every area and consistency is the aspiration of every player ... to bring that element game in and game out. We play a long regular season and playoffs that matches the NHL schedule. If you are not able to have consistency at this level, you cannot expect to have it in the professional level."