I had the opportunity to catch Kurtis McLean at Hockey Heritage North in Kirkland Lake, Ontario and ask him a few questions about his career and his future in the NHL. The 28 year old NCAA and AHL star has been nothing short of a hard worker and the type of player every team wants in their system for strength and leadership. Kurtis talks about his career, his first NHL goal, and who he thinks the Islanders are going to select with their 1st overall pick.
A brief bio of Kurtis McLean:
He played his entire College career with the Norwich Cadets, finishing with 212 points (118G 94A) in 115 games. He helped his team win the D-III National Championship, was named the 2005 D-III Player of the Year, and is the first ever D-III four-time First Team All-American. In 2007-08, McLean helped the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL) to the Calder Cup Finals and finished 7th in playoff scoring with 19 points (4G, 15A) in 23 games, including 6 multi-point affairs.
After 4 years of College Hockey and 4 years of playing in the AHL, Kurtis McLeanâ€™s dream came true as he played his first game in the NHL for the New York Islanders. He finished out the year with 4 games in the big league and scored his first goal against J.S. Giguere and the Anaheim Ducks. He finished off his NHL stats with 1 goal and a +1 on a struggling Islanders franchise with an average of just under 11 minutes of ice time per game.
When asked about his first NHL goal, McLean considered it â€œa dream come true. Having an opportunity to get a goal against Giguere was an incredible feeling and after that game, Giguere never really recoveredâ€. In fact, after losing to the Islanders 2-1 on January 21st, 2009 â€“ the game McLean scored the winning goal, a blast from the high slot that beat him clean glove side â€“ Giguere went on to play just 15 more games during the regular season (and one game in the playoffs against Detroit) in which he averaged a 3.53 GAA and an 85.7 SV%. Coming into the game against McLean, Giguere was enjoying a 2.83 GAA and 89.5 SV%. The second game in the NHL for Kurtis McLean proved deadly against the Stanley Cup winning goaltender.
I asked McLean of his plans heading into next season. Heâ€™s a pending UFA on July 1st but he certainly has his own game plan. â€œAs you know, I had a late season injury (torn Achilles) that kept me out [for the last 15 games of the year]. I had a great time playing for the Islanders organization and if I need time to continue to recover, I have a deal with Finland [Lukko of the SM-liiga] for next seasonâ€. McLean is a gritty two-way player who is excited to play in Europe next year.
But he isnâ€™t the only member of the Islanders organization who is at an exciting time in hockey; Isles GM Garth Snow is faced with a difficult decision on who to draft with the 1st overall pick, or perhaps to trade it. I asked Kurtis â€œif [he] had the opportunity to trade or draft the 1st overall pick, what wouldâ€ he do. â€œI donâ€™t think theyâ€™ll be trading itâ€, he began. â€œAnd I donâ€™t think Hedman is the one on their radar right now. They want a forward to lead their team and if they want the immediate ticket sales theyâ€™ll go with Tavares, but there are a lot of rumblings that they are interested in the type of player Matt Duchene is. His leadership qualities are a good fit for their organizationâ€.
When itâ€™s all said and done, McLean still believes John Tavares is the most skilled player in this yearâ€™s draft.
Click here to see Kurtis McLean’s first NHL goal.
Micheal A. Aldred