January 30, 2011
McNeill: hello, and good-bye
By CRASH CAMERON, QMI Agency
It’ll be a quick hello and goodbye to family and friends for Mark McNeill.
The Edmonton-born centre is a busy 17-year-old, trying to keep the Prince Albert Raiders in the WHL playoff hunt.
“It’ll be quick but hopefully we’ll get a few minutes to chat,” McNeill said before Saturday’s game against the Oil Kings at Rexall Place followed by a trip down the road to play the Calgary Hitmen on Sunday.
It’s been his breakout year, with his scoring stats already past double his 2009-10 totals.
“Yeah, I’ve had a pretty good season so far and it’s all because the coaches here have been behind me.” McNeill said. “I’m getting the opportunity to play, play in lots of different situations and I’m having a lot of fun with it.”
Not only was McNeill a rookie in the Dub, he was coming off a serious Achilles injury suffered during a tryout camp for the U17 nationals.
“Back when I had that injury I spent a lot of time in the gym, trying to build back up my leg strength.”
He continued with that during the last off-season and he also grew to 209 pounds on his six-foot-one frame.
“Doing sprints and footwork really helped me, too.”
And he plans on doing the same during the upcoming off-season, with the goal of generating more and more interest among NHL teams in his draft-eligible year.
“Same sort of thing, work on the legs and build up the leg strength.”
The Oil Kings’ Jordan Hickmott played with McNeill in P.A. last year.
“As a 16-year-old, a rookie, he didn’t get to play a lot, but you could see signs of what he could do when he was out there. He did really good down the stretch last year and now you see he’s getting first-line ice-time and you’re seeing what he can do with it.”