Winger primed for pro-motion

SCOTT FISHER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

Carson McMillan has done a good job of balancing bucks and pucks.

But with a new NHL deal under his arm, the Calgary Hitmen co-captain can now concentrate on the latter.

McMillan signed an entry-level contract with the Minnesota Wild yesterday.

"It was in the background," McMillan said. "But my agent, Mark Mackay, said 'Go play hockey and we'll do the rest.'

"It's always in the back of your mind, so I'm really happy to get it done."

McMillan, a seventh-round pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, said he was a little concerned after the Wild cleaned out the front office a few weeks ago.

GM Doug Risebrough was fired and head coach Jacques Lemaire resigned, so McMillan will have to start fresh with a new management team.

"I was a bit worried about that," he said. "But my agent said the contract was still on the table, and they can't just dismiss it.

"I know Doug Risebrough and Jacques Lemaire and they're good people. It's always tough to see guys like that go."

McMillan enjoyed a breakout campaign as an overager, putting up career highs in every statistical category -- 31 goals, 72 points, 93 penalty minutes, and a plus-41 rating.

He credits Hitmen bench boss Dave Lowry for his increased production.

"Coming back for an extra year really helped me," McMillan said.

"It was Dave's first year as head coach, and he gave me all the opportunity I could have asked for.

"I guess he knew what I could do, and I'm grateful for that."

Lowry said McMillan is a perfect example of the selfless players he has on the team.

"We've always said if you develop the team concept first, individual success would follow," Lowry said. "And a lot of guys have had good years.

"Carson has the ability to score goals. When he competes, skates and uses his speed, he's going to get his opportunities.

"He's had a great year offensively, and he's been rewarded for that."

McMillan, who just helped the Hitmen sweep his hometown Brandon Wheat Kings in the Eastern Conference final, is looking forward to finishing off his junior career in style.

The Hitmen are awaiting the winner of the best-of-seven Western Conference final between the Vancouver Giants and Kelowna Rockets, which is deadlocked at two games apiece.

"Winning a WHL championship and going to the Memorial Cup would be awesome," McMillan said. "But we'll have to get past one more incredible team.

"Whether its Kelowna or Vancouver, we're prepared for both teams, and we're looking forward to that series.

McMillan, whose Hitmen are riding a WHL-record 12-game playoff winning streak, has caught a few Western Conference final games on TV.

And it won't hurt his feelings if the Rockets and Giants have to play seven games.

"No, it definitely wouldn't," McMillan said. "They're pretty evenly matched.

"Both teams gave us a test during the season, and Kelowna beat us once, so we'll expect their best.

"Whoever it is, they'll give us a battle when the time comes."

SCOTT.FISHER@SUNMEDIA.CA


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