Originally Published on October 5, 2018 for the Maritime NHLers For Kids.
Zack MacEwen has never lost sight of his childhood dream of one day playing in the National Hockey League.
MacEwen’s unconventional path to professional hockey is something that the Prince Edward Island product has learned to embrace; quite frankly he wouldn’t change it for the world.
“It was always the dream, it was always the goal, but there was definitely times early on in my career at the junior A level that I would have been happy coming out of junior getting a scholarship to school and continue to play at that level,” explained MacEwen.
MacEwen’s success at the junior level definitely came later than most. In 96 games with the Amherst Ramblers of the Maritime Hockey League, the skilled two-way center amassed 66 points.
MacEwen’s inspired play caught the attention of the Moncton Wildcats and well the rest is history.
(Photo Credit Utica Comets)
MacEwen has taken full advantage of every opportunity he earned along the way. From the Maritime Junior ‘A’ ranks to the Moncton Wildcats and Gatineau Olympiques, the passionate hockey-loving Islander has certainly left an impression at every stop along the way.
MacEwen is actually still shocked by his ascension in the game. “It’s still mindboggling to me how far its come,” confessed MacEwen.
“Things kept escalating, I kept getting opportunities and doing well in those opportunities.
“I keep getting a taste of the next best thing, that keeps me wanting to push and strive to keep progressing my game to the next level,” explained MacEwen.
The Vancouver Canucks signed the power forward to an entry-level contract after a stellar campaign as an overager with the Gatineau Olympiques in 2016-2017.
In 174 QMJHL games the skilled gritty Islander amassed 137 points. Not bad for a kid that was passed over in the QMJHL Entry Draft.
“You could say I came into it a little bit later than most,” MacEwen said having success and perhaps being a late bloomer.
“Everyone develops at their own rate, I didn’t get looked as much when I was younger, I certainly wasn’t a top rated prospect or anything, but for me the way things have gone that doesn’t matter.”
“It’s all about how you play when you are given a situation, you have to earn everything that you do, so I would certainly not change anything in my career on how everything has went because I don’t know if it would have turned out a different way,” explained MacEwen.
MacEwen’s childhood dream was now firmly in sight. All the hard work and sacrifices he and his family had made over the years has definitely put things in perspective. “I can’t speak enough for how much my parents have done for me,” MacEwen said.
“They would drive all across the Maritimes to try to get to every game they could. They would come to Amherst every weekend, it’s not a short drive, but they would do it every time.”
“Even now they try to get to Utica as much as possible, they are actually going to be here for the home opener,” MacEwen said proudly.
The support doesn’t end there for the second year pro. “PEI is a pretty small place, but I have gotten a lot of support from there as well, they are always behind me, it’s always nice to see that support and do well for those people that have helped me a long the way.”
The skilled two-way center approached his first season in the American Hockey League with cautious optimism not knowing fully what to expect at the next level.
“It’s definitely a big jump from junior, but I feel really blessed to have the group that I had in Utica and even this year it’s the same way,” admitted MacEwen.
“Utica is a great spot to be, we have a really good group in the room and it’s awesome to go to the rink every day.”
Obviously there was certainly no need for cautious or concern a season ago, the towering center had a breakout season with the Comets. (Photo Credit Vancouver Courier)
In 66 games, MacEwen lite the lamp ten times and added twenty-three assists for thirty-three points. The 6’4 212 pound center added one goal in five postseason games.
Zack MacEwen had arrived. Nevertheless, the humble soft-spoken youngster is quick to point to the veteran influence in the Canucks organization as a contributing factor to his early success. “Last year was a really lucky year for me in Utica with the veteran presence and experience on the team.”
“I learned what it means to be a pro,” MacEwen said.
“The veterans really helped me a lot and showed me the ropes. You learn how to be a pro in your first year and you carry things that you see and try to soak as much in as you can,” admitted the young center.
With one year of experience under his belt the rangy center definitely felt more confident entering his second NHL Camp with Vancouver. MacEwen received his first taste of NHL life in Vancouver when he suited up for a preseason game last month.
“This year was something special, I got to play in Vancouver for the first time.”
“I had played two preseason games on the road last year, so getting the opportunity to dress in a game this year in Vancouver and kind of get the feel for what’s its like to play there really makes you want to work even harder to get to that level,” added the second year pro.
For Zack MacEwen every day is special when you are earning a living playing a game you love. “I’m never taking one day for granted,” stressed MacEwen.
“I’m living out my dream, earning a living playing professional hockey. A lot of people aren’t as lucky as I am to be able to experience this so that makes me work that much harder to keep progressing, not stay stagnate, it definitely gives me a different perspective,” MacEwen said of his journey thus far in the game.
With the Vancouver Canucks in a rebuild MacEwen might get the call sooner than expected. “It’s definitely a good spot for me to be in right now, I have a great opportunity ahead of me, the Canucks are in a rebuild and I’m not sure if I’ll be the first to get called up,” MacEwen said.
“The American Hockey League is a development league, you go there to develop, that’s what they tell everyone. You can’t look at your time in the AHL as they don’t care about you, you have to use it to get better and keep progressing and that’s what I am doing,” MacEwen added.
“However it plays out, whatever their plan is for me, they know what’s best. I’m just trying to do everything I can every day to keep improving,” explained MacEwen.
So what would it mean to Zack MacEwen if he did get the call this season? “It would mean everything. That’s the goal, that’s the dream.”
“I hope it happens soon and if it’s not soon I’m sure it will happen at some point, but I’m not going to get discouraged if it doesn’t come because you need to keep progressing and worry about your game and when the time is right, I’m going to be ready,” MacEwen said.
“I’m really excited to see what the future holds.”
Zack MacEwen will never forget his Island roots in the game and is always eager to give back to the game he loves.
For the past two years MacEwen has been a part of the Maritime NHLer’s For Kids fundraising Gala and Golf Tournament. Maritime NHLer’s For Kids was Co-Founded 19 years ago by NHL record-breaking coach and fellow Maritimer Rick Bowness.
The main objective of the organization is to ease the financial and social burdens preventing young boys and girls from playing minor hockey in NS-NB-PEI, a cause that is very close to Zack MacEwen’s heart.
“It’s a great organization and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it every year,” MacEwen said.
“Maritime NHLer’s For Kids do such great things for young kids coming up in hockey with maybe not as good of a chance to play and they give those people an opportunity to be part of a team and play the game. That stuff really hits home to me, I just love seeing people getting the opportunity to play,” MacEwen said proudly.