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McKenna steps up his game in second QMJHL season in Moncton

Moncton Wildcats sophomore Jeremy McKenna, centre, talks with teammate Jacob Hudson prior to an pre-game ceremony at the Eastlink Centre on March 17.
Moncton Wildcats sophomore Jeremy McKenna, centre, talks with teammate Jacob Hudson prior to an pre-game ceremony at the Eastlink Centre on March 17. - Jason Malloy

SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. – Jeremy McKenna has come into his own this season, but it didn't happen by accident.

The Summerside sniper tripled his point total from last season’s rookie mark of 26 to this year’s 77 with the Moncton Wildcats.

“It was a great year, and now it’s money time,” the 18-year-old left-winger said Sunday. “I took advantage of all the opportunities I got and I’m really looking forward to getting the playoffs started and seeing what we can do.”

Moncton will play the Rimouski Oceanic in the first round of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) playoffs.

The Wildcats (27-33-5-3) are a much different team this season than the club that went a league-worse 14-51-2-1 in 2016-17. The assistant captain said last season was a learning experience and he is trying to help motivate his club for a post-season run.

“A lot of us don't have the experience of QMJHL playoffs, but everybody is hungry and excited for the playoffs to start,” he said.

McKenna scored 20 more goals and had 31 more assists in his sophomore season. He credited his teammates for making it possible, as well as his desire to improve.

“I really put the work in and focused this year,” he said. “I was able to play all 68 games this season, which is something I’m happy about, being able to help the team . . . night in and night out.”

Wildcats director of operations Roger Shannon raved about the youngster.

“He is reaping the rewards of his hard work and his commitment,” he said Wednesday. “I just wish kids and athletes could understand you get out what you put in. In Jeremy’s case, everything he’s got this year, he earned it by committing himself last summer to a regiment of ferocious training.”

It came after a meeting at the end of the season where the Wildcats challenged him to be in better shape or he could find himself out of the major junior league.

“He took that to heart,” Shannon said. “I love when you challenge somebody and they respond.”

McKenna went through the NHL Draft in 2017, but is eligible again this June.

“It's a goal of mine,” he said of being selected. “I’ve thought about it a lot and it’s what pushes me every day personally” as well as being able to contribute to team success.

Shannon said he is pretty confident McKenna will hear his name called at the draft, noting there have been NHL teams fly into Moncton specifically to see the youngster with an NHL shot, improved skating, high compete level and who is strong inside the hash marks in the offensive zone.

“His motor is as good as anybody on the ice every single night,” Shannon said. “His puck protection is crazy,” he added noting it is due to his improved core strength.

Shannon said he sees even more room for growth for McKenna.

“Imagine what his next two years look like in this league.”


Need to know

Jeremy McKenna

Who – An 18-year-old Summerside native who plays for the Moncton Wildcats.

Size, position – Five-foot-10, 174-pound left-winger.

Statistics

Season    GP    G     A    Pts.

2016-17    66    16    10    26

2017-18    68    36    41    77

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