MONCTON, N.B. – The month of September has been a busy and important one for Jeremy McKenna.
The right-winger from Summerside recently attended the rookie camp of the National Hockey League’s Arizona Coyotes, was named an assistant captain of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Moncton Wildcats for the second straight year, and will play in the first-ever hockey game at Moncton’s new Avenir Centre on Friday evening. That contest, against the Saint John Sea Dogs, is sold out.
“It’s a huge game for the city, and one of those lifetime games you will remember forever,” McKenna told the Journal Pioneer in a phone interview earlier this week.
The Wildcats were scheduled to practise in the new facility for the second time on Thursday. What are McKenna’s initial thoughts of the team’s new downtown home?
“It’s unbelievable,” answered the 19-year-old son of Mark and Sara McKenna. “I grew up on a nice rink like the Credit Union Place, and this is an amazing rink.
“I can’t believe how well they did it. Props to the Wildcats and the City of Moncton.
“It’s going to be amazing and a great experience for the fans to see a game.”
McKenna will likely not be the only Prince Edward Islander on the ice for the Avenir Centre’s inaugural game as Wildcats defenceman and Cornwall native Jordan Spence, who played with the Summerside Western Capitals of the MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League) last season, and rookie Saint John blue-liner Charlie DesRoches of Days Corner are expected to be in the lineups of their respective teams.
McKenna said “it was a great experience” at the Coyotes’ camp.
“Getting to go to Arizona and an NHL camp is something you dream of, and I got an opportunity to play in the Las Vegas Rookie Showcase,” said McKenna. “I got a chance to play against some other teams, and see where I stack up. It went really well.”
McKenna, scored two goals in a pair of contests – both in the second game against Anaheim.
When asked if he received any feedback from the Coyotes, McKenna said, “They want me to be a consistent player and keep improving.”
McKenna added the Coyotes also told him they will be following his progress this season – a year McKenna is excited about.
“We have a good mix of younger guys and older players, and we have a lot of skill,” said McKenna in describing the 2018-19 edition of the Wildcats. “We just have to put it all together.
“We have a great team, and I think we will surprise a lot of people.”
As a third-year player, McKenna is looking forward to taking on a leadership role, and acknowledged he’s excited to be wearing an “A” again.
“Being a leader is something I pride myself on, and I just want to be the hardest worker on my team, a role model for my teammates and someone who leads by example,” said McKenna, who had 77 points, including 36 goals, in 68 regular-season games a year ago.
“Jeremy obviously had a great season last year in point production, and took that momentum home with him this summer,” said Wildcats head coach Darren Rumble in a team media release announcing this year’s captains “He had a great off-season, and his commitment to off-ice training was second to none. He showed up this year at camp ready to go.”
Jeremy McKenna’s statistics with Moncton Wildcats: