CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Carson MacKinnon has always been a good offensive hockey player, but the statistics didn't come as easy during his first three years of junior.
Some players never get back to that level, but the Summerside native is having an offensive resurgence in Year 4 with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Rimouski Oceanic. He has 14 points in 12 games this season after topping out with 35 points in 65 games last season.
MacKinnon credits an off-season training program and the confidence the coaches have shown in him for the increased offence this year.
“They gave me a lot of opportunities throughout training camp and I took advantage of them,” MacKinnon said.
“The biggest thing to have in hockey is confidence,” he added. “You want the puck on your stick. You’re more confident with your shooting ability, your playing-making ability. It kind of elevates every (element) of your game.”
MacKinnon is back on Prince Edward Island today with his Oceanic teammates to play their lone game of the season at the Eastlink Centre. They play the Charlottetown Islanders tonight at 7 p.m.
MacKinnon made the Oceanic after being a fourth-round pick at the 2015 draft.
He wasn’t put in an offensive role right away but was given a chance to prove himself on the penalty kill. As a 140-pound forward, it was tough to win the one-on-one battles, but the Oceanic saw the smarts he brought to the table and knew it was only a matter of time. The defensive role in his early years helped MacKinnon round into the 200-foot player his coach can now call on to play in any situation.
“When you are a coach and you can put on the ice a guy who can compete for all 200 feet, it’s a huge asset,” Serge Beausoleil said. “We can play him on the (penalty kill) and on the first wave of the power play.”
The message to MacKinnon early in his junior career was be patient.
“You have to believe in the process and be patient, that’s what maturity is,” Beausoleil said. “I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s a real big challenge for the kids.”
But he has seen it work out in the past.
Tyler Boland exploded in his final two years of junior and was second in league scoring in 2016-17 with 103 points in 68 games.
MacKinnon acknowledged he won’t get points every game, but when those contests come, he has to find other ways to help his team win. It might mean winning key faceoffs, being strong defensively or being hard to play against.
MacKinnon is playing on a line with Olivier Garneau and Dmitry Zavgorodniy, who he played with last season.
MacKinnon said Zavgorodniy is very creative, fast and has a great shot while Garneau and MacKinnon play a similar style. They like to pass the puck as much as shoot it while being responsible defensively.
“We think the game the right way,” MacKinnon said.
The Oceanic end the road trip Sunday in Moncton which means MacKinnon will get a chance to play against his childhood friend Jeremy McKenna and his Wildcats teammates.
Need to know
A look at Carson MacKinnon.
Who – A fourth-year forward with the Rimouski Oceanic.
Personal – MacKinnon is a 19-year-old Summerside native. He is six-feet tall and 184 pounds.
Minor hockey – MacKinnon was more than a point-per-game player during his bantam seasons in Summerside and Notre Dame in Wilcox, Sask. He recorded 21 points in 37 games in his first year of midget in 2014-15 at Notre Dame.
The same year he had 12 goals and 16 points in six games for Team P.E.I. at the 2015 Canada Games in Prince George, B.C. The Island squad played Newfoundland and Labrador and the Northwest Territories twice and one game each against New Brunswick and the Yukon.
Acquired – MacKinnon was drafted in the fourth round (61 overall) of the 2015 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) draft.
Off-season training – MacKinnon worked out this summer at Dynamic Fitness with his brother Ryan MacKinnon, Ross Johnston, Ryan Graves, Zack MacEwen, Kameron Kielly, Antoine Bibeau and Conor MacEachern. “Being around the pro guys definitely made a difference. . . It definitely pushes you to get better.”
Season GP G A Pts.
2015-16 65 7 7 14
2016-17 65 13 14 27
2017-18 65 13 22 35
2018-19 12 7 7 14
Oceanic coach Serge Beausoleil said: MacKinnon gained strength during the off-season and is now stronger on the puck. “He was our best player in the exhibition games and right now he’s just keeps running,” he said, adding he is a good teammate and an assistant captain. “Everybody appreciates him in the dressing room.”
Did you know? Carson’s older brother Ryan played three seasons with the Oceanic and wore the C as the team’s captain. Beausoleil sees similarities between the two of them. He said they are good human beings, teammates and leaders by example.