As a hockey player, anytime you put your name alongside the likes of Brett Hull and Terry Sawchuk, you know you’re doing something right. Golden’s Curtis McKenzie has done plenty right in his first full pro season with the Texas Stars, and last week he was named the AHL’s 2013/2014 Rookie of the Year, an honour that was once bestowed on that pair of NHL Hall of Famers.
The award puts a cap on what has been a meteoric rise for the local product. McKenzie played a solid two way game for the Miami RedHawks during his four years of college hockey but produced a modest 29 goals in 158 games. This year alone, McKenzie produced 26 goals to go along with 38 assists for a total of 64 points. That’s good enough for first among AHL rookies in scoring and ninth overall.
McKenzie has played much of the season with Travis Morin and Colton Sceviour, a situation that he believes has helped his offensive numbers immensely.
“Playing on the best power play in the league has helped give me a lot of confidence,” McKenzie said. “(Our line) all compliments each other really well. I just try and get (Morin and Sceviour) pucks and that’s helped me produce a lot.”
McKenzie put an exclamation point on his regular season with a hat trick on Apr. 12, a feat he hasn’t achieved since junior.
“That was pretty cool. They weren’t the prettiest goals, mostly hardworking goals and nothing fancy, but that’s my game,” he said.
Being around professional players this year has been an eye-opening experience for McKenzie, who has been able to really learn what it takes to make it as a professional hockey player.
“We’re an extremely hardworking team and I’ve developed some really good habits because of that,” he said.
Sceviour got called up to the NHL’s Dallas Stars partway through the season and produced a goal and an assist in the team’s opening playoff game last week. McKenzie will be looking to make that jump himself next season, although he knows it won’t come easy.
“I’ll have to have another good summer (of training) and then my goal next year is to make the big club,” he said.
Before his off-season training begins, however, McKenzie will be a big part of what looks like it could be a very promising playoff run for the Texas Stars. The Stars have clinched the best record in the AHL with a 48-17-10 record and are looking to make a run towards the Calder Cup, the AHL’s championship trophy.
McKenzie got a taste of AHL playoff action during a brief stint late last season, but is looking forward to the team’s playoff run this year as an integral part of the Stars’ attack.
“I’m really excited for the playoff push,” he said. “The intensity ramps up quite a bit and the players work that much harder.”
The Stars will host the Abbotsford Heat in their final game of the regular season before the start of the playoffs next week.