Saturday, September 24, 2011

UNH Recruit Profile: Collin MacDonald

"Collin MacDonald has a lot of the same skills as James van Riemsdyk, however not as polished at this time."
Toby Harris,
Head Coach & General Manager, Jersey Hitmen

On August 25th, Collin MacDonald, a 19-year-old, 6'2", 200 lb, forward from the Jersey Hitmen organization, committed to play for the University of New Hampshire in the fall of 2012. Soon after, I had an opportunity to ask Coach Harris to describe MacDonald's skills and compare him to a current or former UNH player.
"I recruited James van Riemsdyk when he was a sophomore at Christian Brothers Academy in (Middletown) NJ. I saw a lot of GOD given talent and skill. Although James was a sophomore and Collin a postgraduate, there is an uncanny resemblance. He skates extremely well, has incredible hands, an excellent scoring touch/release, and great size. With the UNH system, rink and off ice training program he will excel."
A favorable comparison with JvR - 2nd overall pick in the 2007 NHL Draft; Hockey East All-Rookie Team; 21-goal scorer with the Philadelphia Flyers - is impressive. So who is this talented young player? In recent weeks, Collin MacDonald has burst onto the scene of the Eastern Junior Hockey League (EJHL) with the Jersey Hitmen. In the EJHL preseason games, MacDonald has scored at a blistering pace - which should not come as a surprise. Last season, as the captain for the Hitmen of the Empire Hockey League (Junior B Division), MacDonald was the league's leading scorer. In 39 regular season games, he scored 29 goals and 53 assists, including 6 powerplay and 4 shorthanded goals. For his efforts, he received the Empire League's "Best Forward Award." The Hitmen advanced to the USA Hockey Junior B National Championships and MacDonald lead the team in goals scored with 4 in four games. The Hitmen lost in the quarterfinals of the tournament to the eventual champions, the Boston Jr Bruins.

MacDonald's first opportunity to don an EJHL uniform came at the preseason, Summer Classic in July. The round-robin tournament between EJHL teams was won by the Hitmen. MacDonald scored 6 goals in six games which tied him for leading goal scorer. In early September, the Jersey Hitmen won all three of their games in the Woodchuck Classic, a round-robin tournament with teams from the EJHL, Ontario Junior Hockey League, and Canadian AAA Provincial Hockey League. MacDonald scored three goals over the weekend including the game-winning, shootout goal on Friday.

Yesterday, I caught MacDonald's first regular season game in the EJHL at the New England Sports Center in Marlborough, MA. The Hitmen defeated the Boston Bandits 6-1 and MacDonald had three assists. When you first see MacDonald skate, the resemblance to JvR is apparent. He's a big left-winger with a wide gait and stride. His acceleration may be a bit quicker than JvR's was at UNH. On one back-checking play, MacDonald quickly caught up with a streaking Bandit forward in three strides. His playmaking and passing abilities were evident in his three assists. Another skill which stood out was his ability to instantly change the direction of the puck while in full stride. For example, on one rush into the offensive zone, he quickly shifted the puck from his backhand to forehand as he cut from the rightside of the blueline to the top of the left circle, leading to a low wristshot on goal. In this season opener, MacDonald was on the third line and also got some powerplay time. It will be interesting to see if he moves up to the top line as the season progresses.

Off the ice, Collin MacDonald has excelled in two other areas essential to a developing student athlete. Coach Harris told me that "Collin is a tremendous student with a 3.9 GPA, which put him in the top 20 in his graduating class (at West Milford High School). This year he will continue his studies at Passaic (County Community College) to stay ahead of the tough UNH course load." In addition to his academic pursuits, MacDonald reportedly had a successful summer of conditioning at the Rockland Peak Performance Fitness Center.

UNH fans interested in seeing Collin MacDonald play this season have a few opportunities as the Jersey Hitmen come to the Tri-Town Arena in Hooksett, NH and the Rinks at Exeter in late October.


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