Experience and leading by example. That’s what Providence Bruins forward Mark McNeill is looking to bring in his first season with the club.
Being a leader to some of the younger players, and there are quite a few of them on the P-Bruins roster, is something the 25-year old native of Langley, British Columbia takes pride in whenever he steps on the ice. A former captain of the Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League, McNeill is looking to continue that role as he hopes to one day permanently crack an NHL lineup.
McNeill’s leadership and skill set are better served in Providence, at least for the time being. Those two traits are factoring into his early success in 2018-19.
“I’ve been in the [AHL] for a number of years now and with my experience, I’m looking to help out the younger guys,” McNeill said after Providence’s 4-3 loss to the Hartford Wolfpack on Oct. 13. “Also lead by example, both on and off the ice and in the locker room and being one of those guys.”
An impressive career with the Raiders where he registered 97 goals and 146 assists for 243 points in 276 games led to the Blackhawks selecting McNeill with the 18th overall pick of the 2011 NHL Draft. Chicago sent McNeill to its AHL-affiliate in Rockford where he spent parts of six seasons with the IceHogs. McNeill had a modest stint in Rockford, with his career-best season coming in 2015-16, registering 25-23-48 totals.
The Blackhawks shipped McNeill to Dallas during the 2016-17 season in a deal that brought defenseman Johnny Oduya back to the Windy City. McNeill spent the rest of the year with Dallas’ AHL club, the Texas Stars.
The Stars then sent McNeill to Nashville the following year. The minor-league veteran finished his 2017-18 campaign with the Milwaukee Admirals, the Predators’ AHL affiliate.
McNeill signed a one-year, two-way contract with Boston on July 1. The Bruins sent the veteran down to Providence on Sept. 26.
A fourth franchise may finally be the charm for McNeill. He’s been a bright spot with five points (two goals, three assists) in the first five games despite Providence’s 1-4 start.
McNeill credits his linemates and the coaching staff for his early success.
“It’s a testament to the coaching for believing in me and giving me an opportunity but also credit to my linemates who I’ve been playing with most of the time,” McNeill said,” [Cameron] Hughes and [Jakob Forsbacka] Karlsson are a couple young kids. They think the game really well and they’re fun to playlet with.”
Expectations are always high for any first round selections. Despite his longevity, McNeill is still waiting for that opportunity to become an NHL mainstay after appearing in only two NHL contests — once each for Chicago and Dallas.
It won’t get any easier within the Bruins organization, with the strong crop of forwards already up in Boston and fellow teammates Forsbacka Karlsson, Trent Frederic, Colby Cave, and even Jordan Szwarz ahead in the pecking order of potential call ups. Given the good start to his P-Bruins career, however, Mark McNeill could very play himself into the conversation for possible trips up I-95.
“Just continue to work at it in the gym and on the ice and try to relay that into the games,” McNeill said. “Just try to work on my quickness, something I want to continue to improve on and that versatility that I can play and implement that into the game so I can move up and down the lineup.”
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