The odyssey of Cam Maclise has landed the Lacombe hockey player with the Bentley Generals for the season.
Senior hockey is a strange landing spot at 22 for one of the best junior A hockey players in the country over the last decade.
But for one year at least, the Chinook Hockey League team will be his home.
“A lot of these guys have played some good hockey in the past,” said Maclise. “They may be older and maybe don’t skate as five times a week like I do, but they’re good players, they’re smart, and it’s been a lot of fun.”
Maclise was faced with a year without hockey after transferring to the Mount Royal University Cougars after one season with the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds due to Canadian Interuniversity Sport regulations.
Generals general manager Jeff Mcinnis caught wind of this and offered Maclise an opportunity to play close to home.
He has fit in perfectly as an injection of youth and offensive skill on their top line.
“He’s a battler and he wants it,” said Generals head coach Ryan Tobler. “He loves to compete and he’s a game-breaker type player. We’re very fortunate to have a player of that calibre playing on this team.”
Maclise has taken full advantage of his opportunity and has scored 18 points (11 goals, seven assists) in 10 games. His scoring rate of 1.8 points per game are second in the league to Curtis Billsten from the Okotoks Drillers who has 28 points (16-12-28) in 13 games.
Scoring has almost never been an issue for the six-foot-three-and-a-half, 205-pound centreman, except for his one season in Fredericton, N.B.
It was a case of the hockey player and the school not being a good fit for one another, and in 28 games he scored nine points (1-8-9).
He is hoping MRU will be a better fit when he can finally get into a game with them for the 2015-16 season.
“I didn’t get much of an opportunity to play, which happens sometimes, but the main reason I decided to come back was for the school, Mount Royal has a great business program, it has a good rep,” said Maclise. “I’m happy being closer to home and I’m glad I made this decision.”
Considering Maclise’s minor hockey and junior career, it’s a curious situation to for him to be in.
After scoring 39 points (22-17-39) in 31 games with the Red Deer Bantam AAA Chiefs, he was drafted in the ninth round of the 2007 WHL bantam draft by the Edmonton Oil Kings. He played the next two seasons with the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs where he was one of their top offensive players, combining for 63 points (34-29-63) in 67 games.
In 2009, he made his debut with the Oil Kings, but as a young offensive talent coming in, he fell flat, scoring 14 points in (6-8-14) in 64 games.
Frustrated with his spot on the team, he left the organization after his rookie season and joined the Brooks Bandits in the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
“I was maybe a little bit immature at 17, and had a bad year and was pretty set on going down to junior A,” he said. “If I stayed, maybe I could have had some great years in Edmonton and went on to play pro, but who knows? I can’t complain with what happened … no regrets.”
While in Brooks he helped transform the club into a national power, winning the league championship in 2012 and 2013. In 2013, he led the Bandits to a RBC Cup Championship where he was named tournament MVP with nine points (6-3-9) in six games and was also named Canadian Junior Hockey League player of the year. In three seasons in Brooks he scored a franchise record 216 points (85-131-216) in 171 regular season games and another 40 points (18-22-40) in 41 playoff games.
Normally these are marks that would have NCAA schools fighting for his commitment — as is the goal with most junior A players. But he burned his NCAA eligibility the minute he pulled on an Oil Kings sweater.
His best option was to go the CIS route, and the Varsity Reds — one of the top programs in Eastern Canada — brought him in.
However, he is now back in Alberta, not exactly sure where his hockey future lies. He is concentrating on his schooling at MRU and practicing with the team during the week before joining the Generals for weekend games.
Still, there is the possibility that the door is not shut on a pro hockey career. He has been at two NHL camps the last two years and it is not uncommon for CIS players to at least go on to the American Hockey League level with the odd player making it to the NHL.
“I try to work as hard on the ice as I do in the classroom” he said. “I’m keeping my options. Definitely when I’m done playing CIS, I’m going to keep my options open as far as hockey goes and if something catches my eye, no doubt I’ll take it.”
Tobler believes that opportunity will come, describing him as a poor man’s Brandon Sutter, his training partner during the summer.
“When you see them side-by-side, it’s just uncanny,” he said. “They have a very similar skill set and both really good hockey players.”
This year, however, he is focused on the Generals and a national championship.
They’re on pace to do just that, sitting at a perfect 14-0-0 in league play.
“It’s nice when you’re winning that many games, the main thing is to stick to it,” said Maclise. “We’re looking at the Allan Cup in April, that’s not going to be easy to win, we know that. Our goal is to come every night and keep good habits.”
• The Generals swept their weekend action, beating the Rosetown Redwings 4-2 in exhibition action in Eckville on Saturday and 2-1 over the Fort Saskatchewan Chiefs in Fort. Saskatchewan on Sunday.
In Saturday’s win, Cody Esposito, Keenan Desmet, Kyle Sheen and Jade Galbraith scored once each while Travis Yonkman made 32 saves for the win.
In Sunday’s win over Fort Saskatchewan, Galbraith and Sheen scored and Dustin Butler made 28 saves. Brant Middelton broke the shutout with 40 seconds left in the game while David Tetrault stopped 32 shots in the loss.