One and/or two NHL games have stretched to seven and counting, but MacGregor Sharp isn’t complaining.
The 24-year-old Red Deer product is living his dream since joining the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 18. The telephone call Sharp received from Ducks vice-president of hockey operations David McNab, while toiling with the Bakersfield Condors of the ECHL, wasn’t the summons he was expecting; instead, it was a substantial surprise.
“We had a morning game in Bakersfield,” the six-foot-one, 180-pound centre recalled this week. “I got called into the coach’s office right after the game and it was David McNab on the phone. We’d been talking about me getting a call-up to the (American Hockey League) and finding a place to play because the Ducks don’t have an AHL affiliate (team) this season.
“That was kind of what I was really hoping for when I talked to him. Then he (McNab) said they were bringing me up to Anaheim. That kind of came out of the blue and I was really happy and excited. I was told that the Ducks were calling me up for one game because of an injury to one of their players, and maybe a second game if things went well.”
Apparently, “things” have gone well for Sharp, who appeared in his seventh game with the Ducks on Tuesday, a 4-3 loss to the visiting Los Angeles Kings.
“I’m just kind of going day to day. They (Ducks management) haven’t said much, so every day I just get up and go to practice and work hard and try to contribute during games,” said the former Camrose Kodiaks and University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs star, who’s staying in a hotel across the street from the Ducks’ home arena, the Honda Center.
Sharp isn’t playing a ton; he’s been on the ice anywhere from three to six minutes per game and has yet to record a point or serve a penalty.
“It’s definitely different than the last couple of years when I played a lot and in every situation (with the Bulldogs),” he said. “But any ice time I get here is a positive and a bonus. I’m playing on the fourth line, but it’s definitely been a good experience.”
Sharp signed a two-year, two-way contract with Anaheim last spring after leading the Bulldogs to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association championship. He appeared in six games with the Ducks’ AHL farm team, the Iowa Chops — scoring one goal and adding one assist in the process — then was placed on the Ducks’ taxi squad for the club’s NHL playoff run.
The former Red Deer midget AAA Optimist Rebels forward garnered plenty of pro interest during the 2008-09 season, sniping 26 goals and contributing 24 assists for a team-leading 50 points with Minnesota-Duluth.
“Yeah, it was a breakout year for myself, but for our entire team as well,” said Sharp. “The team had a great year and when that happens individuals have a great year. It was a breakout year for me personally. The season before I led the team in scoring with 17 points (7-10). So, to get 50 . . . that’s a huge difference.”
Sharp’s play away from the puck also improved during his fourth and final season with the Bulldogs.
“I played in pretty much every situation and really worked on my defensive game,” he said. “I talked to our coaches about playing pro hockey at some point and they stressed the fact that you have to be responsible defensively to get to that level. Faceoffs, penalty killing and defensive zone play . . . I worked hard at them and they’re all a big part of my game.”
Sharp joined the Kodiaks of the Alberta Junior League as a 17-year-old in 2002. He became a core player with the club almost immediately and received an athletic scholarship to Minnesota-Duluth as a junior A rookie.
He played three seasons with the Kodiaks, although that wasn’t his original plan when he first went to Camrose.
“Originally, I was just going to work on my game for a year (at the junior A level) and then probably go to Medicine Hat,” said Sharp, who was selected by the Tigers in the 2000 Western Hockey League bantam draft. “But I got a scholarship pretty early in my first season and ended up sticking with that. I followed through with it and it worked out pretty well.”
Indeed, Sharp gained a business degree during his four years at UMD and is now playing at the highest level.
“It worked out great for me, obviously. I got a post-secondary education and the chance to play pro hockey,” he said. “It was a bonus to have my schooling paid for and to get a degree, but all along the driving force for me was the dream of playing pro.
“I didn’t really have any plans as to where I would end up, the big thing was to continue working at my game while getting an extra couple of years to develop. I don’t think I weighed enough or was a big enough guy when I was younger to play really well in the Western League. Those couple of years of developing in college were really good for me.”