TORONTO - Andrew MacDonald considers himself a late bloomer in the game of hockey, saying opportunities with the Truro Bearcats and Moncton Wildcats got him where he is today as one of the New York Islanders assistant captains and leading defencemen.
He played midget AAA with the Cape Breton West Islanders before making his way to the Truro Bearcats in 2003.
"That was the first place I played junior and it was a great stepping stone for me," he said. "That organization is run so well with Stu Rath and Sean Evans being the coach there. They taught me a lot about how to play positionally sound defensively and gave me confidence to play in different situations on a nightly basis. It was a good opportunity for me, an in between step between midget and major junior. Truro and Moncton were both major learning years for me and people say I'm a late bloomer, but it's because of those years I made it."
The Judique, Nova Scotia native was plus one and had two penalty minutes Tuesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Although he logged 24:48 of ice time, he was averaging 30 minutes of ice-time in his last three games. He has been given the opportunity to take on a bigger role as Lubomir Visnovsky has been out of the lineup since Oct. 19.
"Obviously it's a great opportunity for me. It's unfortunate the circumstances with Lubo being out because he's a big offensive threat for us," said MacDonald. "It gives an opportunity for other guys, but I think for me I just try to go out and do whatever the coaches ask me to do and on a nightly basis try to provide that. It's nice to get all the ice time and I'm certainly not going to complain about it."
He was also given an increased role this season when the Islanders organization named him an alternate captain alongside captain John Tavares and fellow alternate Kyle Okposo. It meant a lot to him to be given title, but it wasn't something he expected to happen.
"It's a huge honour and obviously any time you get recognition from your peers like that you know it's something you take with a lot of pride and responsibility," he said. "There's definitely a little bit of added pressure in that sense because you have to be responsible not only for yourself, but your team and the organization. To be able to wear the letter is pretty special and it's something I appreciate and don't take for granted."
Last week MacDonald's former coach in Moncton, Ted Nolan, was hired by the Buffalo Sabres to be their interim head coach.
He only played on year the 2005-06 season under Nolan, but had an outstanding year with six goals and 40 assists. It's likely those numbers and Nolan's first hand experience that he drafted MacDonald in the 2006 draft as a 20-year-old in the sixth round and 160th overall.
He said Nolan knew how to read people and how to get the most out of each individual. He's happy to see him back in the NHL and expects him to play a major role in getting the Sabres back where they want to be.
"I'm really happy for Teddy and obviously he's a big part of why I'm here today," said MacDonald. "He kind of brought me along from Moncton to New York. He wasn't here when I made it up, but he was the main reason why I got where I am. I owe a lot to him and really appreciate it. He's s great man and a great coach and I wish him all the best.
"I was able come along with the Islanders as they moved up. Him and Danny Flynn did a lot for me and it's still something I appreciate to this day and am really happy for recent opportunity Ted had been given."
MacDonald and the Islanders are in Pittsburgh on Friday to face the Peguins who currently lead the Metropolitan Division, seven points ahead of the Isles. They have lost three of their last five games, while MacDonald has one assist in five games.
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