Prep Watch is a new weekly feature on THN.com that focuses on minor hockey prospects destined to become big names in major junior or the NCAA – and hopefully one day, the NHL.
If you think everything’s laid-back in sunny California, you obviously haven’t stepped on the ice with Shane McColgan.
Not only is the 15-year-old star of the Los Angeles Jr. Kings tied for the team lead in scoring with 14 points in 13 games, but he also has a fiery streak that comes out if you test him.
“His competitiveness is second to none,” said Kings coach Jack Bowkus. “He’s a Jarome Iginla type of player.”
No more was that evident than at a United States League showcase earlier this year when McColgan decided to increase his totals in another statistical category – penalty minutes.
“Yeah, I squared off and dropped the gloves,” McColgan recalled. “I won. And the kid I fought is on my team now. We’re good buddies.”
Although he can take care of himself, McColgan is obviously known more for what he can do with the puck than what he can do with his fists.
“He’s got good hands, great feet – he can scoot along the ice and he has a great release in his shot,” said Bowkus, who was with another organization when he first saw McColgan, who, ironically, was a defenseman at the time. “You could see his anticipation and his hockey sense.”
It’s all in the game for McColgan, now a highly-touted center eligible for the 2011 NHL draft, but the youngster also knows with the skills he brings to the table opponents are going to try to get under his skin, so he can’t be losing his temper and taking himself out of games.
“Sometimes my emotions get the better of me,” he said. “I know I have to control them.”
One thing McColgan definitely has control of, however, is his destiny. His major junior rights belong to the Western League’s Kelowna Rockets, while top NCAA schools such as Boston College, North Dakota, New Hampshire and Northeastern are also suitors for the point machine.
As McColgan mulls those options, his profile will continue to rise, especially since his Jr. Kings are in their first year of membership in the vaunted Midwest Elite League. The Kings, along with programs such as P.F. Chang’s in Arizona and Russell Stover’s in Kansas, were part of a western expansion for a league that already boasted premier prep teams such as Detroit’s Little Caesar’s and Belle Tire.
“It’s a lot better,” McColgan said of his team’s new affiliation. “They’re all top-end teams. Last year, we would play the same teams over and over.”
And much like their NHL namesakes, which finished second in their division in their expansion season, the Jr. Kings are thriving in their first year in the big leagues. McColgan’s team is coming off a successful weekend showdown in Chicago, where the Kings played an incredible five games in three days, winning four and tying the final contest.
Not that anyone should be surprised these Cali kids could keep up; after all, the children of the Gretzky Revolution are just now blooming, with top WHL talents such as Mitch Wahl and Colin Long – a good friend of McColgan’s – leading the way.
The stereotypes are still there, but McColgan maintains his boys are just as dedicated to the ice as their brethren in Minnesota or Michigan.
“It’s not about the beach,” he said. “We’re at the rink pretty much every day.”
And if McColgan’s not playing at the rink, you can usually find him at the Staples Center watching NHL games.
“I’m represented by CAA and Pat Brisson, so I go to every Kings game,” McColgan noted. “He brings me downstairs to meet all the guys, talk to people and learn from them.”
And what does McColgan think of this year’s rebuilding NHL squad?
“I think they have a good chance to make the playoffs,” he said. “There’s always a way.”
You can’t fault the kid for a little California dreaming, right?
Prep Watch, which features minor hockey players destined to become big names in major junior or the NCAA, appears every Thursday, only on thehockeynews.com.
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