Former Steelheads coach Brad Ralph used to say he preferred to wait seven to 10 games before evaluating a new player’s performance.
The sample size stands at just five games for rookie Brandon Magee, but the early returns are favorable.
Magee has a point (two goals, three assists) in each of the five contests prior to Friday night’s ECHL hockey game against the Utah Grizzlies at CenturyLink Arena.
“He’s a very good hockey player,” said first-year coach Neil Graham, who took the reins from Ralph in the offseason. “He has that offensive ability, and it speaks for itself. He’s fun to watch out there. He scoots around and he’s dynamic.”
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Second-year forward Colton Beck said Magee’s skill stands out.
“The first thing you see with Mags is that he’s a very quick skater and he can do some special things with the puck,” Beck said.
Magee certainly did special things at the major-junior level, finishing his career with the Victoria Royals as that franchise’s leading scorer with 264 points. He signed with the Steelheads this summer, and attended the Dallas Stars’ rookie camp.
“He did well, worked hard and turned some heads,” Graham said.
Magee got an invite to the Dallas’ main training camp. From there, he went to Austin and worked out with the Stars’ AHL players and earned an AHL contract.
“I was hoping to stick at the AHL level,” Magee said. “But being here, I’m just glad to be playing pro hockey. I’m waking up every day and doing something I love. It’s a privilege every day to be out on the ice.”
Many rookies come to Idaho in their mid-20s after college carers. Magee is 21 — and finding his way on and off the ice.
“Getting my Social Security number and trying to set up a bank account … all that stuff kind of sends you for a loop,” he said of the experience of moving from Canada to the States.
Magee hopes he’s not only fighting for a job, but creating a path to the next level. As he does with any rookie, Graham preaches patience to Magee.
“You don’t just flip the switch and become a grizzled pro hockey player,” Graham said. “It takes time.”
That’s not to say that rookies can’t add to a locker room’s chemistry.
“They’re so young and energetic … and as long as they harness it in a positive way, that energy can be used for a lot of success,” Graham said. “But when they have a bad shift for a bad period, how they channel that is part of the learning process for every young player.”
Magee admits he learned some tough lessons as a junior. He earned a 12-game suspension while playing for Victoria after he checked an opponent in the head.
“There’s some stuff that I’m not very proud of,” the 5-foot-10, 180-pounder said. “But it kind of comes with the territory of being a small guy.”
Said Beck: “He’s not going to shy away from the rough stuff, which is huge, because if you have a skilled guy out there who is afraid of his own shadow, he’s not going to be very effective.
Magee said he won’t be stepping away from many altercations this season.
“I might not win, but I’m willing to show up and come to battle, whether it’s for a teammate or myself or just to get the boys going,” he said. “I’m going to try to bring energy along with a couple goals here and there.”
Utah at Idaho
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: CenturyLink Arena
Tickets: Call 331-8497, or visit IdahoSteelheads.com or the CenturyLink Arena box office.
Radio: 1350 AM
TV: Cable One channel 72
Records: Utah is 2-1-1; Idaho is 2-2-1
Promotion: Four tickets, four hot dogs and four sodas for $46.
Note: This is the first of a three-game series against the Grizzlies. The teams play Saturday and Monday at Utah.