After two years establishing himself as one of the toughest — and perhaps most undisciplined — players in junior hockey, Mike McKee is getting a chance to focus on the rest of his game.
The hulking 6-foot-4, 245-pound defenseman, who over the past two USHL seasons piled up 21 fighting majors, 529 penalty minutes and seven separate suspensions totalling 20 games, opened up his freshman NCAA campaign at Western Michigan this week.
Fighting, of course, is banned in college hockey, punished by a game ejection and a suspension of games matching the player’s total number of fighting majors. So McKee has no choice but to become the solid, stay-at-home defenseman the Red Wings hoped he’d be when they drafted him in the fifth round, 140th overall, in 2012.
And according to McKee, in an interview with MLive.com, he welcomes the change: “I’m actually excited to play and not do that part of the game, for a few years anyway.”
The Red Wings called McKee the toughest player in the 2012 draft and liked the fact that he had good straight ahead speed and a hard shot. But ultimately they want him to be a tough defensive defenseman, and they’re pleased he’s on college ice under the guidance of ex-NHL head coach Andy Murray at Western Michigan.
With the USHL’s Lincoln Stars last season, McKee managed three goals and 18 assists along with a plus-15 rating in 42 games. But his lack of discipline put him in the doghouse with head coach Chad Johnson, who at one point said the Stars needed McKee “on the ice for 25-plus minutes, as opposed to in the penalty box for 15 minutes.”
In two games with Western Michigan on the weekend, McKee had no points, four penalty minutes, five shots and four blocked shots. The Red Wings have until August 2017 to sign him to an entry-level contract.
NOTES: Center Luke Glendening’s time came in the NHL sooner than expected. After an initial demotion to Grand Rapids, Glendening — a former Michigan Wolverines captain who signed with Detroit as a free agent in July — debuted with the Red Wings on Oct. 12 and saw 7:32 of ice time on the fourth line. “He’s what I would call a coach player, not a scout player,” Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock told MLive.com. “No scout would ever draft him, look at him, because he doesn’t look that part. But he’s got unbelievable hockey sense, he’s an elite competitor and he’s a coach type player. You can trust him to get stuff done … I just think he’s smart. He’s a right-handed shot who can take faceoffs; he’s going to get lit up in the NHL for a little bit, that’s just how life goes. He’s a good penalty killer. He’s competitive, he knows how to play.” … Winger Anthony Mantha (Val-d’Or, QMJHL) signed a three-year entry-level contract last week and continues to be absolutely lethal, leading the Q with 16 goals and 12 assists for 28 points in nine games … Defensemen Alexey Marchenko and Adam Almquist (Grand Rapids, AHL) are off to productive starts with the Griffins. Marchenko, a rookie, has a goal and three assists along with a plus-3 in three games, while Almquist, a second-year AHLer, has four assists and is a plus-2 in three contests … Center Calle Jarnkrok (Grand Rapids, AHL) popped in his first AHL goal and also has an assist in three games … Forward Zach Nastasiuk (Owen Sound, OHL) was named captain of the Attack this week. He has three goals and four assists in 10 games so far this season.
Sarah Lindenau contributed to this report.
SKATERS: REGULAR-SEASON REPORT
|Almquist, Adam||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||3||0||4||4||2||+2||7|
|Callahan, Mitchell||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||3||2||1||3||2||+2||7|
|Jurco, Tomas||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||3||1||3||4||0||+2||9|
|Marchenko, Alexey||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||3||1||3||4||0||+3||3|
|Sheahan, Riley||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||3||2||0||2||4||+1||7|
|Sproul, Ryan||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||3||2||0||2||0||+2||8|
|Glendening, Luke||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||2||0||2||2||4||+3||3|
|Jarnkrok, Calle||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||3||1||1||2||0||+4||6|
|Pulkkinen, Teemu||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||3||0||1||1||2||+2||11|
|Frk, Martin||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||2||0||0||0||0||-1||1|
|Tvrdon, Marek||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||1||0||0||0||0||0||3|
|Nestrasil, Andrej||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||3||0||0||0||0||-1||3|
|Ouellet, Xavier||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||3||0||0||0||0||0||5|
|Nastasiuk, Zach||Owen Sound||OHL||CHL||10||3||4||7||8||-7||–|
|McNulty, Marc||Prince George||WHL||CHL||11||1||4||5||15||-1||–|
|De Haas, James||Clarkson||NCAA||ECAC||4||1||0||1||2||-1||9|
|McKee, Mike||W. Michigan||NCAA||BIG-10||2||0||0||0||4||0||0|
|Pope, David||W. Kelowna||JR-A||USHL/JR-A||9||5||3||0||–||–|
GOALIES: REGULAR SEASON REPORT
|Coreau, Jared||Grand Rapids||AHL||1||0||1||0||0||3.82||.846|