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2016-17 IceCaps Season Review: Did Mark MacMillan do enough to earn an extension?

The jack of all trades has an uncertain future as restricted free agency looms.

St. John’s IceCaps

After a solid, albeit unspectacular, rookie season in St. John’s, the Penticton, BC native needed to impress in the last year of his entry-level contract. Despite a similar amount of games played, Mark MacMillan’s production remained roughly the same this year, even with the team being better overall than the previous iteration. Though it wasn’t his job to be a major goal producer, instead playing a more defensive supporting role in the bottom six, you’d still like to see some improvement from a player looking to take the next step in his development.

Defensively responsible is a perfect descriptor of MacMillan’s play this year, using good vision and speed to hound opposing puck carriers. Trusted not only to eat up defensive zone minutes alongside Jeremy Gregoire, but to also kill penalties, it’s clear head coach Sylvain Lefebvre felt comfortable giving him tough assignments all year. With a good hockey IQ and active stick, he was able to get the puck out of his zone and lead the rush down ice; a bonus for a fourth line that is usually out there to give the top six a breather.

There’s a lot more to his game than just being a defensive minute-eater. MacMillan reads the play well, allowing him to intercept opponents passes, or create havoc on the boards in the offensive zone. While not his main weapon, MacMillan can utilize a very effective snapshot in tight, something that he could stand to do more often.

The above play is a perfect representation. A good forecheck by his linemates creates an errant pass. MacMillan reads the play perfectly, and has a lane to rip his shot past the goaltender. He also has the ability to find soft spots in the opposing defence, allowing him to slide into prime scoring areas and create chances.

While he isn’t relied on to be a driving offensive force like he was during his time at North Dakota, his contributions were extremely helpful, particularly when the stars were slumping at various points this season.

The downside for MacMillan is that he isn’t a standout in any one aspect of the game. He’s solid defensively, can chip in the odd goal, and forechecks well for a fourth liner. The problem is that the AHL pool is bloated with similar players.

Joining the fold next year will be Jeremiah Addison, and Niki Petti, while David Broll has already signed a one-year contract extension. Gregoire is also back in the final year of his contract and Antoine Waked will be starting his three-year entry-level contract as well.

So the question now is: did MacMillan do enough in his two AHL seasons to earn an extension, or will he head elsewhere for a chance at greener pastures? It’s not likely that he’s going to blossom into an AHL all-star next year, but with his steady play he’d be a good role player for the Rocket’s debut season in Laval.