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Canada’s Early Hero: Hard work paying off for Entwistle

 

MacKenzie Entwistle is one of a kind.

Not only does the Hamilton Bulldogs forward bring a unique blend of size and skill that make him stand out from the pack, he is also the first-ever Bulldog to suit up for Team Canada at the World Juniors since the franchise’s relocation from Belleville in 2015.

Steve Staios, president and general manager of the Bulldogs, who’s also doubling as part of Canada’s management group at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship, has had the opportunity to take in Entwistle’s game at both the junior and national level.

“There’s more than one person picking these players, but he’s done a great job,” Staios told the Canadian Hockey League. “I have had to eliminate biases because I see the player every day and I see what he can bring. But at the same time, we have to pick the best players for this team on our quest for gold. (MacKenzie) has been able to come into this group and be a big part of it, and we expect more of that as we move forward.”

The 19-year-old has spent all four seasons of his junior career with the Bulldogs, though the same can’t be said at the pro level, as his rights were dealt from the Arizona Coyotes to the Chicago Blackhawks in July. The timing of the trade allowed Entwistle to participate in both team’s development camps, adding to an already jam-packed summer for the Georgetown, Ont., native.

“He had a busy offseason where he played in the Memorial Cup, then went to Arizona’s development camp, came back for a couple weeks and went to Chicago’s camp, and then another couple weeks off before the summer evaluation camp for the world juniors,” Staios said. “MacKenzie has seen plenty of hockey and I think all of those experiences have helped him.

“He was an invite to the (Team Canada) summer evaluation camp and played well throughout the camp to put himself in the mix as a prospect for our team. He came into the CIBC Canada Russia Series, performed very well, and with his invite to Victoria he just continued to impress our staff and our coaches, not only with his play, but with some of the intangibles he can bring, and his ability to play both center and right wing are some of the key qualities he can bring to our group.”

Not known for flashy offense, a more accurate scouting report on Entwistle would highlight his compete level and an ability to create offense through hard work. That’s been most evident at this year’s world juniors, where he has shown up on the scoresheet in all three of Canada’s round robin games.

It’s those attributes, alongside his willingness to lead on and off the ice, that makes the veteran Entwistle a leader by example in a Team Canada locker room that counts 10 players who captain their junior squad – Entwistle among them, who sports the ‘C’ in Hamilton.

“His ability to come to work every day, look after the details of his game, to be a good teammate, all those types of things led us to name him captain,” Staios said. “I think he has the respect of his teammates, not just in the way he plays but in the way he carries himself.

“He’s developed in all aspects of his game. He’s a high character, hardworking young man, a great teammate, and a great leader. He’s just continued to progress on a nice steady path on his time in Hamilton. He’s got a great makeup of his game where he can play in all situations, and that is a valuable piece for us here with our world junior team.”

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