BRANDON — For the past 10 years, Cameron MacDonald has cheered on the Lightning from afar.
The Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia, native had a friend who’s father worked for the organization, and the fandom stuck. He attended a game in Toronto and later traveled to Amalie Arena to watch the Lightning play the Ducks.
MacDonald had a life-sized graphic of Steven Stamkos on his bedroom wall and a No. 91 jersey to accompany it.
Now, he is more than a Lightning fan. He’s a prospect.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound center was selected by Tampa Bay in the fifth round (No. 160 overall) of this year’s amateur draft.
“It’s pretty surreal,” MacDonald, 18, said. “It’s kind of where I wanted to end up. I mean, I’d be happy anywhere, of course, but Tampa was definitely the No. 1 place for me.”
Walking around the same hallways and using the same locker rooms as some of his role models has been nothing short of “incredible” for MacDonald.
Though it’s likely he will end up back with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey, where he had 17 points in 30 games last season, MacDonald is looking to make a strong impression. Which is why he said he is absorbing everything he can from AHL Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx and his staff.
“I know I’m going back to junior and trying to have a good season, but I think the main thing is just listening,” MacDonald said. “I think I’m doing less speaking and more listening and that’s what I’m trying to focus on, taking in all the knowledge from these coaches, the other players that have played pro hockey before.”
Groulx and his staff have noted MacDonald’s “great” shot and play on the penalty kill. They’ll get a closer look as the Lightning team plays games against prospects from the Predators, Hurricanes and Panthers starting Saturday.
“He’s one guy that I’m going to have to watch him and be able to give a fair assessment after this tournament,” Groulx said. “But right now, I just thought I saw him here and there making good plays. But so far so good, he’s got some good stuff.”
Cole Koepke sidelined from camp
After slamming his shoulder into the boards just minutes into the first scrimmage Thursday morning, forward Cole Koepke said he will remain sidelined for the rest of camp and not participate in the upcoming prospect games.
“He felt much better yesterday after practice,” Groulx said.
Koepke, 23, went to back-to-back Frozen Fours and was part of the 2019 national championship team at Minnesota-Duluth. He played nine games last season in Syracuse, collecting two goals and an assist.
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