Curtis McKenzie Having Fantastic Season As AHL Captain

Author: Tom Dorsa,
Date: Jan 9, 2018

CEDAR PARK, Texas — A prototypical professional hockey captain is selfless, confident, assertive, and most importantly, tough as nails. Curtis McKenzie embodies those very traits each and every Texas Stars game day.

The veteran of 96 National Hockey League games has now settled into a new role: the captain of the American Hockey League’s Texas Stars. McKenzie succeeded current Texas anchor Travis Morin as the team captain, an honor held by just five players in the team’s nine-year existence.

It’s the goal of very few professional hockey players to end up in the AHL. Some, however, handle their role better than others. The former sixth-round pick by the Stars has shown tremendous maturity and a team-first attitude this season.

McKenzie has thrived as the captain with Texas, the primary affiliate of the Dallas Stars, accepting a role made for scrappy veterans like himself. “I’ve been very fortunate this year,” McKenzie says. “I’m just trying to go out and play my hardest every night and show a good example.”

Has he ever. With 18 goals, eight power play goals, 99 shots, and an even point per game average, McKenzie leads in a number of statistical categories for the young team of future Dallas Stars. His stellar performance in the season’s first half has culminated into an invitation to the AHL’s annual All-Star Classic in Utica, New York.

“There’s so many other guys that are deserving,” McKenzie said of the spot on the Pacific Division All-Star squad. “It’s as huge honor to be named an All-Star in this league.”

Frankly, the former AHL rookie of the year has earned it. McKenzie, who has netted an assist in four games with the Dallas Stars this season, sits in a tie for second in the league with his 18 markers in 2017-18. His prowess on the man advantage is of note as well, as McKenzie rests in a tie for third in power play goals.

Not only has he been the class of the Stars, leading them to their current spot as the second wild-card team in the AHL’s Western Conference, but the 26-year-old has been about as effective as any player in the 30-team development league this season.

He’s on pace to eclipse his career-high in points from 2013-14, when he netted 65 points for the Calder Cup champions Stars team. Though his future with the Dallas Stars is a rocky road, McKenzie has found a way to contribute to the organization regardless.

“I just try to keep it positive in the locker room,” McKenzie said of his role with the “C” on his chest. “I think just buying in for the full 60 minutes and trying to get two points every night is important, and I’m just keeping it all together. It’s a lot of fun and a good locker room.”

Hockey folklore will tell you that an NHL prospect getting a captaincy role in the minors is a death sentence to their potential. Curtis McKenzie either doesn’t buy into it, or just ignores it better than anyone should be able to.

Seeing McKenzie wear the victory green of the Dallas Stars soon would be a welcome sight. For now, the gritty forward will continue setting up in front of the opposing net and being an all-around pest. “That’s where I like to play my game,” McKenzie states, though needlessly at that, as one watch of the entertaining forward will tell you.

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