Last Thursday was a big day for one of the Battalion's biggest player.
Kyle McDonald had a dream come to reality when he signed an entry-level contract with the Dallas Stars of the National Hockey League.
McDonald, who went undrafted the last two years, was signed as a free agent. He is the second undrafted player in the past 365 days to sign a free agent deal joining Mitchell Russell who inked a free agent entry-level contract with the San Jose Sharks during last spring's Battalion run to the Eastern Conference finals.
"I watched it happen to Mitch Russell last year so he was a big influence for me too knowing that you never give up and I saw it in my first couple of years in the league, seeing guys earning that and I really did everything I could to try to earn that and I got there," said Kyle about watching Russell achieve his goal.
Adam Dennis is Battalion general manager who has helped build the successful roster.
"We talk to the players all the time that it is not a sprint, it is a marathon so to have guys like Kyle McDonald and Mitch Russell signed as Free Agents in their 20-year-old season sign contracts is a great kind of example for the rest of our room too," said Dennis.
2022-23 Battalion NHL Prospects (bold denotes signed):
- Kyle McDonald - Dallas Stars
- Justin Ertel - Dallas Stars
- Liam Arnsby - Floridan Panthers
- Dom DiVincentiis - Winnipeg Jets
- Tnias Mathurin - Detroit Red Wings
- Matvey Petrov - Edmonton Oilers
- Kyle Jackson - Seattle Kraken
- Ty Nelson - Seattle Kraken
- Josh Bloom - Vancouver Canucks
- Pasquale Zito - Detroit Red Wings
Whereas earlier Battalion teams were sprinkled with NHL draft picks, now the current Battalion roster is plastered with them. McDonald believes he will not be alone.
"I will be one of many players to sign with a deep playoff run," said McDonald.
Dennis agrees that all the NHL eyeballs on his current NHL prospects can be a benefit to the rest of the team.
"We have had the benefit this year of having a number of development guys come through our building to get a closer look at how we do things on a day-to-day basis," said Dennis.
"Sometimes your eyes get diverted and you see some of the other things on the ice that you like."
Dennis admits winning is plays a huge part too.
"When you are a team that can put some wins on the board people want to come out and see what all the fuss is about," he said.
"I think it has been a real credit to the group buying into the team goals and it has translated into some nice individual goals so far."
Dennis says a lot of credit goes to the coaching and the structure within the hockey operations.
"There is certainly a belief that we can help develop players and I think that is what we want to be. We have made a lot of changes to our off-ice, our on-ice programming, there's a lot that goes into it. There has been some good feedback and some confidence that when people place their players here they get better.
That NHL development success should bode well for the OHL draft moving forward as well.
"It is an analytical world out there and there is a lot of information online," Dennis said.
"When we walk into a recruitment meeting we are faced with a family that has done their homework on us so they certainly want to see a chance for themselves to come in and develop and certainly doesn't hurt when you have some guys drafted in the last couple of years."