When Stephen MacAulay showed up to play major midget hockey for Cole Harbour, he was a left-winger with a score-first mentality.
Three years later, it’s a defence-first mentality that has him on the radar of scouts heading into this weekend’s NHL entry draft at Staples Centre in Los Angeles.
The Cole Harbour native learned the finer points of two-way hockey under then-coach Steve Crowell and used that tutelage to blossom into a high-end QMJHL checker with the Saint John Sea Dogs the past two seasons.
“Growing up I was a playmaker with a lot of assists and I could put the puck in the back of the net, but since midget I’ve focused more on my two-way game,” MacAulay said.
“This year I thrived ... I was given a role and I tried to stick to it.”
The six-foot-two 180-pounder lined up regularly on Saint John’s third line along with centre Dannick Gauthier and right-winger Mike Thomas, helping propel the Sea Dogs to a first-place finish and an appearance in the President’s Cup Final.
Although the Moncton Wildcats knocked the Sea Dogs out in six games, MacAulay was assigned to checking playoff MVP Gabriel Bourque and top scorer Kelsey Tessier.
MacAulay had 10 points and a plus-7 in 21 playoff games but was happiest with his play in the final.
“I thought that was my best series,” said MacAulay, who was recovering from an injury in the first two rounds.
“I put up some points, but (did well) in a defensive role, too. I threw the body a lot and our line played really well.”
MacAulay is ranked 72nd among North Americans by Central Scouting but there is no guarantee he will be selected and he isn’t attending the draft. Instead, he’ll spend all day Saturday on the Internet clicking refresh, watching for his name.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
“I think it will be a long day but hopefully by the end of it, it will be worth it.”
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