WKTV - Zack MacEwen didn't have the typical path to the NHL, but now he is there, and in all likelihood, there to stay.
After signing with the Vancouver Canucks in 2017 as an undrafted free agent, MacEwen spent parts of three seasons developing his game in the AHL with the Utica Comets before earning a call-up to the big club as an 'every day NHL player,' according to Canucks GM Jim Benning.
Following Vancouver's surprise run to Game 7 of the second round, where MacEwen made his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut appearing in six games, he, his agent and the Canucks' front office began new contract negotiations, agreeing on a two-year deal worth $825,000 per year in order to keep the 6'3" forward in Vancouver for the forseeable future.
"To be back here for another two years in Vancouver, with what the future of the team is looking like is really exciting for me," said MacEwen via conference call with Utica media, Wednesday. "Being rewarded with another contract and seeing work that I put in over the years [pay off] is very rewarding. It's one of the best feelings ever."
MacEwen spent parts of three seasons here in Utica with the Comets, where he suited up in 155 career games and saw his game grow immensely.
During his rookie season as a pro in 2017-18, MacEwen registered 33 points (10g, 23a) in 66 games played. In his second year in 2018-19, he bumped that total up to 52 points (22g, 30a) in 69 games played.
Despite seeing plenty of success in his junior hockey career, MacEwen said the last couple of seasons with Utica is what really gave him the confidence that he could fulfill his life-long dream of playing in the NHL.
"My first year in Utica, when I started playing well and earning some ice time and figuring my game out in the pro level, I think that was one of the turning points," he said. "I kind of just said to myself that I can do this if I want to and if I set my mind to it, I can get there. I'm really happy with how it's worked out."
One of the things throughout his pro career so far that's been a major focus of MacEwen's has been working on his skating ability. Since he joined the Comets, it's been something he has consistently discussed as being something he wanted to improve.
He said that he feels as though his skating ability has come a long way in the last few years, but it is something he will continue to refine as he looks to build an NHL career.
MacEwen said that his time in Utica, under the coaching staff lead by Trent Cull, was crucial to being able to reach his goal, especially given the unexpectedly rapid trajectory to a full-time gig in the world's best hockey league.
"Utica taught me how to be a pro, how to apply myself, how to grow my game and what kind of player I wanted to be," MacEwen said. "Utica and the coaching staff there gave me the tools to see what I could do and where I could go if I wanted to, and how to get there. I learned a lot there for sure."