AMHERST, N.S. - In 2017 Aidan McFarland got a taste of what a long playoff run is like.
He was only 17 at the time, playing in the Ontario Hockey League with the Mississauga Steelheads. He didn't pick up any points, but gained a lot of valuable experience.
It’s exactly what the Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers were looking for when they acquired the 5’11”, 192-pound left-winger from the Kingston Voyageurs of the OJHL a couple of weeks ago.
For his part, McFarland can’t wait to get going.
“I was really excited to get the call. I’ve heard the east coast lifestyle is pretty sweet and I’ve loved it so far,” McFarland said. “I didn’t hear a lot about the Maritime league when I was in Ontario but what I did hear is that it’s a very competitive league.”
McFarland was highly sought after during the offseason with three Eastlink South Division teams seeking his services as well as at least one club in the Eastlink Division North Division. The Napanee, Ont. native said the fact Amherst is hosting the Fred Page Cup in May helped draw him to Amherst – that and knowing what it can be like playing in a very loud Amherst Stadium.
“Getting the chance to play in something like the Fred Page Cup that could lead to the national championship is a great opportunity,” the 19-year-old said. “I’m looking forward to seeing our team come together and grow throughout the season and then take a run at the Fred Page.
“I’ve also heard a lot about the fans here and what it’s like to play here on game night. I’m so looking forward to the noise and the atmosphere. It’s going to be fun.”
McFarland picked up 32 points in 41 games with Kingston last season and played more than 100 play off and regular season games with Mississauga over parts of three seasons.
He hopes his experience will help a club that lost several key forwards to graduation after last season, including Jordan King and Brady Griffin-Hefford.
“I like to think of myself as a shooter,” he said. “A lot of people think of me as a power forward who’s not afraid to go into the corner and the dirty areas to get the puck.”
While he thinks of himself as an offensive forward first, McFarland knows the importance of playing both ends of the ice adding his aim is to be as strong a defensive forward as his an offensive one.
He already sees great chemistry forming inside the dressing room.
“I think everyone knows they have to contribute and everyone has a role to play on this team if we’re going to be successful. I know I want to do what I can to help this team win and I think that’s the same attitude everyone inside that room has,” he said. “I’ll be a leader in any way I can just like I’m sure everyone will be a leader in their own way.”
Ramblers coach and general manager Jeff LeBlanc said he’s impressed with the leadership McFarland has already shown.
“You can tell he’s a leader,” LeBlanc said. “That’s something we needed immediately because of the amount of players we lost from last year. He has come in here and immediately gotten the respect of his teammates. He’s a great kid and he works hard. It’s a great combination and we’re very lucky to have him.”
LeBlanc said McFarland brings a complete game to the rink and while he may not have the speed of others, he always seems to be in the right place at the right time and is very responsible in his own end.
“He’s the type of player every team needs,” LeBlanc said. “He played a lot of games in the OHL and has lots of playoff experience. That is hard to come by. To get a player like that from another team in this league would cost a lot of pieces. We did very well in acquiring him from Kingston.”