Historically speaking, when a player returns to the Guelph Storm from an extended stay at a National Hockey League training camp, it can go one of two ways.
One, a player is a little downtrodden. Understandably, having lived the good life, both on and off the ice, it can be a bit of a letdown to come back to spreading peanut butter on bagels in the hallway and the pace and tone of junior hockey.
There’s disappointment, perhaps a bit of frustration. Hey, it happens and players almost always get over it after a couple of weeks.
Two, a player comes back from an NHL camp with a carrot dangling in front of him. They have experienced the next level, know what it takes to get there and are eager to prove they belong there.
Count James McEwan in the latter category.
McEwan wasn’t even expected to make it to the main training camp of the Montreal Canadiens. He was invited to the rookie tournament, where many undrafted juniors often end up helping fill out rosters or as favours to junior teams, coaches and agents.
But he earned an invite to the team’s main camp, then was sent to the camp of the Laval Rocket, their American Hockey League affiliate, where he got in two exhibition games, scoring once and adding an assist.
Ultimately, there was no roster spot for an undrafted free agent, but by making it that far he certainly showed he’s close to earning a professional contract somewhere.
“It was amazing,” said McEwan, who will make his season debut with the Storm Friday night against the Windsor Spitfires.
“Being around that atmosphere, you’re with all the guys that play on the Canadiens and in the AHL. Watching those guys, you just can’t help but get better.”
As an undrafted free agent, McEwan was assigned to ‘C’ squad so didn’t get to practice with the Max Paciorettys and Alex Galchenyuks of the world.
He thinks last year’s experience in Pittsburgh definitely helped him this year.
“Definitely. I went in expecting what’s going to happen,” he said. “We had a good group. There was a lot of players in the rookie camp who played in the OHL last year.”
The invite to the main camp was a bit of a surprise but, given that he is a free agent, it showed that he had earned it.
“I was really happy with myself, knowing I earned it, and it gave me more confidence,” McEwan said.
Playing well in the exhibition games also helped with the confidence, both there and in Guelph.
“I got positive feedback from the Laval Rocket management, they wished I had the opportunity to stay, but there was no room for me.
“In the end, the management said they know me now, so if I have a chance to go back there it will be good.
“I’ve just got to come back and be a leader with these guys and good things will happen.”