The Dallas Stars have found some good prospects with later round picks over the past few years, and left wing Curtis McKenzie looks like he could be another one.
McKenzie, a sixth round pick (159th overall) in 2009, led Miami University in rookie points (27) and assists (21) last season. He ranked 4th in the CCHA and 27th nationally in rookie scoring at .64 points per game.
“For a kid that was drafted late, he went right into Miami and played regularly,” said Les Jackson, Stars Director of Scouting and Player Development. “He's a gritty, hard-nosed player that works hard and has some weight in his game. He played in all situations for the team. He opened some eyes and I think he established himself at that level. Like most guys he'll need time to develop, but he's in a good spot to move his game ahead.”
McKenzie, who made the jump to college from Junior A hockey, ended up being a key player on one of the top teams in the country.
“It went a lot better than I expected going into the season,” McKenzie said of his first season at Miami. “I was set up with great players around me all season, which helped me a lot. The jump wasn’t as big as I was expecting it to be. Got off to a good start and rolled from there. “
The 19-year-old British Columbia native, who is listed as 6-2, 192 pounds, sees himself pretty much the way scouts described him going into the 2009 draft.
“I’m a physical player. I’m a hard worker, have to get to the net all the time,” McKenzie said. “When I am generating offense it’s coming off my hard work and my physical play. I’d say power forward.”
In the NCAA tournament, McKenzie scored one goal and added three assists in two games to help Miami advance to the Frozen Four, where it lost in the semifinals to Boston College.
It was the second straight trip to the Frozen Four for Miami, a team that puts an emphasis on the defensive side of things.
“Our defensive system is awesome. We can open up when we have the chance, so we’re not being held back with our skill,” said McKenzie. “Definitely our defensive system has helped our team get to the Frozen Four, and for myself it’s helped fine tune my defensive game. You need that to play at the higher levels.”
McKenzie’s roommate is right wing Reilly Smith, a fellow Dallas Stars prospect and also a 2009 draft pick. Both attended Dallas’ recent development camp in Frisco, and didn’t mind sharing some roommate issues.
“I have to get to sleep first because he starts snoring and I won’t be able to get to sleep,” said Smith. “He’s not a very good at multi-tasking. If he’s trying to figure out his computer there’s no point in asking him a question because he won’t be answering any time soon.”
McKenzie acknowledged there could be a multi-tasking problem, but puts the blame on spending too much time with Smith. And McKenzie added some of Smith’s television viewing habits are peculiar.
“He’s always got cartoons on TV, that’s probably the most annoying thing,” McKenzie said. “I come back to the dorm and he’s intensely watching Zack and Cody Efron, whatever that show is. It’s kind of different for a college person to be watching a show like that, but I guess it’s just something I have to deal with.”
But both said they enjoy being at Miami together and hope they can stick together as they work their way up the ranks in the Stars’ system.
“It’s awesome having him around, but it is a pain having to deal with him around all the time, looking after him,” McKenzie said, still unable to resist taking a shot at Smith. “But it’s great to have him here and, who knows, maybe at the next level we’ll stick together and be together for a long time too.”
Development Camp Photos
Shannon Byrne took some photos at the recent development camp in Frisco and you can view them by clicking here or on the photo of Jack Campbell below.