For Brock McGinn, all it took was one goal.
McGinn, a Charlotte Checkers forward and prized prospect of the Carolina Hurricanes, entered a Feb. 16 game against Norfolk mired in the kind of scoring slump from which some rookies never recover.
But when the puck bounced McGinn’s way in the first period, the shot from the 5-foot-11-inch, 185-pound left winger didn’t ricochet off the post or inexplicably find its way into the goalie’s glove as so many had over the past two-plus months.
After 78 long days spanning 29 games, the puck hit the back of the net.
And for McGinn – who has been hot ever since with six points (five goals, one assist) – it has been as if the net has grown three sizes.
“I’ve been gripping my stick a bit tight and not producing like I’d like to,” said McGinn, who had 19 points (10 goals, nine assists) going into Tuesday’s game against Grand Rapids.
The Hurricanes had high hopes when the 18-year-old McGinn fell to them in the second round (47th overall) of the 2012 NHL draft. And after he netted 85 points (43 goals, 42 assist) in 58 games with the Ontario Hockey League’s Guelph Storm as a 20-year-old, expectations for McGinn’s first full season in Charlotte were high.
“Brock comes to the rink and plays the same way every day,” Checkers coach Jeff Daniels said. “I’m sure (that slump) was eating him up inside, but he doesn’t say much.
“He kept playing the same way and kept going to the net. Now he’s getting rewarded, and it’s good to see.”
Despite his scoring struggles, scouts have liked what they’ve seen from McGinn and conservatively project him as a solid contributor on the Hurricanes’ third line in the future.
Daniels can still remember his less-than-flattering first impression of McGinn just before the start of his four-game debut with Charlotte during the 2013 AHL playoffs. News & Observer columnist Luke DeCock wrote the story of how Daniels called Hurricanes General Manager Ron Francis, concerned when he saw McGinn.
“I asked (Francis), ‘Are you sure this kid’s OK? He’s walking around the dressing room with his shirt off, and he looks 12,’” DeCock wrote of Daniels. “But Ronnie said, ‘No, no, he’s fine.’”
In McGinn’s first shift, he took out the biggest guy on the other team.
“I was sold after that,” Daniels told DeCock.
For McGinn, hockey always has been a family affair. His mother, Cori, would set her alarm for 3 a.m. every winter morning back in their small hometown of Fergus, Ontario.
The mother of three future professional hockey players would make her way out to the family’s backyard rink (built early each winter by her husband), water buckets in hand, to flood the ice for the brothers to play.
Fergus receives roughly 5 feet of snowfall each winter. Some kids made igloos or jumps for their snowboards. Brock and his brothers used snow as makeshift boards surrounding their rink. Then, they sent each other flying headlong out of the rink as often as possible.
“My parents put a lot of work into that rink and our hockey careers, and I think it helped us to get to where we are today for sure,” Brock said.
His oldest brother, Jamie (selected 36th overall in 2006), 26, plays for the Colorado Avalanche, and middle brother, Tye (selected 119th overall in 2010), 24, plays for the Arizona Coyotes.
Brock – the smallest and youngest – got all the hand-me-downs, but also has wound up with the best parts of each of his brother’s game and possesses the highest NHL potential.
Life in Charlotte
The transition to life here has come with its own set of bumps and bruises for McGinn, who along with roommate Trevor Carrick was featured during an intermission episode of “Checkers’ Cribs,” a video tour of Checkers players’ apartments. It was revealed that Carrick and McGinn never once cleaned the lint tray of their dryer – or knew what it was for that matter.
“All the boys on the team saw that and gave us a pretty hard time,” Carrick said.
Checkers veteran enforcer Kyle Hagel has taken charge of the rookies’ well-being, taking them through workouts and even on regular trips to the grocery store.
“I think both of those guys are going to have long careers in the NHL, and it’s fun to be a part of their careers early on,” Hagel said. “I love the way that both of them play. Neither guy shies away from the physical stuff.
“It’s been fun watching them mature into pros. They’ve probably got a little more maturing to do, but that’s all part of the fun.”
The Hurricanes, who sit near the bottom of the NHL’s Eastern Conference standings, have used their otherwise lost season to get a look at many of their prospects.
One by one, McGinn has watched Zach Boychuk, Brody Sutter, Ryan Murphy, Michal Jordan, Justin Shugg and Brendan Woods get chances to show what they can do at the next level.
There are rumblings that McGinn may be next in line to see some time in the NHL.
“You’ve got to congratulate those guys,” McGinn said. “It’s well-deserved, you know; they’re playing good hockey. It’s fun to see guys get their opportunities and, hopefully, one day you’re waiting for yours to come up.”
With his scoring slump behind him, all McGinn may need now is one shot with Carolina.