Blackhawks fans are going to love MacKenzie Entwistle.
To this I can attest after a few in-person looks at his game in Guelph, the latest display coming as the Storm hosted the Owen Sound Attack on Jan. 25.
Entwistle was a force at both ends of the ice, exhibiting physical, defensively responsible tendencies while acting as a key cog in a dominant possession game and often setting up shot attempts for teammates — or sparking them on his own.
The one moment that brought Storm fans out of their seats was this second period breakaway goal, where Entwistle put his pinpoint shooting abilities on display, to take nothing away from the impressive wheels for a player of his size.
A big power forward with an accurate shot, he is at home while cycling the puck where he can wear out defenders with his size. Surprisingly mobile for a big man, he handles the puck very well in traffic, giving defenders something extra to think about.
He takes a fair amount of faceoffs for a winger and with a win percentage just below 50% it is an area he could improve in. As with a lot of younger players, the defensive side of his game could use some work as well, but that is a coachable skill. With his size and mobility, he could turn into an effective penalty killer.
The bottom line for Entwistle is he controls his own destiny. If he continues to work on his game and improve on his weaknesses, there is no reason he can’t be a very productive player at the NHL level.
As mentioned last week, it certainly helps that Entwistle is playing on a line with Storm captain Isaac Ratcliffe and highly-touted center prospect Nick Suzuki; indeed, that trio was absolutely dominant in the offensive zone, at times causing me to check the scoreboard to make sure Guelph wasn’t on a power play.
That plum line assignment is helping Entwistle to maintain his better than a point per game average with the Storm. He also recorded an assist in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Erie Otters on Saturday, bringing his totals up to four goals and eight assists in 10 games with Guelph. His 1.2 point per game average is a significant uptick over the career-high 0.93 rate he was rocking with the Hamilton Bulldogs prior to the trade.
The result stung seeing as Guelph had tied things up late in the third, and Erie appeared to get away with an apparent trip on Liam Hawel that led directly to the overtime winner.
Color Entwistle unimpressed with the officiating.
MacKenzie Entwistle on the non-tripping call in OT: "Obviously, from what we thought, that's the definition of a trip. The stick got in-between the guy's legs. They hauled him down and that's what led to that chance."— Mark Scheig (@markscheig) January 27, 2019
His willingness to be outspoken about the officiating demonstrates his knowledge of the game and a buy-in with Guelph. Entwistle and Co. have a real shot at winning an OHL championship, which would be his second in two seasons. An accomplishment to be proud of to be sure, and quite a way to put an exclamation mark on his junior career to date.
As a team, Guelph’s record now stands at 6-2-2-0 since acquiring Entwistle, Suzuki and other reinforcements, but the Storm remains entrenched in fourth in the OHL’s Western Conference, with Owen Sound looking like a likely first-round playoff opponent.
Injured Montreal Canadiens prospect Cam Hillis appears close to returning, giving Guelph yet another weapon in the arsenal, and another center Entwistle might see some time with in order to help spread out of the offense.
For now, here’s what’s next for Guelph:
Wednesday, Jan. 30 vs. Saginaw Spirit
Friday, Feb. 1 @ Ottawa 67s
Saturday, Feb. 2 @ Kingston Frontenacs
And don’t forget, today is #BellLetsTalk. Please keep the conversation going.