MacKenzie Entwistle accomplished a lot during his junior hockey career. If his brief time with the Guelph Storm is any indication, he’s ready to take the next step.
First, let’s take a look back how he became a promising forward prospect for the Blackhawks.
How Entwistle became a Blackhawk
The Coyotes selected Entwistle in the third round (69th overall) at the 2017 draft, and the following season he helped the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs to a league championship.
Entwistle joined the Blackhawks organization July 12, 2018, as general manager Stan Bowman traded forwards Marian Hossa and Vinnie Hinostroza, defenseman Jordan Oesterle and a third-round pick in the 2019 draft to the Coyotes for forwards Marcus Kruger, MacKenzie Entwistle and Jordan Maletta, defenseman Andrew Campbell and a fifth-round pick in 2019.
Back in October, he signed an entry-level deal with Chicago. Following the deal and after Entwistle was named to Team Canada for the World Junior Championship, Bowman talked about what appealed to him about the young forward’s game:
“You talk to coaches and they appreciate the way he cares about being on the penalty kill, taking important faceoffs, blocking shots, really supporting his team and not always trying to get the breakaway and score the goal,” Bowman told Scott Radley of the Hamilton Spectator. “Sometimes, it’s hard to convince young players to take pride in that aspect of the game, and he seems to have that naturally. I think he’s going to be a player coaches really enjoy having on the team.”
Bulldogs era comes to an end
Entwistle was named captain of the Bulldogs at the beginning of the season, and posted the following numbers with Hamilton in 2018-19:
Points: 27 (0.93 per game)
Faceoffs: 196 for 404 (48.5 percent)
When it became apparent the Bulldogs weren’t going to compete for another championship, they made the decision to reload for the future, sending Entwistle to the Guelph Storm for a handful of future draft picks.
“Mackenzie is everything you could ask for in a Bulldog,” Bulldogs owner Michael Andlauer said, per Global News. “For me, he represented the true meaning of a captain. He is a great leader who always handled himself with respect and humility while playing the game the right way, with a tenacity and intensity that ended up earning him a well-deserved spot on Team Canada in this year’s World Juniors.”
Andlauer continued: “I am so proud to have had Mackenzie as one of our original OHL Bulldogs and only wish him the very best the last few months of his OHL career and onto his next chapter with the Chicago Blackhawk organization.”
High praise for the soon-to-be 20-year-old.
Entwistle was one of several big names the Storm brought in prior to the OHL trade deadline, along with Nick Suzuki, Sean Durzi, Fedor Gordeev and Markus Phillips. This gave the roster an entirely new look, and the hope was they could contend for a league championship.
He found a home on the team’s top line alongside Suzuki and Storm captain Isaac Ratcliffe, forming one of junior hockey’s best lines and upping his offensive production in the process.
Here’s how he fared over the balance of the regular season in Guelph:
Points: 30 (1.07 per game)
Faceoffs: 156 for 315 (49.5 percent)
If you’ve been reading these Entwistle updates, you’ll know that the OHL playoffs were a wild ride for the Storm.
Guelph swept an opening round series against the Kitchener Rangers, completed a reverse sweep against the London Knights in round two, came back from a 2-0 and 3-1 series deficit against the Saginaw Spirit in the conference finals and overcame a 2-0 series hole against an Ottawa team that went 14-0 before Guelph won four straight to claim the J. Ross Robertson Cup.
It was Entwistle’s second straight OHL championship, and he admitted this one was a bit sweeter based on how crazy the journey was.
Points: 21 (0.88 per game)
Faceoffs: 36 for 85 (42.3 percent)
Guelph travelled to Halifax, Nova Scotia, for the Memorial Cup, losing to the eventual champion Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the semifinal. Entwistle recorded one goal and four assists in four games, and continued his solid, two-way effort alongside Ratcliffe and Suzuki.
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.
I might not go as far as to compare him to Anze Kopitar quite yet, but Entwistle is indeed an effectively big winger with the ability to move to center if need be. He can cycle the puck with great diligence, skates and shoots well for a player of his size (6-foot-4, 181 pounds) but isn’t afraid to get physical, and can be used in all situations. He’s also a solid presence off the ice, possessing great leadership qualities.
My best guess is he spends next season in the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs, but there’s an outside chance he cracks the Blackhawks’ opening night roster as a bottom-six winger.
Whatever his trajectory, it’s clear Bowman has high hopes for Entwistle’s ability to help Chicago’s next wave of success. And he’s more than likely going to be proven right.