If history repeats itself, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t, Brandon McMillan will be living in a different city this coming fall and winter.
Last week, McMillan signed a three-year entry level contract with the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks. Anaheim selected the Kelowna Rockets swingman in the third round, 85th overall, in the NHL’s 2008 entry draft.
Now 20, McMillan technically has one season of junior eligibility left. However, most players who sign a pro contract before their final season of eligibility usually don’t return for their one last kick at the junior cat. In Kelowna’s case, the list is long and has several big names, including Blake Comeau of the New York Islanders in March of 2006. Come October, Comeau was playing for the Isles’ AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Notably, Comeau, selected 47th overall in 2004, originally joined the Tigers in late April for their playoff run once the Rockets’ post-season came to an end against the Everett Silvertips in the second round.
In McMillan’s case, he and Anaheim didn’t come to terms until last week. NHL teams have two years to sign their WHL draft picks, or said players either re-enter the draft or become free agents, depending on their age.
Had McMillan’s contract talks drug out any longer, Anaheim risked the chance of missing the chance to sign him by June.
Terms of McMillan’s contract were not released, though one website said his NHL salary will be an unconfirmed $US575,000 for the first and second years and $US645,000 for the third.
“I think it was about Tuesday, where we figured it was all finalized,” said McMillan, who turned 20 on March 22nd. “It was going on for a couple of months, so it’s nice to finally get it done, for sure.”
As for his immediate plans, McMillan will be staying in Kelowna, living with a couple of former Rockets “and working out hard with Rockets athletic therapist Jeff Thorburn. I’m going to be focusing my summer on trying to make the Ducks next year.”
If McMillan doesn’t crack Anaheim’s roster, he’ll likely play in Syracuse, N.Y., home of the Ducks’ new AHL affiliate. Anaheim announced a multiyear affiliation deal with Syracuse on March 25th, 2010, following one season where the Ducks didn’t have a farm team. Syracuse was previously affiliated with the Vancouver Canucks (1994-2000) and the Columbus Blue Jackets (2000-2010). Syracuse also had a split affiliation with Vancouver and Pittsburgh, from 1997-99.
McMillan joined the Rockets’ roster in 2006-07, where he logged two goals and 12 points in 55 regular-season games. Ironically, he ended his four-season career with 55 games in 2009-10, albeit with a 25 goals and 42 assists for 67 points, all career highs. All told, the 5-foot-10 forward who can also play defence suited up for 251 regular-season games, recording 56 goals and 113 assists for 169 points plus 221 penalty minutes.
In playoff action, he had five goals and 15 assists for 20 points and 40 penalty minutes in 41 games. This past spring, he had 15 points in 10 games.
McMillan also saw action with Canada’s national junior team, helping his country to a silver-medal showing at the 2010 tournament this past December and January in Regina and Saskatoon.
As for looking back at his junior days, McMillan said “(When I signed) I guess it kinda put the icing on the cake. I was lucky to play in the Rockets’ organization, and I thank everybody that helped me out through the years. It was just an honour to play here.
“The most memorable part was going on that run to the Memorial Cup (in Rimouski, Que.) in my 18-year-old season. That was a highlight and something I’ll never forget.”