Passed over in the Bantam draft, unselected in the NHL Entry Draft and seemingly forgotten in the minors. A skeptic could have a field day with Sean McAslan.
After a five-year career in the WHL and two successful seasons in the ECHL, McAslan has found himself a home this year as a rookie with the Toronto Roadrunners. The farm club for the Edmonton Oilers has steadily crept out of the cellar over the course of the last couple of months to rightfully claim a playoff spot in the Northern Division. Although he is certainly being overshadowed by other bigger names on the team, make no mistake about it, McAslan is earning his keep and contributing to the team’s success this season.
McAslan had respectable statistics for most of his tenure with the Calgary Hitmen, which was reason enough for the Oilers to sign him to a deal in March of 2000. The 6-1, 190 lb. left winger toiled in Columbus with the Cottonmouths for a couple years before carving out his niche alongside Nate DiCasmirro and Chad Hinz this year.
As a capable and reliable two-way forward, McAslan plays with an edge and grit that is reflected by his career penalty minutes. Coming into this season, Sean had strung together five consecutive campaigns with no less than 110 penalty minutes while still averaging 36 points over those same years.
Hockey’s Future was able to speak with the Roadrunners forward from his hotel in St. John’s, Newfoundland where his team was preparing for two games against the AHL’s Maple Leafs.
HF: You were born just south of Calgary in Okotoks Alberta. Is that also where you played the majority of your minor hockey?
SM: I lived in Calgary itself until I was about 9 and then we moved down to Okotoks and I started playing there then.
HF: Did the Calgary Hitmen select you in the Bantam draft?
SM: No, they didn’t draft me but they put me on their list about two months after the draft took place.
HF: I would imagine that it was nice to be able to play your entire junior career so close to home.
SM: Oh yeah, it was really fun to be able to play in front of friends and family for those five years, I was pretty fortunate.
HF: An NHL team did not draft you either but instead the Oilers signed you as a free agent in 2000.
SM: Yeah, I signed in my overage year in junior about three quarters of the way through that season.
HF: At that time, did you have any idea that the Oilers in particular had taken an interest in you?
SM: None at all actually. I had seen in the previous couple of years that there were a few overage guys being signed as free agents but I didn’t really know if there was any interest in me so I was just trying to have a good last year in junior with hopes that something would happen. I had been to their camp the year before but hurt my knee so I wasn’t sure if they were still interested in me.
HF: Tell me about your days as a member of the Hitmen. Your statistics would suggest a steady progression in your development.
SM: I was able to play with Pavel Brendl on my line the whole last year so that helped out a lot (laughs). The last year was pretty good but like I said, I’d hurt my knee in the camp so I missed the first 20 games, but I came back and played on a great line so I was able to get a lot of points.
HF: For the last couple of seasons you have been playing in the ECHL, what was the transition like to go to Columbus from the WHL?
SM: Actually really bigger than I thought it would be. I was hoping to play in the American League, obviously, but I was sent down there and I think I went in thinking that it wouldn’t be as tough as it was. The guys were a lot bigger, faster and smarter than I expected and it took me a while to get used to it.
HF: That part of the U.S. isn’t exactly rich in hockey history. Was there some culture shock for you to go there?
SM: Oh yeah, but it was a great experience going down there. It’s maybe not quite the same as it is in the northern states, but they still love their hockey. But it’s such a different culture going down there that it was like adapting to a new world compared to what we’re used to in Canada.
HF: Has the jump from Columbus to Toronto been as significant as going from the WHL to the ECHL?
SM: I would say so but this time I was a little bit more prepared for it. It’s just that much faster and the guys are just that much smarter than they were down one league.
HF: What is your role with the Roadrunners and is it different than the job you may have had with your previous teams over the years?
SM: It’s really the same as it was with the other teams. I try to go out and play physically, good defensively and I try to chip in offensively whenever I can.
HF: Your linemates for most of the year have been Nate DiCasmirro and Chad Hinz?
SM: For a lot of the year, I think we’re a defensive line because we play against the other team’s top lines quite a bit but we can chip in offensively as well.
HF: You have just over 20 points, which is a respectable number considering it is your first year in the league.
SM: Yeah, I’d like to get another goal to have 10 and maybe close out with 15 or 20 by the end of the year but things are going pretty good in that respect. ‘DiCaz’ is having a great year offensively and he’s really finding the net.
HF: Is just the fact that you currently sit in a playoff spot quite an accomplishment for the team in its first year?
SM: We’re extremely happy with where we are right now. I don’t think a lot was expected of us at the start of the year and even just a couple months ago we were about 12 points out of a playoff spot. I think we always felt that we were a good team and that we could be in this spot but I don’t think a lot of other people did.
HF: Earlier this season Jeff Woywitka was added to your roster via trade and now recently both Peter Sarno and Steve Valiquette have left. What does that do to your team especially down the stretch?
SM: That’s the way hockey goes and we all understand that. But Tyler Moss is a proven goaltender in this league and has some NHL experience so I think we’ll be quite confident with him, and Mike Morrison has shown he can play at this level, too. It is a big shake up but those things happen and I’m sure the guys will all pick up the slack.
HF: I can hear Joe Cullen in the background so I know I don’t have to ask who your roommate is. But since he gave me a lot of dirt on you I guess I should give you the opportunity to return the favour.
SM: I don’t have much dirt on ‘Cully’, he stays under the radar quite a bit…
JC: (Shouts) ‘Cully’s’ a really good guy!
SM: (laughs) He is a quality man but he does keep his nose pretty clean for the most part so I’m still trying to find something on him.
HF: He told me that there is a big difference in temperature preference between you though.
SM: (laughs) Yeah, for whatever reason he likes the room really cold so I’m always tucked under the blankets trying to keep warm.
HF: I’m told the practical joker on the team is Rocky Thompson. Has he gotten you this year?
SM: I don’t think he has… but don’t let him here that or he’ll come after me for sure! I’ve seen lots this year but I don’t remember him getting me.
HF: Has there been a memorable gag he’s pulled yet?
SM: He likes to put a glass of water up in guys shin pads… the shin pads are always up on the top shelf of our stalls so when a guy pulls his shin pads down he gets doused. There’s not much anyone’s going to do about it and I think he knows that so he pretty much does whatever he wants around the room.
HF: What would you consider to be a successful season to be for yourself?
SM: My goal coming into the year was to get 15 goals and I’m at 9 right now, so I think it’s still achievable. So I’d be happy with that. My main focus right now though is to help get my team into the playoffs. If we can do that, get in and maybe win a couple of rounds, I think we would consider that a success.
HF: Your remaining schedule has a lot of home games, which should set up nicely for the postseason in that you ought to be rested. Do you expect that you can pull off a couple of upsets?
SM: As a team we’re peaking at the right time and that’s important when you’re heading into the playoffs. We’re pretty confident against any team in our division now and any team we face in the first round is going to be a good team. Anybody can beat anybody on any given night so we just want to be playing our best hockey and to do that we need to be well prepared. We’ll be a pretty confident bunch if we can nail down a playoff spot.
The Roadrunners split the weekend series against St. John’s and McAslan recorded a goal and an assist in that time. Toronto returns home for a three-game home stand beginning on Wednesday night when they host the Milwaukee Admirals. After Saturday’s action, the Roadrunners still held onto fourth place in their division.
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