New Sound Tigers defenseman shone in start with Worcester

March 20, 2018 GMT

BRIDGEPORT — In Worcester, Mass., the one that got away was Yanni Gourde, four years ago. The Tampa Bay Lightning swooped in to sign the young forward away from his tryout with the AHL’s Worcester Sharks. He’s now a 20-goal-scorer in the NHL.

One wonders if perhaps that name came up a time or two to the newest Bridgeport Sound Tigers defenseman, Ryan MacKinnon, while he played for the ECHL’s Worcester Railers the past few weeks.

“Quite often,” he said with a laugh Tuesday at the Wonderland of Ice. “I sat in his stall, too, apparently.”

MacKinnon won’t get away from the New York Islanders organization just yet. After what was by all accounts a stellar nine games with the Railers, Bridgeport’s ECHL affiliate, he signed an AHL contract with the Sound Tigers for next season as well as the rest of this year.

He practiced with Bridgeport on Tuesday for the first time. Coach Brent Thompson said he might play this weekend when the Sound Tigers visit Syracuse and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, but that’s to be determined.

“I’m just happy to be here,” MacKinnon said. “Every day is going to be a stepping stone for me. I’m learning more every day.”

MacKinnon, 23, played junior hockey in Quebec and his native Prince Edward Island. He spent the past three years at the University of PEI.

“When I finished at UPEI, I think (the Islanders) just wanted to see what I could bring to Worcester,” MacKinnon said.

After debuting with the Railers on Feb. 27, MacKinnon scored his first professional goal in his second game. Twice he had two assists. He put 25 shots on goal in those nine games, at least one every night.

The Railers swept three home games over the weekend. At the start, the Telegram’s Bill Ballou reported that Bridgeport was signing MacKinnon. “So he won’t be the Railers version of Yanni Gourde,” tweeted Ballou, who wrote in a column four years ago that San Jose erred in not locking up Gourde before the Lightning lured him away.

By the end of the weekend, MacKinnon was on his way to Bridgeport. From a day of practice, Thompson saw a defenseman with good mobility and some work to do one-on-one in the defensive zone.

“No different from any other defenseman,” Thompson said. “That’s no strike on him.”

MacKinnon joins Kyle Burroughs as the only right-handed shots among the current group of nine defensemen. That’s an asset, Thompson said, but MacKinnon’s skating is a bigger asset.

“I’d say I’m a two-way player. I look to use my speed to my advantage,” MacKinnon said. “I look to take care of my own end and jump in when the time’s right.”

mfornabaio@ctpost.com; http://twitter.com/fornabaioctp; http://blog.ctnews.com/fornabaio