If the Lacombe Generals were only going to get one season out of Brandon Magee, this would surely be the one they were looking for.
Since joining the Generals at the start of the season after a brief stint in the East Coast Hockey League last year, Magee has quickly become a key part of the team’s high flying offense thanks to his excellent hands and hockey sense.
“I was just lucky to have the opportunity to go play for those guys,” said the former Victoria Royals forward, who finished the Chinook Hockey League regular season as the league scoring leader with 34 points in 20 games.
Magee, 23, made the decision to come back to his hometown of Edmonton and play for the Generals after spending all five years of his major junior hockey career with the Victoria Royals organization and playing parts of a year with the Idaho Steelheads and South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL last season in order to take advantage of the WHL’s scholarship program, which stipulates that a former player must take advantage of the scholarship within 18 months of graduating from the league and before playing for an NHL or top level European team.
“For me to go on playing pro I would have lost my schooling so, you know, the last summer there I had a lot of decisions to make but I think the biggest one was that I have to pursue a school career first before hockey,” said Magee, adding that next season he hopes to play hockey for the University of Alberta Golden Bears while pursuing a business degree.
Right now though Magee’s focus remains on helping the Lacombe Generals win their second Allan Cup in a row.
To that end, the smooth-skating centre man has had the help of fellow newcomers Riley Sheen and Myles Bell, both of whom he played against throughout his WHL days with Bell playing for the Regina Pats and Kelowna Rockets and Sheen splitting his time between the Medicine Hat Tigers, Seattle Thunderbirds, Lethbridge Hurricanes and Red Deer Rebels.
Now playing together in the Chinook League, the three forwards have combined to form one of the most effective lines in the entire Chinook Hockey League. In fact, Bell, Magee and Sheen finished with the league lead in goals, points and assists respectively and combined for 96 points total between them.
Not bad for a bunch of guys in their early 20s.
“With both those guys on my wings I’ve just been focused on trying to get the puck to them. You know, Bell’s a good shooter and Riley’s a skilled forward who’s been making a lot of plays,” said Magee.
Recalling his time in the ‘Dub, “There’s definitely a lot of ups and downs,” Magee said.
“I was in Victoria for four years and I had a coach that played a lot of NHL time in Dave Lowry and I think I was able to learn a lot of NHL time in Dave Lowry as far as being a pro and coming to the rink every day with the same mindset that you have to get better,” he said, adding he’s carried a lot of what he learned with him into his pro career and now into his schooling.
Although he only ever played for the Royals organization during his time in the league, the deep blue jersey of the WHL’s newest squad isn’t the only WHL he’s donned.
In fact, he came into the league as a 16-year-old in 2010 when the Royals were known as the Bruins and played out of Chilliwack, B.C.
Magee’s rookie season was the last the Bruins would play in the small town an hour and a half east of Vancouver before relocating to the Island for the start of the 2011-12 season.
“For me I think it was a lot to do with settling into new billets getting in,” Magee recalled, adding there were some upsides to the move.
“I don’t want to slight Chilliwack by any means but I would say the atmosphere in Vic was a lot better just with the fan base and the City got behind us.”
He noted the atmosphere in the new Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex in Lacombe has also been great.
“The fans – pretty much every game since we moved back into the Lacombe rink there – have been phenomenal and hopefully we get their continued and added support here going down the stretch,” he said, noting that for him there has also been an adjustment to the style of play in the Chinook League.
“It’s definitely a lot different. The guys that are there are a lot more experienced and a lot more poised with the puck in that sense. The speed of play for me is a little bit different coming from pro and being at NHL and AHL camps the last couple of years, making that step right to the Chinook League was a little bit different for me,” he said, adding he’s been able to adjust and learn from a lot of the older and more experienced players on the team.
Magee and the Generals completed a four game series sweep of the Fort Saskatchewan Chiefs in the first round of the ChHL playoffs this past weekend and are now waiting to find out whether they will play the Innisfail Eagles or the Stony Plain Eagles in the ChHL final later this month.