It was all a blur.
Jack McNaughton stepped into his first taste of WHL action Monday afternoon against the Prince Albert Raiders just halfway through the second period and wasted little time to make an impression.
Simply put, he was dialed in.
“It was an unreal experience,” he said. “It was surreal playing on Saddledome ice for the first time in my life and something I won’t forget.
“It was nerve wracking at first especially going up against a good team like Prince Albert but after making the first few saves I settled down and felt comfortable out there. It helped coming in off the bench so I couldn’t think about it too much and just go out and have fun.”
The 17-year-old rookie goaltender stopped all 12 shots fired his way in a little over 28 minutes of action which included a pair of breakaway saves.
With one of them being his first very shot against.
“It was tough having your first shot be a breakaway,” he said. “I just stayed calm and composed and grew more confident as the game went on. I knew that I had to take each shot once at a time and focus on what I needed to do and where to be positioning wise.
“When the buzzer sounded, it was unbelievable knowing what I had accomplished.”
Prior to getting into game action, McNaughton was a listed prospect of the Hitmen and headed into training camp eyeing a roster spot.
The Calgarian was solid all camp and pre-season making it an easy decision for him being named to the opening night roster and sticking with the club ever since.
“I don’t think it’s really hit that I am here yet,” he said. “It’s exciting because I watched the Hitmen my whole life and it’s unreal to put on that sweater now and even surreal just coming into the locker room.
“I know my parents are so proud and they have been so supportive. The transition was made it easier knowing I wouldn’t have to leave home and they don’t have to worry about coming out and visiting me elsewhere. I can just stay where I grew up.”
Being on the Hitmen also reunited the goaltender with goaltending and assistant coach Jason LaBarbera, as the two have crossed paths before and now get to work together.
“We met two summers ago at a top prospects goaltending camp and ever since then he’s helped me with the little details,” McNaughton said. “It was really special to me to have him mentor me before and to now coach me. It’s huge to have someone on your side who has had NHL experience and has been through all the ups and downs you face as a goalie.”
With just six games through the season, there’s still plenty of hockey left to be played and plenty of time for McNaughton to get in more games and develop furthermore.
“I want to get my name out there and be reliable every night I get the call. The NHL is the dream and I would love to make it there but for right now I’m focused on improving my game and helping bring success to the team.”