Andrew MacWilliam hopes to be a leader for Sabres prospects
GRAND FORKS — Andrew MacWilliam wore a captain's letter before coming to the University of North Dakota.
He did it again in college.
Since leaving school, he's worn an 'A' with the Toronto Marlies, Manitoba Moose and the Rochester Americans, who last season snapped their longest American Hockey League playoff drought since the late 1960s and early 1970s.
He doesn't know yet whether he'll have a captain's letter for the Americans this season, but if his history is any indication, it's likely.
"We have a good core of leaders," MacWilliam said while skating at UND's pro camp this week in Ralph Engelstad Arena. "You don't lead because you have a letter, and you don't lead to get a letter. It's just something you do. It doesn't matter who the captain is, who the assistants are. We have a good group."
Being a leader this season for Rochester will carry extra responsibilities.
The Americans are the top minor league club for the Buffalo Sabres, who have one of the best prospect pools in the NHL. The Athletic this week named Buffalo's prospect pool among the top five in the league.
Several of them will likely start the season in Rochester, where they'll learn the ropes of pro hockey from veterans like MacWilliam.
"Part of my role is helping young guys along," MacWilliam said. "That's something I can do at practice and off the ice. They've got a good group of young guys coming through. It's only getting better. The Buffalo fan base is excited as well as Rochester's."
This will be MacWilliam's second year with the Americans.
Playing his usual stay-at-home, physical game, MacWilliam had eight assists and 73 penalty minutes in 54 regular-season games. Rochester reached the playoffs after a three-year drought, but lost to Syracuse in the first round.
"We kind of had to assemble a group to turn that thing around a little bit," MacWilliam said. "They hadn't been to the playoffs in quite some time. For us, that was a big goal of ours starting out in the fall that we accomplished. Obviously, things didn't go our way in the first round of the playoffs, but it's definitely something to build on this year."
MacWilliam said he enjoyed returning to Grand Forks for UND's pro camp this year, and hopes that it can become an annual thing.
"Every summer, we've talked about doing a pro camp," MacWilliam said. "I know they used to do it back in the day. We just needed one guy to take control, and that was Schmally (Jordan Schmaltz). It was good. We had a good group of guys in here.
"It's always great to come back. The fans are great ot us. And being able to come back—Bubs (Brad Berry) and Jax (Dane Jackson) always open the door for us—it's amazing."