Some may not be familiar with the name Austin McEneny, but he has put together a fairly solid resume in terms of what he has done at the junior level as well as the professional level.
McEneny is known for being a solid puck moving defender who can create space with his smart decision-making and ability to change direction. Standing roughly 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, he has definitely been looked at as a smaller-sized defender at both the junior and professional levels. However, that has not fazed him from rounding up a pretty solid career. Diving into McEneny’s junior career, he went undrafted in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), but that did not stop him from pursuing his hockey career.
“Watching the minor midget draft when I was younger and not getting picked by anyone made me really unsure of what I wanted to do with my hockey career. Then I got a chance to go play at Blyth Academy in Burlington, (Ontario) and it really helped me get back on track with what I wanted,” McEneny explained.
McEneny’s Junior Career Takes Off
In the 2014-15 season, McEneny went on to play junior B hockey with Ontario’s Caledonia Corvairs. He impressed in his rookie junior year, tallying six goals and 25 assists for 31 points on the season.
Those impressive rookie numbers led McEneny to signing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) as a free agent with the Quebec Remparts. In his first major junior season, he posted two goals and nine assists for 11 points. Following that season, McEneny would depart from Quebec en route to the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires.
“That was just a point in time where I felt like I was growing as a player and I had opportunities to play in the NCAA, but I knew major junior was going to be a better fit for me,” Mceneny said. “Then making the jump from ‘The Q’ to ‘The O’ I felt like was going to benefit my style of play more.”
McEneny continued to build on his success, having an 18-point season in 2016-17. Furthermore, in the 2016-17 season, he helped lead a talented Spitfire roster on their way to winning a Memorial Cup. The team included players from the likes of Mikhail Sergachev, Logan Stanley, Logan Brown, Jalen Chatfield, Sean Day, Michael DiPietro and many other current pros.
“That season was unbelievable, because before that year I couldn’t have ever imagined winning the Memorial Cup, let alone playing in the OHL. It was a dream to play in that league and when it all comes together with winning something that big, its incredible,” McEneny explained. “Early on in my junior career I played with some great players in Caledonia and Quebec but getting to Windsor was a whole other level, there was 10-11 guys going to NHL camps. Everyone there was professional and already acting like an NHL’er, it taught me how to be a pro while I was still just a junior player.”
In 2017-18, McEneny spent time with the Spitfires and Kitchener Rangers, gathering a solid 30-point season between the two.
As a player who was always considered to be on the smaller size for the North American style of defender, McEneny never strayed away from the physical play. Showing he could not only be a fast, puck-moving defensemen, he also displayed his ability to drop the gloves and change the pace of a game when necessary.
McEneny Enters the Pros
Ultimately, McEneny’s display of an all-around type of game saw him earn a professional contract in the ECHL with the Brampton Beast. He had a solid first season, recording 14 points in 45 games while adapting to the professional ice.
“Being undersized my whole career, especially as a defensemen, you have to show you can obviously play defensively but at the same time they’re not expecting you to be a shutdown guy because of my size. So, you have to use your skill set and show different elements you can bring that other players can’t. I always just kind of knew I had to show I can fight so coaches and scouts would look past my size, and it worked out well,” McEneny stated.
In his second season in the ECHL, he got traded to the Norfolk Admirals, recording another 14-point season in 35 games before being traded to Maine for a playoff run. Last season was the initial COVID-19 delay, which led to no playoffs. Maine was one of the organizations who did not participate in this year’s ECHL season, so McEneny looked elsewhere to find a team.
“It was a pretty weird situation, one day the staff walked into the dressing room in Maine and told us that the season was cancelled. No one really expected it. No one really knew what was going to happen in the next season,” McEneny said. “Maine should be back next season as well as a lot of others, but yeah, it made this year a lot harder for me and a ton of players not knowing where we would end up.”
For many players, the jump from junior to pro can be a tough transition. Often times players can get buried in a lineup as well as just start to lose their style of play as they begin to against bigger and faster talent. McEneny explained how he saw the jump from junior to the pros.
“The big thing is, you’re now playing against men. No matter what, even if you’re a lot more skilled, they can throw you around, so you learn to play against or you won’t have a long career. In the OHL I really felt you were getting developed for the NHL, you’re training like it, you’re treated like it, pre-game and post-game, just all of it. Whereas in the ECHL you got four games in five nights and you’re travelling across North America. Its a lot different and takes a lot of adjusting, but luckily I found what works for me.”
Obviously this past year has resulted in a lot of changes for all levels of hockey, but McEneny explains how it was different for this year’s ECHL season as a part of the Tulsa Oilers.
“We ended up having fans every game in our division but we were only allowed 25% in a 20,000 person stadium. It felt pretty empty because of how big it was but at the same time in that area and division everything is all open, so it didn’t feel too different,” McEneny said.
McEneny has had a fairly solid hockey career up to this point in time. Obviously the next major goal is to try and work his way on to an AHL roster. The goal is set, and like most players who play professionally, it all comes down to a matter of earning their shot. McEneny explained he has a few different options in terms of where he could play next season, but ultimately he’s just excited to get back on the ice.
Carson MacRae is a member of The Hockey Writers, covering the Seattle Kraken expansion team. MacRae played just about every level of hockey including signing a minor pro deal. Unfortunately, he was not able to have a long professional career as he suffered an injury to his knee. Luckily, MacRae found a new love in writing about sports and used his education at the University of Guelph to further advance his skills. MacRae currently also writes for Ohio State’s football program apart of Rivals Sports and BuckeyeGrove.com providing insight to the programs current and future recruiting.