Kyle McDonough is one of the youngest players on one of the best teams in the Western Hockey League. However, the 16-year-old centre said he has nothing to be satisfied with yet.
In the 2023 WHL draft the Langdon product was picked 40th overall in the second round by the Portland Winterhawks. He made his debut in March last year, dressing for a few games down the stretch during the team’s playoff push.
This season McDonough’s a full time player, the second youngest on the team behind right winger Ryan Miller, who was born just three months after McDonough. After starting off the season on the injured list, McDonough made his 2023-2024 debut against the Everett Silvertips on Oct. 21.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself just trying to come back and play with way more confidence and just make plays,” said McDonough. “I put some pressure on myself…and I’ve been happy with the way I’ve been playing.”
Portland currently sits tied for second place in the WHL’s Western Conference with the Victoria Royals, who are both three points behind the conference leading Prince George Cougars. “It’s a great team to be a part of,” said McDonough of the Winterhawks. “We had a hot start to the season so it’s been really fun… the boys are rolling.”
As a 15-year-old, McDonough played on the Okotoks Oilers U18 AAA team. In his draft year he recorded 37 points in just 32 games. Later in the season he joined Team Alberta and took part in the Canada Winter Games where he recorded a goal and two assists in five games.
In 2021-2022, McDonough captained the Okotoks Oilers U15 AAA team and registered 36 goals and 26 assists in just 31 games. This season in Portland he’s yet to reach the scoresheet, but he did contribute an assist in one of the Winterhawks playoff games last season.
“You don’t really know how big the change is until you actually play,” said McDonough when asked about the difference between local AAA and junior hockey. “The pace, the work ethic that these guys have [pushes] you to be better…it’s a lot different than I expected, but in a good way.”
McDonough has only appeared in a handful of games this season–largely because of injury–but he hasn’t let his playing time deter him from trying his hardest to contribute to the team in any way he can. For a player whose name has dotted the scoresheet dozens of times throughout his young hockey career, McDonough knows he has a lot more to give.
“I’m not satisfied,” said McDonough. “I want to move up the lineup every day [and] be an effective player on this team.”
Indeed, as far as suitable conditions for improvement go, McDonough couldn’t find himself in a better situation. The Winterhawks are one of the more consistent teams in the WHL. They finished with the best record in the league during the 2019-2020 season and their coach Mike Johnston just entered into the illustrious 500 win club in October.
“This feels like I’m in the pros,” said McDonough. “Especially with Portland being such a good organization and just so professional…it’s a lot different that I expected, but in a good way.”
As November turns to December, and the 2023 season flips over to its second half, McDonough’s goals for the back end of his first full season are more focused than just putting the puck in the net.
“It’s good I’m starting to get into the lineup a little bit more,” said McDonough. “I just [want to] make a difference on this team, not just getting scoring [opportunities] but also creating chances.”
Finally, when asked about who it felt to get drafted to the WHL at such a high pick, McDonough answered with the typical hockey composure.
“It was great,” he said. “It was kind of a relief, but the work is not done.”