Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – As a member of the Kamloops Blazers' defence between 2014-16, it doesn't take Cameron Reagan long to recall some of his toughest assignments.
Leon Draisaitl (Prince Albert and Kelowna) and Matt Barzal (Seattle) were roaming wild in the Western Hockey League at the same time, racking up otherworldly numbers.
Talk about a couple of Grade A challenges.
"You kind of get to really develop your game and work on the defensive aspects playing against those types of players," said the rookie MacEwan Griffins defenceman. "It's pretty cool watching them now and how they're succeeding at the higher levels."
Reagan also played for the Prince Albert Raiders to start the 2016-17 season before finishing it playing in his hometown with the AJHL's Sherwood Park Crusaders. His junior swan song came in the United States Hockey League with the Omaha Lancers last season where he played with Philadelphia Flyers' prospect and U.S. World Junior team member Noah Cates.
All told, Reagan brings 124 games of WHL experience, 35 AJHL and 54 USHL to the fore as an Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference rookie this season at MacEwan.
"Playing in three different junior leagues, I got a lot of experience playing against a lot of different players and styles," he said. "Coming from the WHL, it's a little more physical than the USHL where it's skilled and high-paced. It helped me develop my game and just be sounder on all areas of the ice."
Reagan, who has three goals and seven points in 16 games for the Griffins from the blueline this season, has really been able to lean on the multi-league experience as he transitions to post-secondary hockey.
"He certainly had a lot of different experiences and you can definitely see that in his maturity level," said Griffins head coach Michael Ringrose. "Any time you're put in that many situations, you just learn to go with the flow a little bit easier.
"He certainly has come into our room and been an impactful guy both on and off the ice for us right away."
The jump from the USHL to the ACAC has been seamless given that the styles the Lancers and Griffins play are similar.
"it's what coach Mike talks about, just playing with pace and moving your feet," said Reagan. "I think in the USHL that's what it's all about, too – using all aspects of the ice."
That's exactly the type of player Reagan is, already, as a rookie, showing off an ability to be impactful in all zones of the rink.
"He's a great puck mover," said Ringrose. "He makes a really good first pass and is able to find the ice under pressure, which is a difficult skill for a defender.
"He contributes offensively by adding offence from behind the rush, but also does a good job in the offensive zone when we have possession, jumping in on the cycle. We talk about 200-foot players when we reference forwards all the time, but Cameron is a 200-foot defender who contributes in all areas."
Considering he's the son of a high-level coach (dad Leo Reagan is head coach the Sherwood Park Midget AAA Kings), that kind of responsible play has been engrained in him from a young age.
"I knew his dad a little bit and I've certainly talked with Cam in the past," said Ringrose of the process to recruit him to MacEwan. "The opportunity to coach him is one that I'm certainly glad I'm getting. He's a pretty good piece for our program moving forward."
The Griffins (11-4-1-0) sit second in the ACAC, a point back of NAIT (12-4-0-0), as they head into a weekend series against Portage (2-12-1-0) on Friday in Lac La Biche (7 p.m., ACAC TV) and Saturday at the Downtown Community Arena (6 p.m., ACAC TV).
Despite the record of their opponent, the Griffins are taking nothing for granted after losing to the Voyageurs 4-3 back on Oct. 13 – seeing their 47-23 shot advantage in the game go unrewarded.
"We definitely haven't forgotten," said Ringrose, whose team beat Portage 7-1 in the other game of that fall series. "They've been a team that's always played us hard. We've never been able to just show up and expect anything. We've always had to earn it.
"We have a process. We want to play a certain way," he added. "The mentality going into this weekend is we want to play our game … and continue to put lots of pucks towards the net. The law of averages hopefully takes over and you go from there.
"There are little details that you need to focus on, just to make sure you're giving yourself the best opportunity to score – habits and willingness to compete in certain areas of the ice that will go a long way to scoring goals. So that's been a focus for us."