MSU hockey's MacEachern signs with St. Louis Blues, Anastos staying put
Nearly two weeks after bowing out of the Big Ten Hockey Tournament to Ohio State University in overtime in the quarterfinals, a relatively quiet offseason for MSU hockey was offset by the departure of junior forward Mackenzie MacEachern.
MacEachern will forego his senior season and last year of NCAA eligibility, signing a two-year entry level contract with the St. Louis Blues of the NHL.
Following an impressive high school career at Brother Rice High School, where he was named Michigan’s Mr. Hockey his senior year, MacEachern was drafted 67th overall by the Blues in the 2012 NHL entry draft. Before stepping onto campus, MacEachern had a 50-game stint in the USHL with Chicago Steel, amassing 21 points on eight goals and 13 assists.
During his career at MSU, MacEachern produced 68 points in 108 games played.
“I’d like to thank all the coaches, my teammates and Michigan State for the opportunity,” MacEachern said via press release. “Being at Michigan State has definitely been the best three years of my life. I’m excited to move forward, but I’ll really miss MSU because of all the support. You couldn’t have a better support system than we have at Michigan State.”
MacEachern will surely be missed by the Spartan offense, as he was oftentimes the catalyst, especially this past season. MacEachern churned out eight multiple-point games and skated his way to a team-leading 30 points in his final season wearing the MSU jersey.
MacEachern’s departure might come as a surprise to some, but rumors had been circulating since the beginning of the year that this would be his final season.
MacEachern, however, wasn't the only one expected to have a final season in East Lansing. Head coach Tom Anastos has drawn the ire of fans throughout the past few seasons, as MSU has failed to reach the NCAA Tournament since the 2011-12 season — his first season behind the bench. After lackluster outcomes many fans have taken to social media to voice their displeasure with leadership on the bench.
Now, after five seasons at the helm of a program that has lost its way after winning a national championship in 2007, Anastos' record of 71-99-20 provides little for Spartan fans to be excited about. While fans may share a negative view of Anastos’ time as coach, MSU Athletics Director Mark Hollis is sticking with Anastos for another year.
Reported by Lansing State Journal’s Graham Couch, Hollis expressed “full confidence” in Anastos and his ability to restructure MSU hockey. Citing “the complexity of building a hockey roster,” Hollis said he felt MSU hockey was on the right track with Anastos.
Hollis does seem to understand those complexities. Many fans might see hockey as they see other sports — a kid from high school commits and he comes in ready to play at 18 years old. This, however, is the exception — bordering on an extreme exception — rather than the rule.
The process of becoming a college hockey player is not an A to B route, but more of an A to B to B1 to B2 to C to D route. The average age of a majority of college hockey teams in Division 1 this year is at least 22 years old, according to College Hockey News. After high school or travel/AAA hockey, the talented fight for roster spots on junior hockey clubs in the NAHL and USHL, the main junior leagues in the U.S. that college hockey coaches offer scholarships.
Most of those kids will spend at least two seasons in juniors before arriving on campus, so trying to acclimate those kids and build a roster based on commitments that aren't etched in stone is harder than building a football or basketball roster.
“We knew it was going to take five years to start the process of laying ship,” Hollis said in his interview with Graham Couch. “That’s where we’re at right now.”
Anastos, however, will be adding a plethora of talent to the roster for the upcoming season as six forwards, four defenseman and a goalie join the team.
But as with any sport, only time will tell with recruits.