Sometimes, Patrick McGrath can see the opportunities for game action coming.
Others, game-day developments open a spot in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins lineup.
“With the way we practice, it would be pretty hard to not be ready,” McGrath said. “Everybody is pretty much ready to go.”
Whether or not he knows the chance to play is coming up, the process does not change.
“It’s something I’ve kind of been through my entire career,” the 24-year-old forward from Shavertown said. “You just have to stay ready and do a lot of extra work when most guys would be playing.
“You do the extra work to make sure you’re ready when that time comes so you’re up to speed.”
McGrath’s approach has been tested this season, the second straight that he is under a one-year American Hockey League contract with the local team after working his way up from the Wheeling Nailers of the EHL earlier in his career.
Last season, McGrath got into 30 games, scoring his first AHL goal and adding three assists. So far this season, two game appearances 10 days apart in November were his only action for the Atlantic Division leaders during a 13-5-1-1 start.
McGrath, who made it to Wilkes-Barre for parts of the two previous seasons while playing primarily with Wheeling, mixes the thrill of playing for his hometown team with the challenge of fighting for playing time in one of the toughest lineups to crack in all of minor-league hockey. The Penguins have played in the last 15 Calder Cup Playoffs, the longest active streak in the AHL, and have had winning percentages above .600 the last four.
“It’s a tough one really because you could maybe be playing more somewhere else, but at the same time, I think the organization I’m in and how good the team is and the lineup, I think in the end it helps you – and me personally,” he said. “When you’re playing with those guys every day, it’s pretty much impossible not to get better.”
And, he’s prepared for others who are not currently teammates to see it the same way.
“I think a lot of it has to do with the organization and the history of it that everybody kind of wants to come here,” said McGrath, who also pointed out that the parent Pittsburgh Penguins have a history of drafting quality players. “It’s a winning culture and they know they can get the opportunity to go up and win Stanley Cups, so I think that’s the easy choice when it comes down to guys trying to figure out where they want to go.”