It took Tim McGauley 22 games to score his first Western Hockey League goal and eight more games following that empty-netter to actually put one past a goalie.
Since then, McGauley’s knack for finding the net has improved considerably, with the 17-year-old rookie from Wilcox, Sask., taking over the Brandon Wheat Kings’ goal-scoring lead after Alessio Bertaggia was traded to the Spokane Chiefs last week.
With 13 goals this season — including seven in his last 12 games — McGauley is showing the scoring touch that prompted the Saskatoon Blades to take him with the 20th overall pick of the 2010 WHL Bantam Draft. He credits his recent success to hard work and confidence.
"I’m a lot more comfortable out there after the first half of the season," said McGauley, who also has eight assists, for 21 points in 39 games. "… It was a lot of hard work, though. It just doesn’t come to you magically."
His improvement has been noticed by professional scouts. National Hockey League Central Scouting has added McGauley to its latest rankings, slotting him 152nd among North American skaters on its mid-term list in a move that caught the player off guard.
"I was coming from my second class I think and (teammate Colton Waltz) told me," McGauley said. "I didn’t believe him at first. It was unexpected but it’s just nice to be on there."
Injured Wheat Kings defenceman Ryan Pulock sits sixth on the list, which is topped by Portland Winterhawks defenceman Seth Jones, followed by the Halifax Mooseheads duo of Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin.
Wheat Kings defenceman Eric Roy, who will play in tonight’s CHL Top Prospects Game in Halifax (6 o’clock, Sportsnet) is ranked 39th by Central Scouting. For Roy, tonight’s showcase has been a long time coming.
"I’m very excited," Roy said on the weekend before leaving for Halifax. "It’s a day I’ve been thinking about since it was announced. I feel very honoured to be at the Top 40 prospects game. It’s going to be a lot of fun and I can’t wait."
Roy was to have been joined on Team Cherry for tonight’s game by Pulock, but the Brandon captain had to drop out due to a wrist injury.
Former Wheat King Ayrton Nikkel, traded to the Everett Silvertips last week, is ranked 155th among North American Skaters by Central Scouting, while Brandonite Carson Perreaux of the Prince Albert Raiders is 175th on the list.
Wheat Kings bantam draft pick Brendan Harms, who is playing for the Fargo Force of the USHL this year and slated to join the NCAA’s Bemidji State Beavers next season, is ranked 113th.
AROUND THE WHL: Nikkel told the Everett Herald that the trade that sent him from Brandon to Everett may have been in his best interests. "We were struggling a little bit (in Brandon)," the Kelowna, B.C., native told Nick Patterson of the Herald. "The team morale over there was a little low. I figured a fresh start would be good for me. Being a little closer to home is nice as well." … Former Wheat Kings C Brendan Rouse had an assist in his first game with Vancouver on Saturday after being waived by the Seattle Thunderbirds and picked up by the Giants … Portland D Troy Rutkowski has been named the WHL player of the week after scoring six goals and adding four assists in four games.