Hunter McDonald signs professional tryout contract with Phantoms

2024 Beanpot Tournament - Harvard v Northeastern
2024 Beanpot Tournament - Harvard v Northeastern / Richard T Gagnon/GettyImages

Initially reported as an entry-level contract, Hunter McDonald will turn to the professional game. He has signed on with the Phantoms for the rest of the season, courtesy of a professional tryout contract.

Hunter McDonald, previously passed over twice, was taken in the sixth round of the 2022 NHL Draft by the Flyers. He was coming off his second season in the USHL, playing for the Omaha Lancers and Chicago Steel. The offensive numbers haven't been there for McDonald, but that is not the area he thrives in.

McDonald is the stereotypical defensive defenseman. He is a hard player to get past and isn't afraid to use the body when needed. Blocking shots is also a top mission of his. He has 52 blocked shots a season after he was third in the nation with 94 blocks. He led all Hockey East skaters with 65 blocks last season. McDonald became the first freshman to take home Best Defensive Defenseman honors in 2022-23.

McDonald had a chance to repeat this season but missed a large chunk of the season with an undisclosed injury. He suffered the injury in the season opener and missed 14 games. Something else McDonald is sharp at is getting pucks through to the net, only failing to record a shot in four of his 23 games this season. He had multi-shot games in 16 games, often hitting three or more shots. McDonald only had one goal this season, but the Huskies aren't looking toward him for offense.

Signing a PTO means McDonald will leave Northeastern after his sophomore year. He will join the Phantoms as they make a push toward the playoffs and potentially fight for a spot on the Flyers' defense next season if he earns his ELC next. His ceiling is most likely as a bottom-pair defenseman. But if he can carry over his play from the collegiate game to the NHL, he can make a living as a shutdown defenseman. There are plenty of teams that covet that.

"I’m really excited about the pieces. Hunter McDonald is another piece as well that’s at Northeastern and is going to be a beast when he gets here," Keith Jones told the PHLY Flyers podcast in January. "I’m super excited about him. Just the physical element he has, the size, the strength, the skating ability.”

As a sixth-rounder, players don't often have high expectations for what they can become. McDonald is only in his second season since being drafted and is already making the jump to professional hockey. It's clear the Flyers like what they have in McDonald already. The expectations may not be high, but he can give the Flyers even more to like with a solid AHL performance.