Patrick McGrath used to watch Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins from behind the glass. He was six years old when he sat in the stands at the then Wachovia Arena for his first hockey game. Little did he know then, he’d end up skating on the other side of that glass for that same team.
Inking another American Hockey League contract with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins this morning, McGrath guaranteed that he’d be suiting up for his hometown team for the third season in a row. It’ll be another year of wearing the Penguin logo on his chest and pulling that black and gold sweater over his head before every game.
“That’ll never get old,” McGrath said. “That’s always special. That’s your hometown team I grew up watching and that got me into hockey.”
The allure of playing only a few miles away from his backyard wasn’t the only reason the Shavertown native decided to re-up with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. For him, the biggest factors were the organization’s on-ice success and the friendships forged in the locker room last season.
“It was a pretty easy decision,” he said. “I mean, last year the season we had, the group of guys we had, the coaching staff and the organization as a whole, Pittsburgh all the way down, they’re in the Stanley Cup Final again. All of that makes the decision easy.”
McGrath will be looking to build on what was his most successful season as a pro. In his fourth season of professional hockey, it was the first time he spent the entire year at the AHL level. In 30 games, he notched four points (1G-3A) and 89 penalty minutes. McGrath scored the first goal of his AHL career on Apr. 8, 2017 while the Penguins were visiting the Hartford Wolf Pack.
Spending extended time at the AHL level without interruptions from injury or reassignment provided McGrath with not only an ever-important addition of confidence, but plenty of experience he plans to draw on moving forward in his career.
“From a developmental standpoint, [last season] was huge for me,” McGrath said. “It was a big step in my career being able to stay here the whole season and being able to contribute and play in a lot more games… It was a fun year. Like I said, the group of guys we had make it a lot more fun. Getting that goal was pretty special, too. That was fun.”
McGrath has already taken to the weight room at the team’s facility at the Toyota SportsPlex to start training for the 2017-18 campaign. Regular ice sessions are sure to follow, too. In terms of what he’ll be working on, McGrath already has a pretty good idea of what his objectives are for next season.
“I want to score more than one goal now,” he said. “I’ll be working on that.”