Former Junior Hurricanes skater makes history at PNC Arena — by scoring for the Islanders

There was history in the New York Islanders’ only goal Saturday night, and not only for them. It was hometown Carolina Hurricanes history, coming from the wrong side of the ice.

When Kyle MacLean stuffed a rebound behind Hurricanes goalie Frederik Andersen midway through the first period of Game 1, he became the first former Junior Hurricanes player ever to score a playoff goal against the big club.

The son of current Islanders and former Hurricanes assistant coach John MacLean, Kyle MacLean played in the Junior Hurricanes program for three seasons while his father was behind the bench, leaving as a 15-year-old and returning Saturday as a 24-year-old NHL rookie making his first playoff appearance in a building he knew all too well.

“Kind of funny how it works out,” Kyle MacLean told reporters Saturday night. “Watched a lot of games when he was coaching for the Hurricanes.”

Riley Stillman, the son of former Hurricanes player Cory Stillman, was the first Junior Hurricanes player to score against the Hurricanes in the regular season when he scored the first of his career for the Chicago Blackhawks at PNC late in the 2021 season.

Among MacLean’s coaches with the Junior Hurricanes: Current Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour, whose son Skyler was in the same age group as MacLean and is now in the Florida Panthers system.

“He’s here every summer, training with Skyler and the guys,” Rod Brind’Amour said. “And has been for many years. They’re definitely good friends in the summer. Not so much right now. Didn’t like seeing how he got us last night. A guy who’s just, I saw how hard he worked. Everything he has now, he’s earned it.”

Colin Muldoon, who coached Skyler Brind’Amour and Kyle MacLean as 14-year-olds, said they were among the smallest players on that team, enduring the hardship of playing against much bigger and stronger teenagers. Even amid that frustration, their skill and ability stood out.

“I’ve never said this to anybody in our program and still haven’t, but I told Kyle, ‘It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if you played in the NHL one day,’” Muldoon said. “He had all the instincts and did everything right. He was just small, but it was going to happen. I didn’t think it would take this long. I was blown away he wasn’t drafted.”

After his family left North Carolina, MacLean ended up playing five seasons of junior hockey in Canada before signing as a free agent with the Islanders. Now 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, he was in the middle of his fourth AHL season when he was called up in January and never left, recording four goals and five assists in 32 games. His father also scored in his NHL playoff debut, making them the first father-son combo to do it.

The Hurricanes never made the playoffs during John MacLean’s time with the team, working under Kirk Muller in the heart of the franchise’s decade-long playoff drought. Kyle MacLean finally got a taste of the playoff atmosphere in Raleigh, and left his mark as well.

“It was cool. Lot of excitement. Cool building, lot of adrenaline,” MacLean said. “Great to get the first one under your belt, have that experience. The buzz in the building was something that you definitely notice and the intensity is that much higher.”