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ACTON LOOKING TO BUILD OFF OF CAREER SEASON
By George Darkow,
Will Acton’s hockey education kicked into high gear during the 2013-14 season.
After spending the entirety of his first three professional seasons in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization without ever experiencing a single NHL game, Acton’s move to Oklahoma City this past season gave the Stouffville, Ontario native one of the most enlightening experiences he’s had in his young career.
Not only did the winger tally AHL career highs in goals, assists and points, he also was given his first taste of what it’s like to play in the NHL, opening the season as a member of the Edmonton Oilers, before returning to Oklahoma City to help the Barons in a late season playoff push.
“It was a learning year for me,” Acton said. “I got the opportunity to get some NHL games, which was fantastic, and come back (to Oklahoma City) and (coaches) made it more clear on the things I needed to work on to become a fulltime NHLer. I took the year and tried to do that and tried to help the team win.
“It was unfortunate how it ended for us – it was a tough series and we came out on the losing end of it, losing three straight – but I think it was a pretty good year and I’m looking forward to next year already.”
Similar to that of his teammates, Acton noticed a significant evolution in team character throughout the season. Upon returning to Oklahoma City in early December, Acton joined a Barons squad that had all but eliminated any hope of making the playoffs.
“I think (head coach Todd Nelson) did a really good job of leading us through that time,” Acton said. “Obviously we were really far behind and we had a lot of ground to make up and essentially (every game) became (like the) playoffs for us even in February, certainly by early March.
“I thought our young group showed a lot of character and a lot of maturity during that time and having a real sense of urgency.” he added. “I’m proud of our group for being able to get (into the playoffs).”
Under contract with Edmonton for one more year, Acton has his sights set on continuing the progression of his career. And thanks to both experience and feedback from the Oklahoma City coaching staff, his offseason goals are well defined.
“It’s clear when you leave (after the end of the season) what you need to improve on – what you need to do to make it,” Acton said. “So I’m going to go home and address some of those things and do everything I can to hopefully make the (Oilers) next year.”
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