Courtesy of The Florida Panthers

Jacob MacDonald '15 skates with the Panthers in a preseason game against the Lightning. On Saturday, MacDonald scored his first career goal in his first regular season NHL game with the Panthers.

October 7, 2018

MacDonald ’15 Scores 1st NHL Goal in Debut for Florida Panthers

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After he made the Florida Panthers’ roster for the 2018-19 season, former Cornell men’s hockey defenseman Jacob MacDonald ’15 made an impact quickly, scoring his first career NHL goal on his first career shot in Florida’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.

On his very first shift as an NHL defenseman, MacDonald skated across the right circle from the point on a Panthers rush, gobbling up an errant pass from teammate Vincent Trocheck and burying it through the five-hole of Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.

“You know, as a kid, I grew up and that’s obviously your dream to play,” MacDonald told the media after the game. “And to go out there and have a shift like that, it was really exciting.”

MacDonald made the Panthers roster following a strong showing during the team’s preseason and came up big for his newest teammates, scoring the team’s only goal and ensuring Florida a point in its first game of the season.

Saturday night for MacDonald only came after he spent the past four years bouncing around the minor leagues. His latest professional stint came in 2017-18 with the Albany Devils — the top affiliate of the NHL’s New Jersey Devils — where he had an impressive 55 points in 75 games (20 points, 35 assists) as a blueliner to earn him looks from NHL teams.

At Cornell, MacDonald played in all of Cornell’s 31 games his senior season, tallying nine points on two goals and seven assists — good for second among the Red’s blueliners in the 2014-15 season. Thereafter, he signed a standard contract with the now-defunct Elmira Jackals of the ECHL, then an affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks, before three more seasons in the minors to earn his spot on Saturday.

Cornell head coach Mike Schafer ’86 told The Athletic earlier this month that MacDonald, who entered Cornell as a true freshman out of high school, made significant improvements over the course of his career in carnelian and white.

“He was really young when he came in,” Schafer said. “He was right out of high school, which doesn’t happen very often. Before he could grow offensively, he improved a lot defensively the first couple years in playing college, then his game just grew from there, as his confidence did.”

The Portland, Oregon native MacDonald is the 31st Cornellian to play in the NHL and joins his classmate Joakim Ryan ’15 along with Riley Nash ’11 as the only Cornell hockey products currently on NHL active rosters, though several others could hear their names called up as the season progresses.