Hunter McDonald Signs With Philadelphia Flyers

Late last week, news broke that Northeastern defenseman Hunter McDonald was foregoing his final two seasons at Northeastern by signing a contract with the Philadelphia Flyers. The following day, the news was confirmed as McDonald signed an Professional Tryout Contract (PTO) with Philadelphia to start his professional career with Lehigh Valley in the American Hockey League. He will eventually sign an entry-level contract that will kick in starting next season.

McDonald was drafted by Philadelphia in the sixth round of the 2022 NHL Draft as an overaged pick but one that had the tools to be a diamond in the rough. Upon arrival at Northeastern, he played significant minutes in the Huskies’ top four defensemen right from the start of the season, and quickly showed why the Flyers were so enamored with him with his combination of size (6-foot-4, 205 pounds), physicality, and skating ability. Flyers President of Hockey Operations Keith Jones was quoted in January as saying “Hunter McDonald is another piece as well, that’s at Northeastern and is going to be a beast when he gets here…I’m super excited about him. Just the physical element he has, the size, the strength, the skating ability.”

McDonald would prove to be one of the more physical defensemen Northeastern has had on their blue lines in the last decade, and showed an ability to control play and shut down opposing chances in the defensive zone. His 94 blocks in 2022-23 were the most by a Huskies blue liner since Garret Cockerill’s 85 in 2016-17, and he chipped in 14 points in 35 games as well, including his first collegiate goal in the Beanpot to a semifinal victory over Boston University. For his success as a freshman, McDonald was named Hockey East’s Best Defensive Defenseman, the fifth Husky to win the award and the first freshman in conference history.

As a sophomore, it was expected that McDonald would become the top defenseman in Jerry Keefe’s arsenal. Unfortunately, his season got off to a rough start when he suffered an upper body injury in the exhibition game against Quinnipiac the first weekend of the season. He would miss thirteen games, but then not miss another game the rest of the season. He would add five points (one goal) to the ledger, including the secondary assist on Gunnarwolfe Fontaine’s Beanpot winning goal to help Northeastern with the Beanpot championship for the second straight year. McDonald leaves Northeastern undefeated at TD Garden- rarified air.

From the time he was drafted, it was evident how highly the Flyers thought of McDonald, so much so that one talent evaluator reached out to the Northeastern Hockey Blog and told us not to expect McDonald to stay at Northeastern for longer than two years if everything went to plan. Obviously I’m sure the plan would have included two full years of games, but that prediction proved true in the end. With that in the back of our minds, and on the heels of his highly successful freshman season, we always thought McDonald would be playing pro hockey some time in 2024. As of this writing, he made his professional debut for Lehigh Valley, but unfortunately sustained a new upper body injury in that game.

With McDonald now in the pro ranks, he leaves big skates to fill at the top of the Northeastern defensive pairs. Expect fellow 2022 draftee Jackson Dorrington to fill that space next season, as Dorrington has seen his game grow leaps and bounds since arriving in 2022 as well. The Canucks draft pick doubled his freshman point total (12 points in 2023-24) and scored six goals as well as showing a physical element to his game that McDonald was so revered for. We expect Northeastern to look to the transfer portal for at least one more left-shot defenseman to help with the second or third pair, but Dorrington looks every part of ready to step up to McDonald’s vacated position.

Congratulations to Hunter and to his family on signing his first professional contract! We are grateful to have been able to watch him at Northeastern, and we are excited to continue to follow his professional career. I have no doubt he will be skating for the Broad Street Bullies in due time. Wishing Hunter good health and continued success at the pro level.

As always, go Huskies!