By Tim Morris
Ottawa Junior Senator Michael Eftimovski began the 2019-20 season as a 17-year-old rookie, new to junior hockey and the Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL).
Now, some 45 games into the season, he is no longer playing like a newcomer. He’s become a dependable defenseman.
“It took about a month to get into a groove, to find my confidence,” recalled the Toronto native. “Marty [Head Coach and GM Dagenais] and our veterans were super important. They taught me a lot.”
While he was finding his game and becoming comfortable in his new environment, having the backing of Dagenais was crucial.
“Back in June  when Marty asked me to sign with the Senators it was a big confidence booster,” Eftimovski remarked.
It was a big jump for the 17-year-old who is still in high school to go from midget to junior hockey and he knew it.
“I was ready for the jump,” the defender said. “Everything is pushed up a notch. There’s more speed and the game is quicker and the players are bigger and older. “I needed to get quicker. I’m always looking to keep getting better.”
Decision-making is also accelerated, Eftimovski pointed out, noting that the puck is on your stick for a shorter period of time because the game is that much faster.
Something that made Eftimovski’s adjustment a bit smoother is Ottawa’s style of play.
“One of the things that helped is that our defense is man-to-man oriented,” the 5-11, 180-pound Eftimovski explained. “That suits me. I play the body, I play physical and I play tough. I’m more of a defenseman’s defenseman. I help the team keep the puck out of the net and out of the zone by winning those corner battles.”
Eftimovski’s play has helped the Junior Senators to keep their goals against to less than three a game this season, no easy feat in a CCHL campaign that runs 62 games before the playoffs. That marked another step up from midget.
“That [longer season] was definitely a big adjustment,” he noted. “I needed the rest at the Christmas break a lot.”
Playing hockey also helped Eftimovski acclimate to a new school as well as his high school classmates.
“People love hockey,” Eftimovski said of the Ontario students. “Playing for the Junior Senators helped break the ice, it was the spark for friendships and conversation.”
Ever since he first started skating at two or three, hockey was number one for Eftimovski.
“I’ve always had a passion for hockey,” he pointed out. “I love the physicality and how fast-paced and quick the game is.”
Eftimovski’s older brother, Julian, also played organized hockey up to midget. Watching and learning the game from his brother helped prepared him for his own road to the CCHL.
“I looked up to him,” Eftimovski said of Julian.
The CCHL playoffs are just weeks away and the Junior Senators’ first-year player believes they are ready to defend their Bogart and Fred Page Cup championships. The trade deadline is behind the team and the new additions are fitting in.
“We’re looking really good,” Eftimovski noted. “We have a good group of guys.”
Hockey isn’t all that counts for Eftimovski. With a goal to play NCAA Division I hockey, Eftimovski knows keeping his grades up is essential to achieving that goal.
“School is very important,” he said. “I’m going to keep pushing for it [NCAA hockey].”