Jayson Megna was driving to lunch after a practice with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Oct. 24 when he was interrupted by a phone call.
It turned out to be an interruption that Megna didn’t mind.
That’s when the second-year pro found out he was heading to Pittsburgh — his first NHL call-up. What was a routine afternoon all of a sudden turned into a hectic — and exciting — turn of events.
But first, there were priorities.
“I ate lunch,” Megna said. “And called my parents right away in the parking lot, went back to the house and packed some suits. They said pack for a week, and off I went.”
Megna described the sequence of events as “surreal” and an experience that was hard to describe.
Fortunately, Megna’s actions have been speaking louder than words lately.
In eight games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season, Megna has notched five goals and seven points. During his six-game stint with Pittsburgh, he scored a pair of goals and totaled three points.
And, to think, it wasn’t that long ago — less than two years — when Megna decided to leave the University of Nebraska-Omaha after one year to turn pro. It was a risky move for an undrafted player, but Megna is proving it was the right one.
The biggest piece of evidence to date was his call-up to Pittsburgh, where he scored a goal in his second game and skated on the team’s second line with Evgeni Malkin and Jussi Jokinen.
For the 23-year-old Megna, the chance to play with some of the biggest names in the NHL was a dream come true, but he wasn’t starstruck by the opportunity. Megna addressed those feelings when he took part in Pittsburgh’s training camp last season.
“That first practice in main camp last year, I was kind of like ‘Holy cow! I’m on the ice with these guys?’” Megna said. “But you have to put that to the side. You’re on the same team with these guys and they’re going to make you better.”
That proved to be a valuable lesson, and Megna used a simple approach while playing with the likes of Sidney Crosby and Malkin.
“Just get open for them when they have the puck, and get the puck to them when they’re on the ice because you know they’re going to do something special with it,” he said.
Those words rang true in Megna’s second NHL game against the Carolina Hurricanes. In the third period, Crosby had the puck and Megna got open in front of the net. Crosby sent a shot to the net that deflected off Megna’s shin pad and into the goal.
Perhaps a deflection goal isn’t the way Megna dreamed up his first NHL tally, but the fact that it came courtesy of Crosby makes it special nonetheless.
If anything, the goal made Megna more determined.
“It was very nice to get that first one out of the way,” he said. “But I kind of wanted to get a better one than that.”
Four days later, when the Penguins faced Columbus, Megna got the true goal that he sought when he slam-dunked a Jokinen pass at the corner of the net while skating on Pittsburgh’s second line with Malkin.
Two NHL goals, with one set up by Crosby and the other Malkin. Not a bad way to start.
“There are really some great players up there,” Megna said. “It’s incredible what they can do. You watch them on television and they’re the best players in the world, but you don’t understand how good they are until you’re actually on the ice with them.
“Get open and they’ll find you. It’s pretty cool.”
Two games later Megna was reassigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, where he promptly scored two goals in his first two games back.
For an undrafted player who left college early, Megna certainly left a good impression with Pittsburgh after he posted three points in six games. But more important than the points, according to WBS head coach John Hynes, was that Megna was able to be a factor at the NHL level.
“That’s real important,” Hynes said. “Jayson was able to produce and establish confidence with Pittsburgh. That’s the most important thing you can establish.”
While Megna is happy with his NHL shot and enjoys his role as one of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s main offensive threats, he admits he wouldn’t mind if another lunch was interrupted by a phone call.
“I feel like it was a positive call-up and I put myself in a good spot,” Megna said. “Hopefully, if the opportunity arises and I get another chance to go up, I can continue to build on it.”