THUNDER BAY – Keighan Gerrie is a lot like hundreds of thousands of other Canadian kids, dreaming of hearing his name called at the National Hockey League draft and going on to win the Stanley Cup over and over again.
Unlike most of those dreams, Gerrie’s actually got a shot.
The 17-year-old Thunder Bay North Stars forward has worked his way onto the National Hockey League radar, earlier this month finding himself ranked 140th among North American skaters by the Central Scouting Bureau in their mid-term draft report.
Make no mistake, it’s still a long-shot.
With just seven rounds and 31 teams picking, only 217 players will be taken. Factor in European skaters and goalies from both sides of the pond, and things will definitely have to go Gerrie’s way to become the first player drafted straight out of the Superior International Junior Hockey League.
But if anyone’s a good bet to make it happen, it’s Gerrie.
Drafted by the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights in 2017, Gerrie burst onto the SIJHL scene last season, scoring 24 goals and 51 points in 53 games as the youngest player in the league.
He’s been even better this season, with 56 points in 31 games, missing time to suit up for Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge as well as the recent Canadian Junior Hockey League’s annual prospects contest.
Gerrie, a graduate of the Thunder Bay Kings program, said he was thrilled to see his name was on the Central Scouting Bureau list.
“Obviously it was pretty shocking,” said Gerrie, adding the Montreal Canadiens were his favourite NHL team while growing up.
“But I’m very honoured and proud to have that kind of recognition. It’s good exposure for our team and our league as well, so hopefully that can bring in some extra people that want to come here next year.”
The SIJHL does have some history with the world’s best hockey league.
Graduates Carter Hutton and Robert Bortuzzo, members of the Fort William North Stars in 2005-06, went on to the NHL. Hutton got there the hard way, playing college hockey at Massachusetts-Lowell before working his way through the minors and eventually to stops in Chicago, Nashville, St. Louis and now Buffalo.
Bortuzzo took more of a direct route, leaving the Stars for the Kitchener Rangers, where he was drafted in the third round in 2007 by the Pittsburgh Penguins. He’s carved out a decent NHL career, dressing for 306 games with the Penguins and the St. Louis Blues, where he now patrols the blue-line.
“It’s a pretty big deal and not something you see every day and I’m just going to soak it all in,” said Gerrie, who’s also on Bowling Green University’s radar. “I think I bring a lot of speed to the game, playmaking and I see the ice well.”
The further the Stars go this season, the more exposure Gerrie will get. Currently ranked No. 2 in the CJHL, a trip to the RBC Cup would do wonders for his draft stock.
North Stars coach Rob DeGagne said he’s definitely earned the right to the recognition.
“He’s a heck of a hockey player. All these rankings are great and all these accolades are great, but he still has to keep going and keep playing. It’s not over, it’s just beginning,” DeGagne said. “But it’s fantastic for our league, it’s fantastic for our organization, and more importantly, it’s fantastic for him and his family.
“As long as he can continue to develop and keep playing the way he is, keep your fingers crossed and you might see him drafted in the National Hockey League.”