THUNDER BAY – In the Superior International Junior Hockey League, Keighan Gerrie stands alone.
At 16, he might not yet be the best player in the six-team circuit.
But he might have the best hockey prospects.
He’ll have a chance this week to measure himself against some of the country’s best, the lone SIJHL invitee to the Canada West World Junior A Challenge tryouts that wrapped up Tuesday in Calgary.
“It’s obviously a huge honour to be selected for this camp, not only the camp but being the only player from the league as well,” said Gerrie, one of 60 players who will skate in Calgary, a group that includes one NHL draft pick and six players on the NHL Central Scouting Bureau’s watch list.
“I’m feeling really pumped about it and I’m excited to go.”
A recent seven-game goal-less slump aside, Gerrie has been one of the top freshmen in the SIJHL this season, putting up 10 goals and 22 points in 23 appearances.
A graduate of the AAA Midget Kings program and 2017 12th-round pick of the London Knights, Gerrie said it took a while to adjust to a faster pace of play, going up against 20-year-olds, but he thinks he’s caught on.
“It was a tough jump at the start, but I got my feet wet a little bit and then everything started flowing from there. My line-mates started clicking,” Gerrie said.
He was held off the score sheet in his first four games, then rattled off a three-game scoring streak. He later scored points in eight straight contests, including three three-point affairs in a four-game stretch.
North Stars coach Rob DeGagne, a veteran of the local hockey wars, said it’s pretty impressive for a 16-year-old from Thunder Bay to get the call.
“He’s the only guy that got invited from this league. There are, I think, two or three other guys that are 2001 (births). If you think about it, he’s only a 16-year-old kid. He’s going to be playing mostly with men, 17-, 18- and 19-year-old kids,” DeGagne said.
“He’s a special player. He’s got a different gear. Not too many guys can skate and then have a different gear. He just turns it on.”
One doesn’t learn that, it’s natural, DeGagne said, adding he planned to tell Gerrie just to enjoy the experience and not to let expectations weigh him down.
“That’s probably the biggest thing. Don’t get too nervous, don’t worry about anything. Just control what you can control. Control the way you play, the way you back-check, the way you fore-check, making smart plays with the puck,” DeGagne said.
“There are going to be plenty of talented players there. There’s going to be a lot of distractions. There’s going to be a lot of scouts. The NHL is going to be there. The OHL’s going to be there. Colleges are going to be there. You just have to focus on playing the game, enjoying the experience and having fun.”
Camp wraps up on Tuesday.