PROFILE — A Yukon hockey teenager is the top pick in the WHL Draft | Article

Gavin McKenna, 14, will play for the Medicine Hat Tigers

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Last name
Gavin McKenna

Whitehorse, Yukon


Claim to fame

Gavin McKenna did something very few hockey players have accomplished before the age of 14: he was drafted by the Western Hockey League (WHL).

Gavin was the leading scorer in the U18 division of the Canadian School Hockey League. He scored 65 points in 35 games last season.

His incredible performance caught the attention of the Medicine Hat Tigers and he became their first draft pick in the upcoming WHL season.

They signed him as a player in the spring.

“Shooting over 100 pucks a day probably helped me a lot.” -Gavin McKenna, 14

Few teenagers this young can play in the WHL. Gavin had to be granted exceptional player status by BC Hockey and Hockey Alberta.

According to the Canadian Sport Hockey School league, this has only happened twice before with the WHL’s Connor Bedard and Matthew Savoie.

Gavin was on a hockey rink with his team when he heard the news.

“A lot of my teammates were there so they were excited for me and everyone was very proud,” he said. “[It was] a really cool moment.

Gavin’s love for his sport

Gavin started playing hockey when he was very young.

His mother, Krystal, said she remembers all the time young Gavin spent playing hockey, both on the ice and in the unfurnished basement of their old home in Whitehorse.

“We just left the door open for him,” she said. “And the walls were pretty damaged because he shot balls and pucks and stuff at the nets.”

His father Willy also made him a backyard ice rink to play in every winter.

Gavin, 11, at the backyard ice rink his father Willy built for him. (Image submitted by Willy McKenna)

“I spent a lot of time there, I’d say probably about an hour a night,” Gavin said. “My dad obviously spent a lot of hours building it. So I should thank him by also spending hours on the ice. »

Gavin said training so much is what got him to where he is today.

“Shooting over 100 pucks a day probably helped me a lot.”

Living in Whitehorse, Gavin had to travel a lot for hockey, as there weren’t many competitions in his hometown.

From the age of eight, he participated in hockey camps and tournaments in Italy, Nashville, Detroit and many others.

Young Gavin, ready to go play hockey with his stick and equipment bag. (Image submitted by Willy McKenna)

What’s next for Gavin?

Gavin has made it into the WHL, but that doesn’t mean his hard work is over.

“There’s a lot of pressure coming from being a first overall pick,” he admitted.

“I just play with older guys, much more talented guys, faster guys, stronger guys. I’m nervous, but I’m also thrilled to have this opportunity.

Gavin is spending the summer training in Whitehorse. The Tigers will open their season with a game against the Lethbridge Hurricanes on September 24.

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With files from Juanita Taylor/CBC
TOP IMAGE CREDIT: Ken Amlin/CBC, graphic design by Philip Street/CBC

Catherine J. Martinez