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Tantalizing pansy is one of the main draws of the new Circle K Classic in Calgary.
And that’s exactly what fans get from 15-year-old Gavin McKenna.
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He may not be old enough to get his driver’s license, but the South Alberta Hockey Academy (SAHA) winger is breaking through defenses across Western Canada.
McKenna had a goal and four assists in his first two games of the tournament, including a three-assist performance against the Calgary Northstars on Wednesday.
“I think I’m doing pretty well. Obviously there’s a small target behind my back,” laughed McKenna. “But that’s when I just have to use my linemates and try to make room for them.”
His head coach, Brayden Desjardins, is a bit more open with compliments.
“Some of the plays he makes, you have to remember he’s probably the youngest in the tournament,” Desjardins said. “He plays with a lot of rhythm.
“You see, when he gets the puck, everyone is on the edge of their seat. He doesn’t play slow, he doesn’t give the guys time to react.
“He’s a pretty special guy. You see his talent, but I don’t think a lot of people know the kind of person he is. He’s an amazing person. You would never know he was a first choice if you talked to him.
The Whitehorse, Yukon winger dazzled at all levels of the game, with his family and community coming together to support him as he journeyed south to pursue his hockey dreams.
Earlier this year, McKenna achieved exceptional status and was picked up by the Medicine Hat Tigers with the first overall pick in the 2022 WHL Draft.
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He’s only had one cup of coffee in the ‘Dub’ so far but quickly rose to prominence, providing four assists on his debut for the Tigers.
The dominance continued when he returned to the Canadian Athletic Schools Hockey League, where he is currently ranked second in his sophomore season with 20 goals and 21 assists in 16 games (seven games less than the current point guard Terik Parascak).
McKenna said he’s leaning on that experience as he pursues the Circle K Classic championship — and higher goals down the road.
“The WHL is a little faster, but it’s not much,” McKenna said. “You have to play exactly the same way you would play in the WHL. There’s a bunch of talent here, and yeah, just try to take as much of the Dub as possible and bring it back here.
“There’s a big goal to get drafted into the NHL… It’s just step by step. You just have to take it day in and day out and work hard every day off and on the ice.
Top scouts told PKBNEWS that McKenna is already considered a future first-round pick in the NHL Draft, although he won’t be eligible until 2026.
If he made the leap to the big show, McKenna would become the fourth Whitehorse hockey player to play in the NHL, behind Buffalo Sabers 2019 first-round pick Dylan Cozens and Peter Sturgeon and Bryon Baltimore, who played for a handful of games in the 1950s.
In the meantime, McKenna is focused on defending the SAHA title.
SAHA takes on the St. Louis Blues in its final round robin game Thursday at 4 p.m. at Max Bell 2.
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