Red Deer’s Keith McInnis impressing scouts in WHL Cup tournament
When the Yale Hockey Academy came calling last year, Keith McInnis was only too eager to accept the invitation to the institution located in Abbotsford, B.C.
“I went for the coaching,” said the six-foot-one, 175-pound defenceman, who played the 2019-20 season with the Red Deer major bantam Rebels — scoring three goals and collecting 27 points in 32 games — before relocating. “The coaching was the big part that drove me.
“We played the Yale team my first year of bantam and they moved the puck around and played the way I want to play. When they reached out that summer it was pretty hard to say no.”
McInnis, who calls Red Deer home, is in his second season at Yale. He played for the school’s U15 prep team last year, appearing in five games before the season was called off due to the pandemic, and has played five games with the U18 prep team this fall.
He’s currently a member — and alternate captain — of Team Alberta in the WHL Cup being played at the Peavey Mart Centrium and the Red Deer Polytechnic Gary W. Harris Centre.
His typical day at Yale starts with an 8:30 a.m. practice, followed by a workout at 10 a.m., a classroom session from 11-12, lunch at noon and classes over the next two to three hours.
The U18 prep squad plays against numerous other BC academies, covering Vancouver Island, the lower mainland and the Okanagan. The team will begin playing out-of-province games just prior to Christmas.
Two of his Yale teammates are Caleb Hadland of Sylvan Lake and Coy Pighin of Alex. Both are also members of Team Alberta in the WHL Cup, with Hadland serving as captain of the provincial squad.
“I played with both of them my first year of bantam,” said McInnis. “It’s nice to have them here too.”
McInnis said playing at the Centrium in Wednesday’s 6-2 win over Manitoba was a special treat.
“My grandpa has been a Rebels season ticket holder from Day 1,” he said. “As a kid growing up I always came to Rebels games and enjoyed every moment.”
Wearing the Alberta jersey as an alternate captain has instilled a special sense of pride in McInnis.
“To represent your province is something else,” he said. “Growing up watching all the kids I looked up to make this team and represent Alberta the way they did . . . it easily adds some motivation to play your best and wear the Alberta logo.”
The Centrium stands are loaded with WHL scouts this week, most — if not all — of whom likely see McInnis as a first-round selection in this year’s WHL bantam draft, slated for Dec. 9.
Red Deer Rebels associate GM Shaun Sutter certainly sees the talented rearguard as a player worthy of an early pick.
“He has the big body, talent, brain and competitiveness,” said Sutter. “He’s pretty much the real deal, the whole package.”
McInnis has seen the multitude of scouts but is trying to focus first and foremost on the job at hand, which is garnering a gold medal in the WHL Cup.
“It’s hard. It’s obvious that it’s there, but you have to do your best to kind of keep it behind you and not focus on it, otherwise you’ll get pretty distracted,” he said, referring to the possibility of being an early pick in the draft.
McInnis scored once as Alberta rallied from a 4-0 deficit to defeat Saskatchewan 5-4 in overtime Thursday at the Centrium.
Marek Howell notched the extra-time winner while other Alberta goals were scored by Brock Souch, Gavin Garland and Zane Saab. Christian Francis made 17 saves for Alberta, which ran its record to 2-0.
Replying for Saskatchewan, which fell to 0-2, were Ashton Tait with two goals, Dawson Gerwing and Cole Pearson. Luke Brunen turned aside 26 shots as the losing netminder.
Team BC also improved to 2-0 with a 5-0 shutout of Manitoba earlier in the day. Dryden Kuramoto and Miguel Marques each tallied twice for the winners, who got an additional goal from Jordan Gavin. Jesse Sanche stopped all 18 shots he faced.
Team Manitoba, which fell to 0-2, got 37 saves from Ethan McCallum.
The WHL Cup resumes Friday with Alberta taking on BC at 12:30 p.m. at the Centrium and Saskatchewan going against Manitoba at 3:15 p.m. at the Red Deer Polytechnic Gary W. Harris Centre.
Saturday’s semifinals will go at 12:30 (Centrium) and 3 p.m. (Gary W. Harris), with the bronze-medal game to be played Sunday at 10 a.m. and the gold-medal contest to follow at 1 p.m., both at the Centrium.