Here’s how the NHL’s annual entry draft usually works. The best players, those that scouts know the most about and have the most faith in, get drafted earlier and tend to have higher rates of success than picks later on. Late-round picks, you see, are either players with flaws or those that scouts feel less comfortable with taking.
For whatever reason, the Calgary Flames have feasted upon some market inefficiencies in the late rounds under general manager Brad Treliving, frequently finding value with players with ignorable flaws. One of their latest late-round finds is the 18th-ranked player on our list, Ontario Hockey League standout Rory Kerins.
Born Apr. 23, 2002 (age 19) in Caledon, ON, CAN
5’11”, 174 pounds
Drafted in sixth round (174th overall) by CGY in 2020
A product of Caledon, Ontario – a town just northwest of Toronto – Kerins came up through the local minor hockey circuits and was selected by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the fourth round of the OHL’s Priority Selection draft in 2018 as a 16-year-old.
Kerins made the jump to the OHL the following season, playing the entire year as a 16-year-old rookie and putting up nine goals and 23 points over 59 games. He was 11th on the Greyhounds in points and 14th in his age group in points league-wide.
The following season, Kerins took a big step forward in the 2019-20 season, his draft year. He spent the whole season as a 17-year-old – he turned 18 in April, after the regular season was over, and he emerged as an offensive force for the Greyhounds. He had 30 goals and 59 points in 64 games, tripling his previous goal output and doubling his previous points output. Only 19-year-old teammate Zack Trott had more points on the Greyhounds.
League-wide, Kerins was tied for 57th in points and tied for 30th in goals. Among his peer group, he was ninth in points and seventh in goals. And looking at his even strength production, via Pick224, Kerins stacks up extremely well.
How many 2020 draft eligible players had more goals at five-on-five than Kerins? Three.
|Jack Quinn||34||8th overall (Buffalo)|
|Marco Rossi||31||9th overall (Minnesota)|
|Cole Perfetti||29||10th overall (Winnipeg)|
|Rory Kerins||26||174th overall (Calgary)|
|Quinton Byfield||24||2nd overall (Los Angeles)|
|Jacob Perreault||24||27th overall (Anaheim)|
Kerins was ranked 107th by our friends at FC Hockey and 72nd among North American skaters by Central Scouting. He likely slid on draft weekend because of how he scored his goals – as Dobber Prospects’ Tony Ferrari noted, Kerins led the OHL in even strength shooting percentage. His success in his draft year was predicated on (a) going to the high-danger/high-rent areas and (b) bury his chances. Teams probably were a bit wary that a guy his size – 5’10” and 175 pounds – could consistently do that against grown-ass men in the pros.
When the 2020-21 OHL season was in doubt, the Flames brought Kerins to town and assigned him to the Stockton Heat roster for the time-being – it ended up being the whole season. Kerins dressed for just four games during the season, but he practised with the AHL group all season and gained familiarity with the development staff, so there was some value-added for his “lost” OHL season.
Here’s what Brock Otten of OHL Prospects had to say about Kerins’ game:
In a nutshell, Kerins can be an impactful player at the OHL level because he excels equally at both ends of the ice and can put the puck in the net. An energetic player, Kerins’ effort level never seems to waver. He does a great job getting his stick in passing lanes and will use his body and strength to consistently win those one on one battles along the wall or in the slot. For this reason, he spent a lot of his draft year in a shutdown type of role for the Greyhounds. He faced a lot of tough assignments, yet still managed to find the back of the net consistently. The reason he finds the back of the net so consistently is that Kerins’ has terrific scoring instincts and a lightning quick release. Always battling for position near the crease and in the slot, he manages to escape coverage to get those open looks and rarely misses (as evidenced by his near 25% shooting percentage in 2020). That said, the key to Kerins’ development will be his ability to improve his skating further. As an undersized center (5’10) who profiles as a bottom six player, he does not exactly fit the profile of the typical shutdown center these days. NHL teams are looking for length and quickness and Kerins has neither. He makes up for it with intelligence and effort, but that will only take you so far at the pro level. He needs to get quicker and he needs to show an improved ability to play with pace, especially with the puck on his stick.
Expectations for 2021-22
The last time Kerins played a game in the OHL, he was 17. Now, he’s 19 and upon his return to the Greyhounds he’ll be expected to be a leader – offensively and otherwise – on his club. He’s returning as one of just four NHL-drafted players for Sault Ste. Marie – along with Ryan O’Rourke, Tanner Dickson and Jacob Holmes. After finishing second on his club in scoring the last time he played, expecting him to be around the top of their leaderboard (and among the top scorers in the OHL) probably isn’t a stretch.
Kerins is also on Hockey Canada’s radar. He attended Canada’s World Junior summer camp, along with O’Rourke. All accounts were that Kerins looked like he belonged there, but didn’t stand out. He’s probably a dark horse to make the roster, especially with the crowded forward group among Canada’s 2002 and 2003 age groups.
But you never know: Kerins might surprise everyone.