Calgary Flames prospect Rory Kerins has had a very interesting last few years.
Kerins saw his draft eligible season with the Ontario Hockey League’s Soo Greyhounds cut short with four games remaining due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. He didn’t play an OHL game for 18 months, but emerged from that hiatus as one of the top offensive players in his league.
Originally from Caledon, a suburb in the Toronto region, Kerins came up through Mississauga minor hockey. He was a fourth round selection by the Greyhounds in the 2018 OHL Priority Selection – in a year where the Greyhounds selected Ryan O’Rourke in the first round and traded away their second and third round picks to load up for the playoffs. (It worked, they made it to the OHL finals.)
Kerins jumped into the OHL the following season, posting nine goals and 23 points in 57 games as a 16-year-old. His offensive output was 11th on the Greyhounds and 21st among all OHL rookies. In 2019-20, he took a big step offensively: he amassed 30 goals and 59 points in 64 games before the league shuttered. He turned 18 that April.
His performance earned him a good amount of draft buzz, including being ranked 72nd among North American skaters by Central Scouting. He ended up sliding a bit on draft weekend, landing with the Flames at 174th overall.
At the time, Dobber Prospects described him this way:
A crafty goal scorer who thrives in the home plate area of the offensive zone. He gets to the high-danger areas with regularity and generates offense from the slot.
FlamesNation contributor Mike Wilson noted that only Marco Rossi, Cole Perfetti and Jack Quinn had more even strength goals than Kerins among draft-eligible OHLers.
But the pandemic dragged on and caused the OHL season to constantly get slid back, and eventually cancelled. As a result, Kerins played zero junior games in the typically important draft-plus-one season.
“You get drafted and you get so excited for proving people why you got drafted or proving people why you should’ve gone higher… that was something that I missed a lot from that season,” said Kerins. “We had a great team, too, the season we missed so that hurt. Last season it hurt a lot. obviously i got a bit of a season with Stockton, which was very beneficial for my game, but a lot of up and down last year. It’s hard to think about, really. You forget how really long it was. It kinda went by slow but fast at the same time. It was crazy, that’s the only way I can put it.”
Seeing other prominent OHL draftees heading to the American Hockey League, Kerins’ agent reached out to the Flames and he headed to Calgary following AHL camp, intending to practice with Stockton for a couple of weeks until OHL season began. Instead, he hung around for a couple of months and ended up playing four games with the Heat. Despite not getting a ton of game action, Kerins felt the experience was big for his development.
“The biggest thing is you see how pros act, what their day to day rituals are, and you realize that being a pro hockey player is a 24 hour job,” said Kerins. “You’re never taking a minute off in terms of recovering or preparing for a game or practice, so that’s probably the biggest thing. There’s a lot of things I learned from players, coaches and everyone, but that’s the biggest thing I took out of that season.”
Before resuming junior hockey with the Greyhounds this season, Kerins hit a milestone when he was invited to Canada’s World Junior summer camp. It was his first Hockey Canada event after not being recruited for the under-17 or under-18 national teams.
“It was really something that I wasn’t expecting, to be completely honest,” said Kerins. “I didn’t play for a year. Guys in the Q, guys in the Dub played a year. Honestly, that was a really big goal of mine. If I had played a year, I believe I could’ve taken a big step after my draft year. It was a really cool call to get that, my first event with Hockey Canada. I thought I did well at the camp and showed them how I could be valuable to the World Junior team and just how I am as a person. It was a really cool experience.”
Kerins is off to a hot start to the 2021-22 season, sitting among the OHL’s scoring leaders. He noted that he’s focusing on the game-by-game details and trying to lead the Greyhounds by example, figuring that points (and a potential World Junior roster spot) will take care of themselves.
Time will tell if Kerins can crack a competitive Team Canada roster. But a season and change after his selection he seems like a strong addition to the Flames’ pantheon of offensive-minded late round forwards – joining the likes of Andrew Mangiapane (2015), Matthew Phillips (2016), Emilio Pettersen (2018), Dmitry Zavgorodniy (2018), Ryan Francis (2020) and Jack Beck (2021).
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