2023 FlamesNation prospect rankings: #14 Rory Kerins
Photo credit:Candice Ward/Calgary Wranglers
By Ryan Pike26 days ago
Even for really strong junior players, the transition from junior hockey to professional hockey can be a bit of a challenge. In 2021-22, Calgary Flames prospect Rory Kerins was one of the best players in the entire Ontario Hockey League. But due to a logjam of forwards at the American League level, he spent much of his first pro season, 2022-23, in the second-tier ECHL.
Despite some bumps along the way, including a lengthy mid-season injury, Kerins adapted to the pro game quite well. A year after placing sixth on the list, Kerins checks in at 14th on our annual FlamesNation prospect rankings.
Left-shot centre/left wing
Born April 12, 2002 (21 years old) in Caledon, Ontario
5’11”, 190 lbs
Drafted in the sixth round (174th overall) by Calgary in 2020
In many ways, Kerins is a fairly prototypical Brad Treliving late-round draft pick. He’s not a huge kid – he’s about average-sized compared to the general population – but he’s been able to use his smarts, mobility and overall skill level to great effect in high-end hockey in recent years.
An Ontario kid, Kerins came up through the OHL. A fourth-round pick by the Soo Greyhounds in 2018, he moved into that league full-time in 2018-19 and began a pretty tidy step-wise progression from fresh-faced 16-year-old to powerhouse.
- In 2018-19, he had 9 goals and 23 points in 57 games
- In 2019-20, he had 30 goals and 59 points in 64 games
- In 2021-22, he had 43 goals and 118 points in 67 games
Kerin was drafted by the Flames in the sixth round of the 2020 NHL Draft after his second season in the OHL.
Now, two notes.
First, you might notice that he didn’t play in the OHL in 2020-21… because of that pesky pandemic that wrecked up everything for everybody for awhile. After the OHL threw in the towel on their season, he spent a month or so with the Flames’ American League team, the Stockton Heat (who were playing in Calgary for reasons) but only played four games.
Second, you might notice that continual offensive progression for Kerins. He was second in the OHL in points in 2021-22, trailing only Dallas Stars’ prospect Wyatt Johnston. He was constantly on the puck, managing it well offensively and doing a capable job chasing it down on the defensive side of things. Simply put: Kerins was really, really good.
Going pro in 2022-23, Kerins attempted to earn a roster spot on one of the best, deepest AHL clubs in the circuit. However, the log-jam of established pro forwards ahead of him led to him heading to the ECHL’s Rapid City Rush; he and Ilya Nikolaev were the only prospects on NHL entry-level deals to be sent to Rapid City by the Flames.
In an unfamiliar environment, Kerins seemed to adapt quite well and was one of Rapid City’s better players overall, posting 17 goals and 37 points in 38 games. He earned three call-ups to the Wranglers during the season, dressing for six games and posting a goal and two points.
Here’s Kerins’ season, split into segments:
- In 7 ECHL games, he had 5 goals and 8 points, was minus-1 and had 21 shots (23.8% shooting percentage).
- He was called up to the Wranglers, where he played 3 AHL games. He had a goal, was plus-2, and had five shots (20% shooting percentage).
- Returning to Rapid City, in 9 ECHL games he had 4 goals and 9 points, was plus-10, and had 33 shots (12.1% shooting percentage).
- Called up to the Wranglers again, he played twice in the AHL. He had an assist, was plus-2, and had one shot (0% shooting percentage).
- Back in Rapid City, in 10 ECHL games he had 5 goals and 9 points, was minus-4, and had 34 shots (14.7% shooting percentage).
- Called up to the Wranglers for a third time, he played one more AHL game. He was even with one shot (0% shooting percentage).
- Back in Rapid City, in 5 ECHL games he had 2 goals and 4 points, was plus-2, with 13 shots (15.4% shooting percentage) and 6 penalty minutes.
- He was then injured and missed 21 games.
- Back from injury, he played 7 ECHL games, with 1 goals, 6 points, a minus-2 rating, 16 shots (6.3% shooting percentage) and two penalty minutes.
- And then he missed the final game of the season with an injury.
Kerins registered a shot in all but 3 ECHL appearances and was only held off the scoresheet a dozen times, which is pretty impressive for a pro hockey rookie. Given the circumstances he was in, it’s tough to really criticize Kerins’ freshman season because he was consistently productive and every time he was sent down from the AHL when the Wranglers got healthy, he immediately had a stretch of games that put him back on the radar for more AHL time.
In short: aside from avoiding injury, Kerins did everything that could’ve been expected of him in his first year of pro hockey.
Expectations for 2023-24
All due respect to the ECHL, but Kerins has probably accomplished all he can at that level of hockey. The goal for him in 2023-24 has to be playing a full season with the Wranglers and finding a way to carve out a role for himself within a deep AHL roster.
Kerins can set himself up for a successful season with a strong training camp. Because of the Wranglers’ anticipated depth, an unimpressive camp may send him back to South Dakota for the season.
Recent articles from Ryan Pike