Connor Jicky, One of the Mysteries in Vintage 2022

BUFFALO – Start by trying to locate Strathclair on the map. Then scroll through the pictures shown to you.

An old church, a post office where you may still send telegrams, a cemetery with scattered tombstones. Its fields are very vast. The kind of place you leave before you realize you walked in.

This is where Connor Geeke grew up, one of the most exciting prospects for the upcoming National League draft.

It’s not uncommon to see players come out of nowhere to make their way to the major leagues. Three years ago, you were told the story of Dylan Cozens, a future first-round pick of the Buffalo Sabers who hoped to become the fourth Yukon native to play in the NHL (he was once more active there than his three predecessors together). This year, Rutger McGarraty will become the second native of Nebraska, a state known for its obsession with college football, to be inducted into the Pittman Tour.

Geeky, he can’t quite say he came from a place where hockey is an anomaly. His childhood village is located in western Manitoba, about halfway between Winnipeg and Regina, in the neighboring province.

But Strathclair is not used in “GTA”, the English acronym used to designate the Greater Toronto Area. The most recent federal census, dating back to 2016, estimates its population at 709. “But that’s for the entire municipality,” Geekie quickly corrects. For the village more specifically, “It’s closer to 137, I think.”

How can a young athlete liberate himself, to the point of becoming one of the world’s elite in his age group, in a society not populous enough to fill a section of the central bell?

“As far as hockey goes, I wouldn’t say the challenges were too many,” reflected Jake, one of her two older Seattle Kraken brothers. I was lucky to have the keys to the rink. My dad was a board member and also took care of maintenance whenever he could. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t the nicest ice cream. Maybe there are cattle on it as we speak! But I think it somehow helped me become better. I developed my creativity by playing with Morgan and Noah or splitting sticks with my friends. We lived two or three blocks away. I consider myself lucky to have had this. »

Geekie fondly recalls his beginnings on a team of “seven girls and three boys” and soon wanted to put Strathclair “on the map.” He says he learned from his inner circle the virtues of hard work and humility. He adds that his unusual background forced him to quickly understand how things work in the real world.

“When you come from a small place, you have to get used to getting better players than you as you climb the ladder. When I started playing summer hockey, there were always better players than me. It made me grow.”

Available to Canadians?

At the age of 18, having just finished his second season in the Western Junior League (WHL) with 70 points in 63 games, Geekie can still find more talented competitors than when he focuses on the players eligible for the NHL Draft. First time. But how many are there exactly? The answer to this question varies greatly from person to person.

According to the official body commissioned by the NHL to evaluate his best odds, the 6-foot-4, 190-pound quarterback is the fifth best draft pick among skaters who played in North America last year. This opinion is reflected in the publications of some experts who argue that he is a player who should not be available beyond the top ten list next month in Montreal.

“If there is one person in this group that has the potential to become a force forward, it is it,” said Dan Marr, NHL Central Scouting director. He has the size, he’s competitive, he’s not afraid to play in front of the net, he’s good at playing 1v1 in the back of the area. He is a fighter. All he needs now is to add muscle. »

Others disagree with this theory at all and are quick to predict Geekie’s pick at the end of the first round. The biggest question mark for them all: ice skating, which Marr describes as a “construction site.” Our colleague Craig Patton, for example, put his name in 29e Rank the final list.

This means that there is a world where the Winnipeg Ice star will be available when the Canadians make their second choice.

“Everyone has an opinion, answers Jake about it. You have to live with it and try not to let it bother me. I play hockey for fun. When people put your name on the lists, it’s nice to see it in the top 5, and the top 10. But in the end, it’s not that He is the reason I play hockey.”



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