Thursday, June 20, 2024

Vancouver Island-born forward granted BCHL’s first-ever ‘exceptional status’ player


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Standout Cowichan Bay-born forward Eli McKamey has become the first player ever to be granted exceptional status in the BCHL.

That means McKamey, who turned 15 in January, will be able to play in the BCHL as a 15-year-old, rather than the standard age-16 minimum.

He’ll suit up for the Penticton Vees next season.

“We are thrilled to welcome Eli and the McKamey family to the BCHL,” said league Commissioner Steven Cocker in a statement.

“Eli not only possesses an elite skill set to transition to the league but has the intangibles off the ice that will allow him to excel as an exceptional student-athlete in college hockey and beyond.”

The 5’10 forward had an outstanding season playing for Shawnigan Lake Prep School U18 last year as a 14-year-old. He put up 23 goals and 25 assists for 48 points in 28 games, finishing 17th in league scoring.

For context, he and Landon Dupont were the only 14-year-olds to play a meaningful number of games at the U18 level in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL). Dupont is on his way to becoming a household name among hockey fans, given he became the WHL’s second-ever exceptional status player after Connor Bedard became the first in 2020.

Dupont was selected 1st overall last week in the 2024 WHL Draft by the Everett Silvertips.

McKamey has been highly recruited and on hockey scouts’ radars for a while now, and was widely considered the top forward and second-best prospect (after Dupont) for the 2024 WHL Draft. But he has made it clear to WHL teams that he wants to keep his options open for the college route, which is why he was not drafted in the first round.

The Victoria Royals took a chance on him last week by drafting him in the 2nd round, 35th overall.

The hockey landscape has been shifting over the past few years and this is just another example. The BCHL left the Hockey Canada umbrella in 2023, which now makes them an independent league.

That, in combination with the ground-shaking decision in 2021 to allow NCAA athletes to earn money off their name, likeness, and image (NIL), makes the NCAA hockey route quite different than it was five or ten years ago. Although it is less lucrative for Canadian NCAA players since they are on student visas and thus cannot financially benefit unless they’re on Canadian soil.

Some players prefer the college route—getting an education, playing on a less demanding schedule with more time for the gym—while others opt for the 68-game WHL schedule that produces a day-to-day lifestyle more akin to life as a professional hockey player.

It will be up to McKamey and his family to decide which route is best for him in the long run.

In the meantime, the Penticton Vees got a good one.

“I believe playing for the Penticton Vees is a great opportunity for development as a player and as a person,” said McKamey. “Playing in the BCHL allows me to keep my future options open, while still playing in a highly competitive league. I’m excited for the challenge.”

Players are able to apply for exceptional status through the team they wish to commit to.

Once an application is received by the league office, a selection committee makes a ruling on whether to accept or deny the application.

Jeremy Weeres
Jeremy Weeres
Victoria Royals and hockey writer at Victoria Buzz

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