MISSISSAUGA— Keean Washkurak is hard to miss on the ice. While warming up for last Sunday’s home game against the Sudbury Wolves, Washkurak was the first out of the tunnel onto the ice.
The energy he brings permeates across his teammates and Mississauga Steelheads fans at Paramount Fine Foods Centre. The hustle in Washkurak’s pregame skate and shots at his goalie demonstrate his intense focus to detail and preparation.
Despite the Wolves defeating the Steelheads 3-1, the St. Louis Blues prospect made a positive impact whenever he was on the ice. Often on the ice when Sudbury star Quinton Byfield’s line was playing, Washkurak could be seen creating plays in the offensive zone, as well as helping the Steelheads hold Sudbury to just 18 shots on net.
“He is highly competitive,” said one scout during the game. “For a small guy, he makes his presence known on the ice.”
Keean Washkurak’s Father Plays Pivotal Influence
Growing up in Kitchener, Ontario, Washkurak embraced the cultural impact of hockey at a young age. Kitchener has been a major facet of the junior hockey landscape for generations, highlighted by the signature OHL franchise Kitchener Rangers. Young Washkurak could not resist the urge to get to participate in the sport.
Washkurak’s Father, Joel, was the premier influence in grooming the youngster to become a future NHL’er. His 17 seasons as an OHL official and 12 years as a referee allowed for Joel Washkurak to introduce Keean to many of the well-known figures of junior hockey. While the referees won’t cut Washkurak slack on the penalty department, he is grateful for those childhood moments with his Dad at the rink.
“My Dad has had the biggest influence in my hockey career,” said Washkurak after the Sudbury game last Sunday. “After every game, we would chat so I can get better. I can’t thank him enough for all he has done for me.”
Undersized Stature Does Not Impede Washkurak’s Development
Being undersized did not stop Washkurak from strengthening other facets of his game. While playing for the Waterloo Wolves Triple-AAA team, the teenager garnered tremendous vision for the ice. He demonstrated his puck-handling abilities to create scoring opportunities. His 17 goals and 21 assists propelled Washkurak to be selected 30th overall by the Mississauga Steelheads in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection Draft.
In his rookie season with the Steelheads, Washkurak struggled to adjust to OHL standard of play, only registering 15 points in 61 games. The disappointing results did not hinder Washkurak’s desire to get better. The fervorous work ethic during the off-season was the impetus for Washkurak registering 47 points (16 goals, 31 assists) in 66 games.
Nearly five times the output from his rookie season, Washkurak’s draft profile soared. He would be selected in the fifth round by the defending Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues.
“Keean is a player that plays and practices at 100 percent,” said Mississauga Steelheads head coach James Richmond. “With him getting bigger, faster and stronger, he will improve every month over the course of the season.”
Keean Washkurak Eager to Take On Leading Scoring Role for Mississauga
This summer, Washkurak attended the St. Louis Blues training camp. Proving to be a formative experience for the Kitchener native. From gaining knowledge from various Blues players and coaches to recording two points at the Traverse City rookie showcase, Washkurak exuded confidence with or without the puck on the ice. The Traverse City rookie showcase demonstrated Washkurak’s explosiveness. He used his skating stride on the forecheck, while not being afraid to be physical on the boards. And all this despite his 5’10” size shows his determination.
“The coaches said that I need to focus on getting stronger on my feet and my stick,” said Washkurak. “The experienced guys on the team could not have been more helpful in providing advice about going from junior to playing in the NHL. After speaking with GM Doug Armstrong, this team wants to win another Stanley Cup. I’m happy to be a part of the organization.”
The lessons learned in St. Louis will hopefully translate into offensive prowess for Washkurak as he takes the next step in his development. With no Alan Lyszczarczyk and Cole Carter, there is a natural scoring void for Washkurak to fill.
And with his drive to get better at an all-time high, the passion Washkurak brings from warm-up to the final whistle, will be exemplified on an NHL rink in the near future.