CANMORE – Western Hockey League draftee and Canmore's Finn McLaughlin has a big decision to make for next season.
Calling it a "special moment," the 15-year-old defenceman was selected in the eighth round (175th overall) by the Saskatoon Blades in the WHL Prospects Draft last December after a strong showing at the WHL prospect tournament.
But which uniform the WHL Cup silver medallist eventually will suit up for is still undetermined.
“I wanted to keep my options open leading into the [WHL] draft and I’ve been getting some interest from NCAA teams, so I’m just going to keep on working hard here in the States and see what options arise for me here,” he said.
“My plan is to play junior hockey next year and I just haven’t decided on where that’s going to be.”
The two-way player, who's been described as "very cerebral," has received interest from other clubs in the WHL, at the university level, and Junior A.
Even McLaughlin's hometown Junior A team is on his radar, which his father Kyle McLaughlin is currently an assistant coach of.
"I've been thinking about [the Canmore Eagles], but I'm going to wait and see how the rest of the season goes," he said. "If I decide that’s the best option for me that’s where I’ll go."
The WHL is one of the major junior hockey leagues in Canada, along with the Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
The annual draft places players on the WHL team’s Protected Player Lists (PPL), meaning the player can only attend tryout camps for the club he’s been selected to unless he’s dropped from that club’s PPL.
Currently, the 15-year-old prospect's game is being developed south of the border with the Windy City Storm, a U15 AAA team in Chicago. He attends online schooling while living in the U.S.
This season, the offensive-minded blueliner has six goals and 22 points in 28 games.
Remembering the day he was drafted, McLaughlin was at a tournament in Rhode Island, where one of his Windy City Storm teammates broke the news that he'd been drafted in the eighth round to Saskatoon.
The Blades selected 10 prospects, going heavy on D with five blueliners and four forwards and a goalie.
McLaughlin said his decision to keep options open heading into next season might have cost him some spots in the draft.
“I’ve been talking with [the Blades] coaching staff and owner quite a bit and it’s really exciting to be drafted by such a great organization,” said McLaughlin.
“I think I can bring good leadership skills and elevate the team and bring in some of my puck handling and energy to kind of help benefit the team on offence and then off the ice like being a good role model for kids in the organization that look up to the team and just a be good person, hard working player to be around.”