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Vancouver Island product granted BCHL’s 1st ever ‘exceptional’ status

Cowichan Bay’s Eli McKamey has signed with the Penticton Vees
Cowichan Bay’s Eli McKamey has been granted exceptional status and will enter the BCHL for the 2024-25 season — a year before his true eligibility. (BCHL photo)

In a first for the league, Cowichan Bay’s Eli McKamey has been granted exceptional status in the BC Hockey League (BCHL) and has been given early eligibility to join perennial contenders, the Penticton Vees for the 2024-25 season.

Having turned 15 in January, McKamey is just finishing up his Grade 10 year at Shawnigan Lake School, where he’s honed his skills the past three seasons, competing in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL).

“It was obvious from a really young age that Eli had a knack for sports,” said his dad Josh McKamey. “He played hockey, baseball, soccer, lacrosse and excelled at all of them. It was just something he loved to do.”

His numbers for Shawnigan have caught the attention of scouts as he was a highly touted prospect ahead of the Western Hockey League (WHL) draft. He was ultimately picked 35th overall by the Victoria Royals in the draft, though it’s likely he would have gone much higher had teams not already known his plans for next season.

“We were really honest with WHL teams about our intentions for the coming year,” Josh McKamey confirmed. “Ultimately we weren’t comfortable signing a WHL contract that would close the door on NCAA opportunities.”

Even so, WHL scouts were high on McKamey’s abilities.

“High end skill set combined with a very good feel for the game,” said one scout his WHL prospect report. “Deadly off the rush with the ability to make plays, or finish them off.”

Another said: “Possesses an elite quick release, often catching goaltenders off guard. He is an opportunistic scorer with a knack for finding open spaces and capitalizing on scoring chances.”

This past season after receiving permission to play as a U18 in the CSSHL, the 15-year-old scored 23 goals and had 25 assists for 48 points in just 28 games. As a result, BCHL brass believe he’s “considered a highly regarded prospect for the 2027 NHL Entry Draft” according to a news release.

In their historic decision, the BCHL’s board of governors voted to give McKamey exceptional status at their semi-annual meetings in January.

To earn the governors’ nod, McKamey had to show “exceptional traits in hockey and athletic acumen, mental and physical maturity, work ethic and education.”

He was able to apply for the designation through the Vees.

“This is an exciting moment for the BCHL and obviously our organization,” said Fred Harbinson, the Vees’ president, general manager and head coach.

“Eli McKamey is an exceptional talent who was rated as the No. 1 forward for the past WHL draft. Eli will be the next young elite player to wear a Vees jersey with the hope of winning a championship in Penticton en route to college and the NHL.”

McKamey began his career with the Kerry Park Minor Hockey Association before joining the U15 roster at Shawnigan Lake School where he put up 33 points in 28 games in the 2021-22 season, and 61 points in 28 games seeing time with both the U15 and U17 rosters the following year.

“Playing at Kerry Park was a great experience, playing in our community and developing local friendships and we feel very fortunate that Eli was able to attend Shawnigan Lake School. He was able to focus on his hockey development while building life skills. Expectations are high on the ice and in the classroom, and we have seen him grow as a person and player,” said his dad.

“We’re proud of Eli’s accomplishments on the ice, but most proud of the person he is. He’s worked really hard for his opportunities and we’re excited to see where life takes him.”

For now, that place is Penticton.

“Going to Penticton will be a big change, but we feel confident in Eli’s maturity and character,” Josh McKamey said. “He has a great support system, and we’ll be there to cheer him on whenever possible.”