When forward Chris Gerrie joined the Olds Grizzlys last year, he did so with no anticipation of what was to come.
“I didn’t know what to expect, to be honest,” he said Thursday.
As it turned out, the Red Deer native and minor hockey product turned in a sensational season, scoring 18 goals and collecting 36 assists for 54 points, all offensive-category highs for Alberta Junior Hockey League freshmen.
Not surprisingly, Gerrie was named AJHL rookie of the year, and on Wednesday — his 18th birthday — was honoured as a co-recipient of the Canadian Junior Hockey League rookie award as the premier first-year junior A player in the nation.
“It was more than I expected, for sure,” said Gerrie of his initial AJHL campaign.
Gerrie, who shares the CJHL rookie award with defenceman Jake Walman of the Toronto Jr. Canadiens, was so impressive during the 2013-14 season that he earned a U.S. college scholarship to Michigan Tech. He is scheduled to suit up with the Huskies in the 2016-17 season.
“But that could change. Depending on next season, I could go (to Michigan Tech) the year after (in 2017),” he said.
Gerrie was referring to the degree of improvement he makes over the next two years in Olds, most notably next season.
“I think more time in junior will be important for me in terms of growth and development, for sure,” said the member of the 2013 Canadian midget AAA champion Red Deer Optimist Chiefs.
“I think I have to work on my defensive game for sure, because it all starts in the defensive zone.
“I learned some of that while playing with (linemate) Spencer Dorowicz this season. I’ll continue to work on that as well as my skill development this summer.”
Gerrie credited Dorowicz, the Grizzlys leading scorer, most valuable player award recipient and acquirer of an NCAA scholarship to Robert Morris University for the 2014-15 season, for much of his rookie success.
“He’s a 20-year-old who played in the league for four years. He just taught me how to really come in, develop and feel comfortable out there,” said Gerrie. “He told me not to worry about anything and just play my game. That’s what I did and it worked out.”
With the opportunity of obtaining a post-secondary education now basically a sure thing, Gerrie might also garner interest from NHL scouts by playing at a ‘name’ college.
“For sure, that was my goal as a little kid,” he said.
“When I leave for Michigan Tech my goal will be to go keep going with my hockey career. Michigan Tech seems like a very good school where I can do that. I’ll take the education side of it and the hockey side of it too and keep going.”