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MacKenzie picked by WHL’s Rockets

Pipestone’s Luke MacKenzie was doing homework when one of the biggest moments in his hockey career so far happened.

On. Dec. 9, the son of Gavin and Cheryl MacKenzie was chosen by the Kelowna Rockets in the Western Hockey League Prospects Draft. The B.C. squad grabbed the forward in the eighth round, 171st overall, of the event held in the major junior league to select 2006-born prospects.

“I had just shut my phone off for five minutes and I was starting to do homework when I saw my phone started blowing up and then I went and checked the draft and saw my name,” MacKenzie said. “I didn’t know how to react. I just sat there and had to take it all in for a second. It was surreal. I think just going to see the city of Kelowna would be pretty cool. It’s a very special opportunity that’s for sure.”

The 5-foot-11, 167-pound forward has a definite knack for lighting the lamp. In a 2020-2021 season severely shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic, MacKenzie had 12 goals and 14 points in eight games for the U15 AAA Southwest Cougars. This season he has been having a successful rookie campaign for the Southwest Cougars U18 AAA team. As of Sunday, MacKenzie was fourth on the team in scoring with 26 points in 25 games. He has 11 goals.

At the time of the WHL Draft, only first round draft pick Clarke Caswell of Brandon, tabbed sixth overall by the Swift Current Broncos, had more points among 2006-born forwards in the Manitoba U18 AAA Hockey League. In an interview earlier this season Cougars head coach Troy Leslie, an Elkhorn product and Virden resident, praised MacKenzie for his size, strength, and ability to shoot the puck.

“This year playing with the Cougars has been awesome,” MacKenzie said. “Troy really pushes us to do better and it’s really fun playing with the guys on the team. All of us want to get better and play for each other so I think that is very important for a winning team. Troy has been great for me this year. He harps on me when he needs to and makes me determined to do better. It has been a treat playing for Troy this year.”

MacKenzie’s parents have strongly backed his hockey dreams.

“They have been so supportive of me with playing hockey,” he said. “Whether it has been driving me to games, practices or camps, or making meals for me everyday, they have been the best parents I could have ever asked for. I am very grateful and humbled for this opportunity.”

MacKenzie’s Cougars teammate Josh Fluker, a Boissevain defenceman, was picked in the first round, seventh overall, by the Broncos. Yellowhead Chiefs defenceman Rylan Bray of Neepawa was chosen in the seventh round, 145th overall, by the Red Deer Rebels.