Congratulations are due to former Trail Smoke Eater Danny DeKeyser who has committed to Western Michigan in the NCAA. Last season's Smokies defenceman of the year has earned that elusive Div 1 scholarship that so many terrific junior players are after. It's also a perfect fit for Danny as the school is only two and a half hours away from his family home. It couldn't happen to a more deserving young man.
DeKeyser was one of at least 10 BCHL level defencemen in Trail's training camp last season. He came from being a relative unknown in these parts to earning a spot among the eight guys who broke out of camp on the back end. Danny and the other rookies in that group each took their turns sitting out some games early. It didn't appear that he was necessarily going to emerge from the pack.
After those first few weeks of the season DeKeyser never sat again. He especially emerged as a force when an injury put Brandon Clark out of the line-up. Clark had been the obvious leader of Trail's back end early in the season and was at the time likely the team's MVP. When Clark went down a lot of ice time opened up and DeKeyser stepped up to prove he was one of the top young players in the league. He finished the year with 8 goals and 17 assists, but the majority of those points were scored as his game evolved in the second half of the year.
Danny was a pleasure to watch last season and everyone who watched him play knew it was only a matter of time before the scholarship offers came his way. DeKeyser chose to play closer to home this season in the USHL where he has 4 points in 7 games. However, I'd say his year in Trail was what woke up the hockey world to how much potential the Michigan native has. As Danny's game continues to grow this season in the USHL and he continues to mature physically, I believe he'll be a player to watch in the NCAA.
That whole back end from last season has made tremendous strides. DeKeyser is the first of the 08 rookies to line-up a scholarship, but it won't be long before guys like Koshey, Strukoff, Zmurchyk, Reardon and Smutek get those calls coming in. I also certainly expect Patrick Raley (who while technically not a rookie was like a whole new player last season compared to when we first saw him) to find his way to college opportunities. They were all part of a very exciting run to 11th spot in the national rankings last fall. It's just to bad that some key injuries pulled the rug out from under that team.
Congratulations to Danny and his family. All their hard work and dedication over the years has paid off. An opportunity like this means that no matter what happens in hockey, Danny is setting himself up for life. That's what this is all about.