There was an adjustment period for Benjamin Keon with the Grand Prairie Storm in the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
Keon came over to the AJHL after playing a season with the Toronto Junior Canadians in the Ontario Junior Hockey League. A pair of exhibition games helped him get comfortable and not feel too overwhelmed. He saw action in three regular season games before the pandemic paused league play. The six-foot 185-pound defenceman played OK by his assessment.
Keon, who began his junior hockey career with the 100 Mile House Wranglers in 2018-19, says it’s a more physical league than the OJHL and a bit quicker.
Whenever the AJHL season resumes, the 20-year-old wants to help his team pursue a league championship. His other goal is to earn a college scholarship. Keon has programs expressing interest, but he still has a year of junior hockey left to showcase what he brings.
Breaking into the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League as a 17-year-old allowed Keon to learn how to play against older competition that was more physically developed. It also helped him gauge how he compared to older players and where he needed to be to get to the next level.
Keon had an important role model in Joel Patsy, an older defenceman that taught him how to carry himself. During that rookie season, Keon says he was a bit inconsistent, but pretty good overall.
“I had a couple rough patches, it taught me consistency and perseverance,” says Keon, who is back home in North Vancouver.
Keon developed the ability to play with a quick pace with Shawnigan in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League, but the KIJHL allowed him to get stronger.
When it came to choosing his hockey path, Keon had interest in making an immediate jump to Junior A. Then he began thinking it would be a big jump, so he decided playing in the KIJHL was best, especially getting the playing time he craved with 100 Mile House.
“Get playing time, prime playing time – power-play,” he says. “There’s no better way to get better and learn than play. You are going to make mistakes throughout the way, but getting better as a player, whether it be getting stronger, quicker, whatever it is, you have to make in game adjustments.”
Keon says the KIJHL was good in bridging the gap from midget to Junior A.
“There are a lot of guys that do go straight from midget to the BCHL or the AJHL, but they don’t always have success right away,” says Keon.