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Growing anticipation

Towering Westman bantam scoring machine a hot prospect in upcoming Western Hockey League draft

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 1/4/2019 (499 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

You see right away that Conor Geekie comes from a hockey family.

THE CONOR GEEKIE FILE

Click to Expand

Age: 14

Hometown: Strathclair

Position: Forward

Height: 6-3; Weight: 175 pounds

Shoots: Left

Most recent team: Yellowhead AAA Bantam Chiefs

By the numbers: Led all scorers in Winnipeg AAA Bantam 1 Hockey League with 49 goals and 86 points in 31 games. Scored 38 goals and 68 points over 35 games in 2017-18.

The hand-me-down pants he was wearing Sunday, last used when his brother Morgan played for the WHL's Tri-City Americans two seasons ago, were comically small.

All of which makes perfect sense, when you consider the towering 14-year-old centre and left-winger, youngest in an impressive stable of athletes from the Geekie clan of Strathclair, has grown three inches and added 25 pounds since the start of hockey season.

And, although he's among the fastest-rising prospects for this year's Western Hockey League Bantam Draft, slated for May 2, Geekie's season hasn't been stress-free.

Sure, he was the runaway scoring champ of the Winnipeg AAA Bantam 1 Hockey League while leading the Yellowhead Chiefs to the league's West Division title, but he was trying to excel on the ice while he was dealing with the awkwardness a major growth spurt can bring.

Conor Geekie (8) plays for team Black in the WHL Program of Excellence in Winnipeg on Sunday. (John Woods / Free Press files)

Conor Geekie (8) plays for team Black in the WHL Program of Excellence in Winnipeg on Sunday. (John Woods / Free Press files)

At 6-3 and 175 pounds with a massive wingspan and uncanny puck skills, Conor is drawing comparisons to Michael Rasmussen, an emerging young centre with the Detroit Red Wings.

And while he's not done growing yet, Conor has found peace of mind.

"At the start of the season, I think probably fell once or twice a shift and was just kind of going through the process," he said after Sunday's final game at Hockey Manitoba's under-16 Program of Excellence camp at the Bell MTS Iceplex. "And I knew I'll grow into it...

"This is probably the last of it. I would say I'm finally starting to get faster, stronger. I mean, definitely through the year, especially in the (provincial) under-16 camp last year, I thought, 'OK, this is a problem. I'm kind of slow.' And my dad and my brothers just said, 'Just keep playing.'"

Conor has learned to lean on his family; they are experts at this stuff.

Father Craig was an excellent WHL defenceman with Brandon and Spokane in the 1990s, while Conor's 20-year-old brother Morgan is a rookie centre with the AHL's Charlotte Checkers and 18-year-old brother Noah, a second-round choice of the WHL's Calgary Hitmen in 2015, has turned his focus to baseball as a freshman outfielder and pitcher at Barton Community College in River Bend, Kan.

Former Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman Craig Geekie, right, and wife Tobi are shown with sons, left to right, Noah, Conor and Morgan at the latter's graduation two years ago. (Submitted)</p>

Former Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman Craig Geekie, right, and wife Tobi are shown with sons, left to right, Noah, Conor and Morgan at the latter's graduation two years ago. (Submitted)

Craig and his wife Tobi, an accomplished athlete in her youth, have preached diverse interests for their boys.

All three are provincial-level baseball and hockey players with interests in other sports as well. After Conor took his equipment off Sunday, the game of choice will be baseball or golf or school badminton for most of the rest of the spring and summer. Spring hockey and the year-round dedication to the game isn't something practised in the Geekie household.

It's an old-school approach that works.

"We do what you do in a small town to build the team or put a team on the ice," explained Tobi Geekie, a systems initiatives manager at the local Fusion Credit Union branch. "And, to be honest, everybody talks about the upcoming draft. We know it's May 2, but Craig will go to work and I'll go to work and Conor will go to school and it's just another day. We've never put pressure on the kids.

"And you can ask them to how many goals they've scored, how many hits they've had. And honestly, when they tell you they don't know, they don't know the answer. Because that's never been a focus for us."

But the WHL Draft is looming and Conor is generating tremendous interest from scouts and GMs.

Wheat Kings captain Will Fawcett tries to check Yellowhead Chiefs forward Conor Geekie in a Winnipeg AAA Bantam Hockey League game at the Sportsplex in 2018. (Perry Bergson / Brandon Sun files)</p>

Wheat Kings captain Will Fawcett tries to check Yellowhead Chiefs forward Conor Geekie in a Winnipeg AAA Bantam Hockey League game at the Sportsplex in 2018. (Perry Bergson / Brandon Sun files)

He is a particularly enticing prospect for both the Brandon Wheat Kings and Winnipeg Ice. The Ice, holders of the opening round's first and ninth picks, could choose him first overall; consensus No. 1 prospect Matt Savoie of St. Albert, Alta., recently made a verbal commitment to Denver University.

Brandon, picking sixth, 10th and 16th in the first round, is also likely to have a keen interest.

Conor's focus, for now, is to enjoy everything. A range of activities keeps life fresh. Later this summer, he's a candidate to play shortstop for Manitoba's 16-and-under team at the Western Canada Games.

"It's huge, right?" said Conor. "I've heard that people can't even throw a football spiral, where to be in my family, that's crazy. I mean, you should be able to play both sports or you should play more than one sport. If you're committed to playing hockey 360 days a hockey a year, you're going to get trained and not going to enjoy it as much.

"For me and my family, I'll take the baseball glove (in summer).... Then when the season's over, Dad will say, 'Let's go for a skate.' And that's when the energy comes back."

Craig Geekie, who coached Conor's team this season, is looking for balance in his youngest son's academics and athletics; those are factors into any decision about playing at the major-junior level or going the college route.

Last year Conor Geekie represented Westman in boys' hockey at the Manitoba Winter Games in Thompson. (Perry Bergson / Brandon Sun files)</p>

Last year Conor Geekie represented Westman in boys' hockey at the Manitoba Winter Games in Thompson. (Perry Bergson / Brandon Sun files)

Morgan, who matured physically at a more standard time, left home to play in the WHL as a 17-year-old. Conor, if he chooses to play in the WHL, is likely to debut sooner.

"In a certain sense it's a little bit different with Conor, because he can play as a 16-year-old (in the WHL) and Grade 11 is such a massive year for school in terms of getting the requirements to graduate and that is often underlooked," said Craig, who works in the sales department at S.H. Dayton Ltds; a John Deere dealership in nearby Shoal Lake.

"So, if you do play at 16... we need to monitor it. We need to make sure that he gets what he needs."

 

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Sports Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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Updated on Monday, April 1, 2019 at 7:48 PM CDT: Fixes typos

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