ACADIE-BATHURST - Aaron Kerr’s path from the Abitibi Eskimos to the Acadie-Bathurst Titan included a connection through the Los Angeles Kings.
Kerr attended training camp with Owen Sound, of the Ontario Hockey League, but failed to crack the Attack roster.
Still, Owen Sound general manager Dale DeGray was impressed enough with the 16-year-old Timmins native that he called up one of his former Kings teammates, Titan GM Sylvain Couturier to recommend the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League squad take a look at him.
“Dale is a guy I played with back in the day with the L.A. Kings and he was well recommended by Dale and we started the procedure to get him here after that call,” Couturier said.
Kerr travelled to Acadie-Bathurst Friday and Titan officials have been equally impressed after watching him practice with the team.
“There are a lot of things that we like about him that we have seen right now,” Couturier said. “His speed is definitely above the average skater. He is one of the best skaters I have seen in a long time.
“And obviously he has pretty good instincts offensively.
“Combine all of this with this age (Kerr will turn 17 on Oct. 7) and he will be a good piece of our organization for a long time.
“Those things, put together, make him really attractive to us.”
Kerr (2, 1-0-1, 2), the younger brother of Abitibi defenceman Ryan Kerr, had just started his second season with the Eskimos when he got the call to travel to Acadie-Bathurst for a tryout.
He was one of the top snipers in the Northern Ontario Junior ‘A’ Hockey League during his rookie campaign, 2012-13 (46, 22-14-36, 21).
Kerr has made a solid impression since he joined the Titan on a tryout basis.
“He had a few practices with the boys and did not look out of place at all,” Couturier said.
“So we are pretty excited.
“We sat down with him and explained the situation with him coming in where we have already made up our team, so he understands the situation.
“We will be patient with him and he will definitely fit in with what we want here.”
The Titan have a veteran lineup and are off to a solid start, having won their first two regular season games.
“We have a good group of players,” Couturier said.
“We have a lot of 19 year olds and, again, that’s where Aaron will fit right in. We don’t have a lot of younger players.
“We have a team that works hard every night and we will be one of those teams that doesn’t take any days off and, again, that’s where Aaron will bring some skills and speed to our team … which it needs right now.”
Kerr’s junior rights have been purchased by the Titan from the Eskimos, but there is still some paperwork to be completed, which has kept him out the Acadie-Bathurst lineup to this point.
“It should be soon,” Couturier said.
“We are working on the paperwork. We got his release from the Eskimos yesterday, now we have to get his CHL (Canadian Hockey League) contract out. We didn’t get that yet. We are working on it as we speak, but as soon as all the paperwork is done he will have a taste of our league and see how he fits in here.”
The QMJHL and the OHL are both top tier junior leagues, but the style of play is not necessarily the same.
“We have the reputation here of being a less physical league than the OHL, but we are a faster league,” Couturier said.
“The QMJHL has brought some pretty good teams lately. We have won the Memorial Cup the last three years.
“It is probably a little bit more physical in the O, but maybe a little bit more skill and quickness in the Q, but in the end it is pretty similar. They are two very good leagues and they are comparable, I think, all around.”
The loss of Kerr naturally leaves the Abitibi lineup with a big hole, but coach and general manager Paul Gagne realizes seeing players earn the right to compete at a higher level offers a greater benefit to the Eskimos.
“Acadie-Bathurst are getting a player with speed at the Major Junior ‘A’ level,” he said.
“He’s a player who will take advantage of his speed and produce offensive chances.
“As for our organization, we are very proud of Aaron and certainly it is nice to see a player move up to the next level.”
The best opportunity for Timmins residents to see Kerr in a Titan uniform will come on Friday, Feb. 21, when Acadie-Bathurst plays in Val d’Or, and the following night when they visit Rouyn-Noranda.