CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – The Baie-Comeau Drakkar’s trip to Charlottetown in January helped the UPEI Panthers land a player for the upcoming season.
Luke Kirwan had just been dealt from the Quebec Remparts to the Drakkar when the squad came to town to play the Islanders.
“Our first weekend was against Charlottetown, so I was like, ‘alright I want to talk to (Panthers head coach) Forbes (MacPherson) because my buddy, Andrew Picco, is going there’,” Kirwan explained on Wednesday. “I visited and then signed my letter of intent about an hour into my visit.”
In addition to liking the city and facilities, he made a connection with MacPherson and could easily see playing for the Panthers for the next four or five years.
MacPherson was delighted to land the six-foot-two, 220-pound power forward with high character who will add to the culture of the Panthers program.
“We’re getting a big strong, strong, powerful kid that skates very well and has a natural ability to put the puck in the net,” he said.
“He’s a tank. If he’s playing over the top of his toes with bent knees and getting first in on forecheck and being physical, he has the potential to be a very high-impact player in this league.”
The Syracuse, N.Y., native has played some elite hockey.
He was a part of the United States national squad that won the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Sydney, N.S. Kirwan scored the first and fourth goals for the Americans in the championship game, a 4-1 victory over Pacific.
The squad went undefeated in international play that season, Kirwan recalled. It’s not surprising with a roster that included current NHL stars like Auston Matthews, Matthew Tkachuk, Colin White, Zach Werenski, Charlie McAvoy and Noah Hanifin. Kirwan was fourth in team scoring behind Jeremy Bracco, Jordan Greenway and White that season with 24 points in 34 games. Matthews had 12 points in 10 games as a 15-year-old.
“Of course, when you’re 16 years old, you don't really know what’s going to happen to everybody,” Kirwan said. “Looking back at it, it was really cool being a part of that team – a lot of good guys, and I still keep in touch with a lot of them.”
The time in Ann Arbor, Mich., was fun, but a lot of hard work with training, games and school.
“It really taught you how to be disciplined,” Kirwan said.
He went on to play about 1 ½ seasons each with the Windsor Spitfires and the Flint Firebirds in the Ontario Hockey League. During his 19-year-old season, Kirwan only played 31 games after sustaining two concussions in two months.
“I wasn't even going to play anymore, but then I got an invite to the Columbus Blue Jackets training camp, so I figured I’d give it another shot and here I am now still playing,” he said.
Kirwan returned to Flint, Mich., but found himself on the outside to start the season, playing only two games.
“They had four overagers,” he explained. “I wasn't really happy with the way I was being treated, so I went home and explored other options.”
The Quebec Remparts provided him an opportunity to get back on the ice.
It was there where he met Picco and became good friends. They will be living together this season as they start the next chapter of their hockey careers.
As Christmas came and went, the numbers game resulted in a third team during the season for Kirwan. Major junior teams can only have three overage players in their lineup, so when the Remparts dealt for overage goalie Antoine Samuel, Kirwan went the other way as part of the compensation.
He recorded 21 points in 28 games with Quebec and ended the year with 16 points in 19 games as a Drakkar.
Kirwan said there are no lingering issues with the concussions and he is looking forward to getting to Charlottetown and getting on the ice when the Panthers begin skating in September.
“I’m just excited to go to school,” he said. “I’m very relieved with what I am doing this year, and there’s no more pressure.”
Need to know
A look at the UPEI Panthers recent addition for the upcoming Atlantic University Sport men’s hockey season.
Who – Luke Kirwan.
Hometown – Syracuse, N.Y.
Age – 20 (turns 21 Sept. 23)
Height, weight, position – A six-foot-two, 220-pound left-winger.
Kirwan said: “I like to shoot the puck, use my body, move my feet – a typical power forward.”
Season Team GP G A Pts.
2013-14 US national 34 10 14 24
2014-15 Windsor 59 7 12 19
2015-16 Windsor 31 2 2 4
2015-16 Flint 32 8 4 12
2016-17 Flint 31 14 8 22
2017-18 Flint 2 0 0 0
2017-18 Quebec 28 12 9 21
2017-18 Baie-Comeau 19 9 7 16
Source – Hockeydb.com
A look at the announced players for the incoming class of the UPEI Panthers men’s hockey team.
Quebec Remparts D Andrew Picco
Humboldt Broncos F Nick Shumlanski
Quebec/Baie-Comeau F Luke Kirwan