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ROOKIE OF THE YEAR – Medicine Hat Tiger Gavin McKenna (72) competes in a first round playoff game against the Winnipeg Ice and Matthew Savoie (93) in early April 2023 in Medicine Hat. Photo courtesy RANDY FEERE/THE MEDICINE HAT TIGERS

Gavin McKenna named Western Hockey League Rookie of the Year

The accolades just keep on coming for Gavin McKenna.

By Whitehorse Star on May 7, 2024

The accolades just keep on coming for Gavin McKenna.

McKenna has now been named Western Hockey League (WHL) Rookie of the Year.

McKenna was named the winner of the Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy for the 2023-24 season today.

According to a WHL press release, the other division winners included:

B.C. Division – Terik Parascak (Lethbridge, Alta.), Prince George Cougars

East Division – Evan Gardner (Fort St. John, B.C.), Saskatoon Blades

U.S. Division – Julius Miettinen (Helsinki, Finland), Everett Silvertips

"It is a true honour to win this award," McKenna said. "I want to congratulate Terik, Evan and Julius on your guys' incredible seasons. The future is extremely bright for our league with upcoming players like you guys in it.

"I want to thank all my amazing teammates for being there for me and guiding me through such an amazing and unforgettable year. I want to thank the Tigers coaching staff and everyone in the Tigers organization for everything they do for me behind the scenes and, most importantly, I'd like to thank my family for being my motivation every single day and always being there for me no matter what. I'm extremely honoured and can't wait to get next season started."

Even more remarkable is the fact that McKenna was one of the youngest players on an active roster during the season, turning 16 on December 20, 2023.

The Whitehorse, Yukon standout tallied 34 goals and 63 assists for 97 points in 67 games.

His remarkable run saw him lead the Tigers in goals and points, sit second in scoring among WHL rookies and finish 12th among all WHL skaters.

McKenna also set a franchise record for most points by a 16-year-old, surpassing Al Conroy’s previous marker of 95 points, which was set back in the 1982-83 season.

The 2026 NHL Draft-eligible winger logged a career-high six points (one goal, five assists) against Tri-City on Jan. 6 and had another 14 games where he notched three or more points, including two hat tricks.

He was named WHL Player of the Month for January and WHL Rookie of the Month in February, in addition to a trio of weekly awards.

McKenna, a member of Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation, also became the first junior hockey player to capture the APTN Bryan Trottier Most Valuable Player Award, which is presented to an Indigenous hockey player who demonstrates on-ice excellence and contributes to the Indigenous community.

On the international stage, McKenna set a new record for points by a Canadian (20) with 10 goals and 10 assists in seven games en route to a gold-medal finish with Team Canada at the 2024 IIHF U18 World Championship in Finland.

He was named one of the best players on Team Canada and one of the best forwards in the tournament.

A former owner of the Saskatoon Blades, Jim Piggott was a driving force in the formation of the Western Canadian Hockey League, now known as the WHL.

McKenna is not the first Yukoner to win the award. Current Buffalo Sabre Dylan Cozens won the trophy for the 2017-18 as a member of the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

Cozens is currently in Budapest, Hungary with Team Canada, getting ready for the IIHF World Championships, which start Friday with Canada facing off against Latvia.

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