A Fort Saskatchewan hockey player is still coming to grips with being among the first players selected at the 2023 WHL Draft. 

Former Ranger defender, Keaton Verhoeff, was selected fourth overall on Thursday (May 11) by the Victoria Royals, making him their second-highest draft pick in franchise history. 

"I was pretty nervous, I knew I was going to go somewhere up there," said Verhoeff. "I was a little shocked for about five minutes and then it finally sunk in and I realized that I just got drafted to the WHL." 

For many young hockey players in western Canada, getting drafted into the WHL is step one in realizing their NHL dreams. Verhoeff is incredibly excited about going so high in the draft. 

"It's a pretty big honour," said Verhoeff. "It's pretty nice that Victoria was willing to take me in the top five." 

"It's still kind of surreal, to be honest. I haven't really processed it fully I don't think." 

Verhoeff has been playing hockey in Kelowna in the Rink Hockey Academy U15 prep program. This means the transition to Victoria will only be about a six-hour drive. 

"It's pretty comforting, they are both super nice places," said Verhoeff. "I haven't been to [Victoria] too much but I have heard great things about it." 

"It's nice to know that I won't have to go too far from where I am already playing." 

Though a province away, Verhoeff isn't one to forget about his Fort Saskatchewan roots. 

"It's a super great community, the support is unbelievable," said Verhoeff. "The amount of texts I've gotten congratulating me is pretty special." 

"It's pretty neat to follow up [past Fort Saskatchewan players] and be part of that Fort Saskatchewan alumni." 

At just 14, Verhoeff won't quite make the jump to the WHL next season. The plan is to return to Kelowna for a few years to continue his development. 

"Hopefully, when I am 16, I will be able to crack the [WHL] lineup and play a season in Victoria."