By Eric Walsh ; The Chilliwack Progress
Chilliwack Chief Kienan Draper has secured his NCAA future.
After finishing out the 2021-22 BCHL season with the Chilliwack Chiefs, the 19-year-old will be heading to his home state of Michigan to join the University of Michigan Wolverines.
“It will definitely be nice to be close to home, and my sister is a senior there,” Draper said before practice on Tuesday (Nov. 9). “It’s pretty awesome for me and I’m very excited.”
Draper’s ties to the Great Lakes State run deep. He was born and raised in Michigan and played his youth hockey with the Little Caesar’s program. Dad Kris Draper played 16 seasons and 1000-plus National Hockey League games in Detroit, winning four Stanley Cups with the Red Wings.
Kienan himself is a Red Wings draft pick, selected in the seventh round (187th overall) of the 2020 entry draft.
It seems pre-ordained that he was going to end up heading home. The only question was whether it was going to be Michigan or Michigan State.
“I don’t think Coach (Brian) Maloney likes the choice all that much, because he’s a Michigan State alum, but it’s an all-round great school,” Kienan said. “I’ve been to some hockey games and football games, and it’s an unbelievable environment there.
“I think there will be some extra chirping now between me and coach, but he did tell me it’s a great spot.”
Draper is off to a solid start with the Chiefs this season, with one goal and seven points in 11 games.
He was with the BCHL club for training camp last year before leaving to get game action with the USHL’s Omaha Lancers.
“I loved it when I was here for a couple months last year and I knew a lot of the guys were returning and we’d have a great foundation,” he said. “The coaching staff is unbelievable too, so it was no-brainer to come back here.”
His USHL stint saw him collect three goals and seven points in 37 games.
Not being able to produce offence at the rate he’s used to was challenging.
“It’s a tough league with tons of good players and I learned a lot about myself as I faced some adversity,” he said. “I think it helped me for the better, for sure. It teaches you to stay confident in yourself and keep on working hard. If you keep on pushing, they (coaches) have to put you in positions to do well.”
Draper’s checklist for the remainder of the BCHL season is short and simple. Get stronger, get faster and win.
“Go far in the playoffs and win the trophy,” he said. “That’s the plan for all of us over here.”