Keith Aulie was a star defenseman for the Brandon Wheat Kings from 2005-09, earning a selection to the WHL Eastern Conference First All-Star team in his final season in the WHL in 2008-09 after helping lead the Wheat Kings to the Eastern Conference Championship series.
Now, the 20-year-old from Rouleau, SK, has just finished his first season in the professional ranks, splitting the year between the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat and Toronto Marlies.
The 6’5”, 208-lb shutdown defenseman, who won a Gold medal with Canada’s National Junior team in 2009, was drafted by the Calgary Flames in the fourth round (116th overall) at the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, and began his pro career with the Flames’ AHL squad in Abbotsford, notching two goals and four assists in 43 games for the Heat.
A February trade sent the former WHL Scholastic Player of the Year to the Toronto Maple Leafs organization where he played five games for the Leafs’ AHL squad, the Marlies, before an injury cut short his season.
Having adjusted well to the professional ranks, Aulie appears destined for an NHL job sooner rather than later.
However, he never forgets how his time in the WHL with the Wheat Kings helped him become the solid player he is today.
CATCHING UP WITH…KEITH AULIE
On his time in Brandon with the Wheat Kings…
“It was a big change, coming out here as a 16-year-old and moving in with a different family. I moved in with the Collins family and stayed with them for four years, and I absolutely loved it. They helped make the transition to being away from home a lot easier, and made me comfortable. I loved playing for the Wheat Kings, loved playing for (Kelly McCrimmon), loved all the guys and loved the organization. I had a lot of fun here, and it was an awesome four years, and I’ll always remember it.”
On playing in front of Wheat Kings fans…
“It was awesome knowing you’d be playing in front of a full house of fans who really cared about the team, and knew who you were. They cared about how we did and supported us so much. It made you always want to give your best so you could give the fans something to be happy about.”
On the Wheat Kings him get to where he is today…
“I think the coaching staff here deserves all the credit. They help you out every step of the way, they teach you so many invaluable things, and you learn so much. The training staff and strength coaches help prepare you for what you face later on. It all helps you get better as a player. I think the training and coaching I got here in Brandon reflected in how smooth the transition to pro was for me.”
On his first season as a professional player…
“It was a bit of a whirlwind for me. I went to Calgary hoping to make the Flames, but ended up going to Abbotsford where I played for a few months at the start of the season. It was a bit of an adjustment because you’re playing against guys that are bigger, stronger and faster, but I think I handled the adjustment well. Then, February came and I got traded to Toronto, which was kind of a shock. I started to get comfortable there, but ended up getting hurt and needed surgery, which was a disappointing way to end the year. But, I’ll be ready to go for next year.”