Breck High School's Keegan Iverson has joined the ranks of Canadian major junior hockey and has already played in his first game.

A few weeks shy of his 16th birthday, Iverson signed with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League.

The WHL is a 22-team league based in Canada. It includes five teams in the United States.

In part because he is being paid, the move to the WHL means that Iverson will not be eligible to play NCAA hockey.

Other Minnesotans have made the same move to major junior hockey in Canada recently. They include forward Benny Walker of Edina, and defensemen Travis Wood of Hill-Murray and Cody Corbett of Stillwater.

Signing with teams in the WHL and other major junior leagues in Canada is seen as a step toward a potential NHL career. Of the 211 players selected in the 2011 NHL draft, 101 came from teams in those leagues.

As a freshman forward this past season, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Iverson scored 13 goals and had 23 assists for Breck, which made it to the semifinals of the Class A State Tournament earlier this month.

"Keegan was outstanding in training camp for us last summer and went on to have a terrific season at Breck," said Winterhawks head coach and general manager Mike Johnston. "To thrive as a 15-year-old in Minnesota high school hockey is remarkable."

Iverson also played varsity for Breck as an eighth-grader, tallying 10 goals and nine assists in 24 games.

Iverson made his debut Sunday in an 8-2 home victory over Seattle.

Also expecting to depart high school hockey early during this off-season will be defenseman Jack Glover from Class AA state champion Benilde-St. Margaret's, said Red Knights coach Ken Pauly. Glover, who will be a junior next season, is heading to USA Hockey's National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482