Justin Kea, welcome to the show!

Referee Justin Kea will be making his NHL officiating debut Monday as the Chicago Blackhawks host the Buffalo Sabres.  He’ll take the ice alongside fellow referee Gord Dwyer, with linesmen Jonny Murray and David Brisebois.  Kea will wear #44.

It’s come full circle for Kea to be making his debut in Buffalo. The Woodville, Ontario, native was drafted by the Sabres in the third round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.  The former center was selected ahead of current NHLers Jaccob Slavin, Frederik Andersen, and Connor Hellebuyck.

Kea spent five years playing professional hockey, split between the American Hockey League and ECHL.   He played 212 games in the ECHL, scoring 47 goals and 53 assists which suiting up for the Elmira Jackals, Florida Everblades, Fort Wayne Komets, and Toledo Walleye.  The 6’5″, 216-lb. center posted four goals and three assists in 71 games with the Rochester Americans.

Prior to going pro, Kea played for the Ontario Hockey League’s Saginaw Spirit, skating alongside Vincent Trocheck, Brandon Saad, and Jamie Oleksiak.

After trading in his stick for a whistle, Kea wore the stripes in the AHL and United States Hockey League (USHL).  Kea attended the NHL Officiating Exposure Combine in Buffalo last summer, where he earned an NHL Minor League Referee contract.  He’s been refereeing in the AHL this season.

All the best to referee Justin Kea on his NHL debut!