COLWOOD, B.C. — An undrafted player who is leading the scoring race in the Western Hockey League hopes his breakout season will soon be rewarded with a spot on Canada’s junior hockey team.
Brett Leason, 19, said Wednesday he’s brimming with confidence at the opportunity to win a gold medal for Canada.
The Prince Albert Raiders sniper said being invited to the national team selection camp after being bypassed for previous elite national teams exceeded even his wildest dreams.
“I believe I surpassed my own expectations,” said the six-foot-four, 199 pound Leason. “I was nowhere thinking about this.”
He said he felt buried on an experienced Tri-City Americans team, but when he was traded to Prince Albert last year, his new coaches told him to play his own game, which let loose his scoring touch.
“The coach just let me do my thing,” Leason said.
Leason and other players from across Canada who were invited to the selection camp had an opportunity Wednesday to impress the coaches with their first pre-tournament exhibition game against a team of university hockey players.
Thirty-four players are at the camp, which must be reduced to 22 by Saturday.
Hulking forward Maxime Comtois of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Drummondville Voltigeurs, along with forward Alex Formenton of the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights, are the only two returning players from last year’s gold-medal winning team.
Comtois said he’s looking to inspire the new faces with his effort and impress upon them the hard work it takes to win the championship.
“It’s part of our job, me and Alex, to help the other guys,” said Comtois, 19, an Anaheim Ducks draft pick. “We were privileged to play and we know what it takes to win gold and what a thin line it is between winning and losing.”
Defenceman Evan Bouchard, who played seven games with the Edmonton Oilers before being sent back to the Knights, said his pro experience gives him confidence at the junior camp.
The 19-year-old said he’s an offensive-type rearguard who can move the puck in all zones of the ice.
“Everyone’s here for a reason, but I think for me it definitely does help a little bit that I was at the pro level,” Bouchard said. “They want me to just play my game here. Hopefully I make the team and hopefully contribute to a winning team here.”
Team Canada coach Tim Hunter said Tuesday he was not yet prepared to discuss potential roster moves, preferring to give the players have more time to impress the coaches.
He said he is putting together a team that is built on speed in all aspects in the game.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press