Rode

Making Team Canada at World Juniors helps make Seeley’s year

19-year-old Everett Silvertips star is from Olds

It’s been some year for Ronan Seeley.

Like everyone involved in the Western Hockey League, the 19-year-old Everett Silvertips star has had to handle the COVID-19 pandemic and everything involved with it.

But Seeley, who calls Olds home, has enjoyed 2021 more than a lot of his teammates.

Seeley was drafted in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft in the seventh round (208th overall) by the Carolina Hurricanes and in September signed an entry level contract.

“That was a cool moment for sure for myself and my family,” he said in a telephone interview from Edmonton, where he’s enjoying his latest success.

The six-foot-one, 195-pound rearguard was selected to play for Team Canada in the World Junior Championships, which opens Boxing Day in Edmonton and Red Deer.

Ronan knew he had a shot at making the team after being invited to the Team Canada summer camp.

“Then I had a good start to the (WHL) season so I figured I’d be in the running,” he said. “My agent also said I was. I got the confirmation a couple weeks prior to camp. It was a long process, but rewarding.”

Team Canada kept eight defencemen and Ronan didn’t find out he was officially on the team until the final day of camp.

“After the last game we all went to our rooms and over the next couple of hours they called the guys who were cut. Not hearing anything was good but stressful.”

Finally one of his coaches knocked on his door and congratulated him.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment, something you always dream of, but waiting was also super nerve-wracking. In the end it was a special moment for sure … a big moment in my life, something I don’t think has sunk in yet.”

Ronan has been involved with Hockey Canada in the past, playing with Team Gold at the U17 Development tournament in 2018-19. He also played with the Western Canada Selects at the U13, 14 and 15 levels, and was with Team Central in the Alberta Cup in 2016-17 during his second year with the Red Deer Rebels U15AAA program.

He also played for Team Alberta in 2017-18 at the WHL Cup.

“That exposure put my name out there for sure, although I did get cut from the team for the Hlinka (Gretzky) Cup, which was disappointing.”

Ronan has partnered with Ryan O’Rourke of Sault Ste. Marie with the juniors, but has no idea how much he’ll be playing.

“I’ve been killing penalties, but no one really knows who will do what so far … we all just keep fighting for a spot,” he said.

Seeley has a well-rounded game. He’s 11th in the WHL in scoring for defencemen with 22 points (6g, 16a) in 24 games for a .917 points-per-game average, which is sixth best.

“I do see myself as a two-way player,” he said. “I see the ice well and move the puck well out of the D zone. I’m a smooth skater and like to join the rush. I also have the speed to play against the other team’s top players. But the main thing is I’ll do what I have to do … whatever the coach wants from me.

“A main thing for me is to finish the game and feel I left everything out there … did everything I could to help us win.”

Seeley believes consistency is what will take him to the next level.

“That’s the toughest thing, especially transitioning into pro,” he said. “You have to be able to be consistent day-in and day-out. That’s difficult for a lot of young players. I know that’s one of the reasons I’m still where I am.”

Ronan was born in Yellowknife but moved to Olds when he was a baby.

“I don’t remember anything about Yellowknife,” he said. “I call Olds home.”

He played in the Olds Minor Hockey Association in his early years. He played his first year of peewee in Airdrie before returning to Olds. He then played both years of U15AAA with the Rebels before spending one year of U18AAA in Lethbridge.

He looks back to his time with the Rebels as key in his development.

“My dad (Pat) played a big role in my development … still does as I talk with him every day. Rebels head coach Justin Jarmolicz was instrumental in my growth as a player. Those two played key roles.”

As for playing in Lethbridge, it was a matter of just learning to play away from home.

“I had a great uncle who lived there and just felt it would be good to play away to get ready for junior,” he said. “It worked out as we went to the Telus Cup.”

It’s worked out in Everett as well as they have one of the premier teams in the WHL, leading the U.S. Division and the Western Conference with a 21-6-2-1 record.

“We have a great program and our end goal is to play for the championship,” he said

Ronan comes from a hockey family where his three sisters all played and his brother, Ryan, is with the NAX Academy and was a WHL draft pick of the Moose Jaw Warriors.

While Ronan is hoping to play professionally next season, that’s secondary to the World Juniors now.

Team Canada will play all of its games in Edmonton and opens against the Czechs at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at danrode@shaw.ca

IIHF world junior hockey