It’s no surprise that Strathcona County hockey talent is turning some heads at the national level.
Sherwood Park’s Keaton Dowhaniuk and Ardrossan’s Jordan Gustafson were among the 45 players from across the country to be invited to Canada’s National Men’s Under-18 Team Summer Development Camp from July 25 to August 4 at the Seven Chiefs Sportsplex on the Tsuut’ina Nation near Calgary.
“Being selected for the Team Canada national U18 development camp means a lot to me. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to have the chance to represent my country on a world stage,” said Dowhaniuk.
“It’s really cool to be able to represent your country and I’m also representing everyone who has helped me get to this point. I’m trying to be the best version of me both on and off the ice,” echoed Gustafson.
Both attended the previous U17 training camp with Hockey Canada last summer, which was completely held virtually due to COVID. The Strathcona County players are eager to hit the ice and walk the walk, instead of talking the talk.
“I’m hoping to open some eyes for a lot of the coaches and scouts for that program,” Gustafson said. “I want to get my feet a little wet. I’ll be competing against some of the best players of my age and older from across the country and the coaching staff there is pretty elite too, so I’m hoping to learn a lot and have some fun too.”
Dowhaniuk has aspirations to find his name on future national rosters.
“Going into camp, I’m hoping to make the team for the upcoming World Under-18 tournament happening in April 2022,” the six-foot defenceman said.
Besides showing off his skills on the ice, Gustafson added attitude and maturity can also go a long way.
“Everything is about being precise. You always have to be on time. As the saying goes, if you’re five minutes early, you’re five minutes late. You always need to make sure you’re smiling at people and making people’s day. A lot of what happens is on the ice, but a big part of it is about being a better person off the ice,” noted the Ardrossan forward.
The 11-day training camp will include practices and intrasquad games, as well as some friendly competition against the National Junior Team.
Both played in the WHL’s shortened season; Gustafson played 23 games with the Seattle Thunderbirds — putting up 11 points (four goals and seven assists) in his rookie year as a 17-year-old — and Dowhaniuk laced up with the Prince George Cougars for 22 games in just 48 days.
This training camp usually acts as a baseline for national coaches to comprise Canada’s roster for the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, however, Canada will not be participating this year due to the ongoing pandemic.
“This stage of our Summer Showcase is about bringing together the top under-18 players in Canada to work and learn from an elite-level coaching staff, giving them the necessary skills for their hockey development to grow and succeed,” Alan Millar, director of player personnel for Hockey Canada said in a release. “We have an opportunity to connect with the players through on- and off-ice sessions to give them the tools that will only enhance their skill set as they advance through our program and prepare for the upcoming season.”