Brandon Hickey hasn’t had to keep a lot of secrets.
His latest might’ve been the biggest.
Called by Team Canada head coach Dave Lowry on Sunday, the Calgary Flames prospect had to keep it under his hat that he’d earned an invite to the National Junior Team Sport Chek Selection Camp.
“For sure, that was one of the harder ones,” Hickey said. “He called me [Sunday] night and told me that I was coming to camp. I was so excited last night I couldn’t hold it in. I couldn’t really tell anyone so that was hard to go through for sure.”
But he did.
And after hearing from Lowry, the Boston University defenceman will be one of just two NCAA players invited to try to earn the right to represent Canada at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship in Helsinki, FIN later this month.
Understandably, it was a welcomed call.
And one he’d hoped to get.
“I guess we knew that we were going to get a call because they did the same thing before they released the roster this summer,” said Hickey, the lone collegiate invite to Hockey Canada’s national junior team summer development camp in August. “So everyone kind of assumed there was going to be a call. We definitely knew there was one coming.
“He said congratulations, here’s your chance, just come in and play your game. We had a big meeting at the end of the summer and he wanted to reiterate a few of those points that we talked about. That was basically it.”
Charlottetown Islanders goaltender Mason McDonald received the same call.
His had a bit of a different feel though. The Flames prospect was one of just two goaltenders named to the camp roster.
“They only invited two last year, so it wasn’t too big of a surprise,” said McDonald, who will vie with New Jersey Devils prospect and Barrie Colts goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood for Canada’s starting role. “At the same time, it was surprising because when it happens, it’s so fast and I was so excited.
“It’s unreal. I’ve been so excited the past 24 hours. It’s a surreal feeling and there are no words to describe it. Nerves are running through me and it’s a really exciting time.”
McDonald isn’t about to pause on the free trip to Finland.
He wants to work.
“Exactly,” said McDonald. “It’s going to be a competition between me and Mackenzie to see who’s starting. I’m sure we’ll get an equal share to prove that we deserve that. It’s my job to go out there and make them want to put me in the net in the first game.”
McDonald represented Team Atlantic at the World Under-17 Challenge in 2013, and backstopped Canada at the World Under-18 Championship in 2014, posting a 1.94 GAA and .930 save percentage en route to being named the tournament’s top goaltender and helping Canada to bronze.
He also won gold with Canada’s 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup entry as backup to Julio Billia.
The résumé, McDonald suggests, doesn’t guarantee him much, though.
“I wouldn’t say I’m the front runner,” he said. “I know I’m coming in with a lot of confidence and that I’m confident in my ability going into it. As long as I play my game and do what I’m doing right now, I’ll be fine.”
Hickey’s task is a little more daunting.
In total, 11 defencemen were named to the team. Seven will go.
“I have to go there and take everything in, have fun, but work hard and play my game,” he said. “I think going there, you can’t put too much pressure on yourself because that will hinder your performance. I think going there and being confident and having fun is the best way to approach it.”