CALGARY, AB -- As he heads to the Team Canada U18 Selection Camp, Calgary Hitmen forward Jake Virtanen hopes he won’t be coming home anytime soon.
The 17 year-old is one of 42 players invited to the selection camp in Toronto starting Thursday, with Hockey Canada selecting the 22-man roster for the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.
“It would be a honour to put on another Team Canada jersey,” Virtanen recently told HitmenHockey.com. “To put on that jersey would be such an honour so if I make the team, it’s going to be a great experience.”
The tournament is held Aug. 5-10 in Piestany, Slovakia and Breclav, Czech Republic. It means if Virtanen is one of the players selected, there won’t be any time to head back home to British Columbia to pack his bags – he’ll be heading straight over to Europe the following day.
“There has been a lot of great players that have been through the U18s so hopefully I can make it,” he added.
Team Canada has won the tournament each of the last five years.
Virtanen, the first overall pick in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft, recorded 16 goals and 18 assists for 34 points in 62 games in his first full WHL season. He added two goals and six points in 15 playoff games.
He’s earned international experience earlier this season, representing Team Pacific at the 2013 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
It’s been a busy summer for Virtanen since the end of the Hitmen season.
He took a week or two off to heal some wear and tear from a long rookie season, before jumping right back into training for his draft eligible season.
He said he’s been working out for two hours a day with Abbotsford Heat strength and conditioning coach Mike Thompson out in Abbottsford, BC. Add in ice skating five days a week, and there hasn’t been much free time for the teenager.
“Staying in shape, and working out, trying to get bigger, stronger,” he said. “My first year is done so I’m going to be a big part of the team this year. The coaches are looking at me for that. It’s going to be a big year.”
Team Canada will likely announce the roster for the tournament on Monday.