CALGARY, AB -- Travis Sanheim can still recall the sting of disappointment of being among the final cuts from last year’s Canadian world junior team.
He will have a second opportunity to prove his worth to Hockey Canada.
It was announced on Monday the 19-year-old Calgary Hitmen rearguard was one of 11 defencemen selected to attend this year’s Canadian World Junior Selection Camp, which runs Dec. 10-14 at the MasterCard Centre in Etobicoke, Ontario.
“I’m going there to crack that roster,” a determined Sanheim said. “I want to be throwing on that maple leaf.”
As disheartened as he was when he received that fateful call last December, he’s far from bitter about it.
“It was still a good experience, and hopefully it benefits me,” said Sanheim, who has nicely developed from a ninth round (177th overall) pick in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft to a first round, 17th overall selection of the Philadelphia Flyers in 2014. “I was one of the younger guys on the outside looking in last year, but hopefully the result will be different for me this time around.”
Hitmen assistant coach Trent Whitfield, who heads Calgary’s defensive core, experienced precisely what Sanheim covets when he captured gold with Canada’s ‘Drive for Five’ team in 1997. A veteran of 16 professional seasons, Whitfield said Sanheim will need to demonstrate that his defensive presence will be there when it matters most.
“They will be looking for a defenceman who doesn’t try to do too much, one that can move the puck up to the forwards and play a solid defensive game,” Whitfield said. “He’s a big body that can skate and make plays. He’s a kid that wants to dictate the game and do everything he can to help his team win.”
Because of these attributes, and his unlimited potential at both ends of the ice, many pundits believe the 6’4” 200-pound rearguard is a shoo-in for this year’s squad.
Not so fast says the Elkhorn, MB native, who topped all WHL defenders with 65 points in 67 games last season and currently leads all Hitmen blueliners with 25 points despite being sidelined for nine games through November.
“There is no margin for error. Every guy attending this camp is skilled and everyone has a chance to make the team,” he said. “You have to show up when it comes to camp. I have to make sure I’m just as good on the offensive end of things but also able to strike guys down defensively.”
If he does earn one of the seven coveted defence spots up for grabs on this year’s 22-man roster, Sanheim said it will be an “absolute honour” to don the maple leaf.
“It would mean everything,” he said. “It’s something I have always wanted to do but never thought could be possible. To be this close I want to make sure I make the most of the opportunity.”
The 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship takes place in Helsinki, Finland Dec. 26 to Jan. 5.
Hitmen acquire insurance between the pipes
A game of musical goalies continues for the injury-riddled Calgary Hitmen.
On Monday, the Hitmen acquired 18-year-old goaltender Nik Amundrud from the Saskatoon Blades in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2016 Western Hockey League Bantam Draft.
The 6’0” 163-pound Amundrud had gone 10-27-1 with three shutouts over two seasons with Saskatoon.
The Hitmen began the season with veteran starter Brendan Burke and rookies Kyle Dumba and Lasse Petersen battling for the backup role. Petersen was released in early November before being claimed by the Spokane Chiefs, while Burke, shortly after the Hitmen acquired Cody Porter as part of a five-player blockbuster with the Vancouver Giants in late October, was placed on 20-year-old waivers and now suits up for the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights.
With a vacancy opening back up due to the departure of Burke, youngster Dumba was recalled from the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Calgary Mustangs, but suffered a lower body injury shortly after earning his first WHL win as a starter.
“With the current injury to Kyle Dumba we felt it necessary to acquire another goaltender to provide depth at this position," said Hitmen General Manager and Vice President of Business Operations Mike Moore.
Fresh from being handed their first regulation loss in nine games – a 6-4 road setback to the Lethbridge Hurricanes – the Hitmen return home tonight to host the East Division-leading Prince Albert Raiders, before welcoming the Swift Current Broncos to the Scotiabank Saddledome for the annual Teddy Bear Toss on Sunday, Dec. 6. The Hitmen hope to beat their own world record for bears collected, which was set on Dec. 2, 2007 when 26,919 stuffed animals rained down at the ‘Dome.