CALGARY, AB -- On Sunday, Canada captured bronze at the U18 IIHF World Championship and three members of the Calgary Hitmen deserve their fair share of credit for the team’s success at the tournament.
Forward Jake Virtanen and defencemen Travis Sanheim and Ben Thomas all helped Canada medal. Virtanen and Sanheim also led Canada in scoring at the tournament with six points in seven games.
Virtanen recorded three goals and three assists, and led all Canadian skaters with 21 shots on net. Sanheim picked up six assists in the tournament and was a team-leading plus-5 in the tournament. Thomas recorded an assist and a plus-2 rating.
Sanheim was also voted one of Canada’s top three players in the tournament by coaches.
Both Sanheim and Virtanen chipped in offensively in the 3-1 win over Sweden in the bronze medal contest, each collecting an assist in the victory. Virtanen set up Brendan Perlini’s power play marker in the first period, which tied the game up at the 17:02 mark, while Sanheim earned the primary helper on Travis Konecny’s insurance marker in the third.
The trio was selected to play in the tournament after compiling career-years in 2013-14 and helping lead the Hitmen to third place regular season finish in the Eastern Conference with a 48-17-3-4 record.
Virtanen, who was selected first overall in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft, scored 45 goals and 71 points through 71 regular season games and added a goal and four points in six postseason dates. The winger was third in team scoring and led all Hitmen skaters in goals scored.
On the backend, Sanheim kicked in five goals and 29 points in 67 regular season tilts. The Elkhorn, MB native was a plus-25 in the regular season and picked up just 14 penalty minutes. He suited up for six playoff games with the Hitmen, notching one goal and two points.
Thomas recorded seven goals and 31 points while playing in all 72 games for the Hitmen. He was also plus-11 in the regular season. He added one goal and six points in six playoff games for Calgary.
All three are draft-eligible this summer and are on NHL Central Scouting’s radar. Amongst North American skaters, Virtanen ranks sixth, Sanheim is 53rd and Thomas is 86th.