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Comrie soaks up experience at first World Championship

Jets prospect tutoring under, picking the brains of fellow Canadian goalies Johnson and Pickard

by Aaron Vickers @AAVickers / Special to WinnipegJets.com

PARIS, France -- Eric Comrie has found himself on an incredible apprenticeship.

In an unbelievable environment, too.  

The Jets prospect is tutoring under fellow goaltenders Chad Johnson and Calvin Pickard with Canada at the 2017 IIHF World Championship in Paris, France and Cologne, Germany from May 5-21.

"It's a huge honour for myself," said Comrie, who posted a 2.96 goals against average and .906 save percentage with a 19-26-2 record with the Jets' top affiliate, the American Hockey League's Manitoba Moose this season, and won his NHL debut by making 35 saves against the Columbus Blue Jackets on April 6.

"It's very exciting. I mean, playing for Hockey Canada is always a big, big thing for myself. I've always been really honoured to represent the country, whether it be U18s, World Juniors or now the World Championship. I jumped all over the opportunity.

"It's really exciting and really honoured to be selected."

Comrie, Canada's third goaltender behind Johnson and Pickard, is designated as a non-roster player for Canada. It'll prevent him, at this stage, from playing in the competition.

But it won't limit Comrie in what he can take from the experience.

"It just makes you so much better," said the 21-year-old, who has won gold with Canada at the 2012 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship alongside Jets teammate Josh Morrissey.

"Every single experience, every single shot in practice, everything just makes you better. Not only that, but just being so happy to be selected by Canada. I think Canada is really happy when people come here and being selected is a great opportunity for myself.

"I'm just really, really excited to be here."

Comrie isn't just a bystander.

He's in Europe to get a first-rate education.

"He's picking my brain it a lot," said Johnson, who had a similar experience as a 23-year-old with Canada at the 2010 World Championship in Cologne and Mannheim, Germany. "He's a very intelligent guy and he loves the position, loves competing and wants to be the best he can possibly be.

"I've gone out for dinner with him a couple times. He's always asking questions about goalies, and who I like and what I like about them and the way I play. He's always critiquing my game and Picks' game and his own game, trying to see what works for us and what'll work for him.

"He's always really that kind of guy who's asking questions."

Those questions aren't by accident.

Comrie is a student of the game.

"I think Coms is one of those kids…he just takes in everything," said Sean Burke, Canada's assistant general manager. "I'm sure he's watching games and in practice he's observing and trying to pick up things from all the guys, not just the goaltenders. This event, even just being around the atmosphere and the coaching staff and getting the different looks…the more guys you can be around the more you can take in from different areas of the game.

"It can only help him long term."

Like Johnson, Burke would know.

He represented Canada at the 1987 World Championship in Vienna, Austria as a 20-year-old.
 
"I think it is a definite advantage long-term," said Burke, who went on to play parts of 18 seasons in the NHL with 10 different teams following his experience.

"It's hard. There's not a lot of practice time. You aren't coming over here and necessarily working on the technical side of your game, but all those other things…watching this level, being around it, practicing with the guys…and the magnitude of this event is hard to understand it until you come over here how big it is.

"I think just from an experience standpoint this is something that he's going to look back on and think that this was a great opportunity for him."

That's not lost on Comrie.

He's soaking in every minute of each day of this unique internship.

"Just going out there and being able to see that every day, getting that experience…you can't really describe it," Comrie said.

"It's about going out and doing it. Seeing those releases, seeing those shots, seeing those plays…and getting to learn from two great goalies who play in the NHL full-time is another plus for me as well.

"I'm really just having fun and relishing this opportunity."

-- Aaron Vickers, Special to WinnipegJets.com

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