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Koekkoek finally able to show Canada what he can do

by Adam Kimelman / Tampa Bay Lightning

Slater Koekkoek understood why he was left off Hockey Canada's original roster for the national junior team's summer evaluation camp. That isn't to say he liked not seeing his name there, however.

But an injury to New York Islanders prospect Adam Pelech opened a spot, and Koekkoek was more than happy to spend a week of his summer in Brossard, Quebec and now here as part of the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp.

"After the first list came out it was as bit discouraging, but I knew it had a big part to do with my shoulder," Koekkoek told "Now that I got it cleared and everything, it's good looking forward here."

Koekkoek, taken by the Tampa Bay Lightning with the 10th pick of the 2012 NHL Draft, had his 2011-12 season ended after 26 games due to an injury to his left shoulder -- a torn labrum that needed to be repaired surgically. Then in his first game last season, he dislocated his left shoulder, but was able to play through it for about half the season.

"I played the whole season with it until game No. 40 and then it came out again, so the Tampa Bay Lightning thought it was the best for me to get it fixed [surgically]," Koekkoek said. "I had it done in January and I'm just getting back now."

Koekkoek said he has been on the ice since April, but only now is he back near 100 percent. He said he's still working back to full strength on his shot, but more importantly, he's able to battle and play physically without wondering if he's going to re-injure his shoulder.

"My physical play, always having that thought in my head [of getting hurt again]," he said. "I had a chipped bone, which made it pretty nerve-wracking if I'd go in for a hit. That was the biggest part."

Now that he's healthy and nearly at full strength, Koekkoek is out to show Hockey Canada and the national junior team coaching staff that he belongs not on at the evaluation camp, but should have a spot on the team that goes to Malmo, Sweden, for the 2014 World Junior Championship. And that starts with Wednesday, when he'll be paired with Michael Matheson for Canada's game against Finland.

"It's been going well," he said of the camp so far. "There's a lot of good guys here, a lot of good players. Just getting to know everyone and hopefully be ready here for the games."

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