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Hawryluk back on ice, ready to help Canada at WJC

by Tim Wharnsby

ETOBICOKE, Ontario -- The news that caught everybody's fancy after two on-ice sessions at the Canadian junior team selection camp was the all-Ontario Hockey League combination of left wing Lawson Crouse, center Dylan Strome and right wing Mitchell Marner, even though this was a trio coach Dave Lowry assembled back at summer camp.

The attention to Crouse, Strome and Marner, who have scored a combined 49 goals and 135 points in 72 games this season, allowed Brandon Wheat Kings forward Jayce Hawryluk to slip back on the ice under the radar Friday.

Hawryluk, a Florida Panthers prospect, sustained an upper-body injury and missed his past three Western Hockey League games. The 19-year-old hadn't skated in a week before arriving for the Canadian junior selection camp Thursday.

"I wanted to give myself the best shot at making the team and obviously to have an injury doesn't help that," Hawryluk said. "But you have to push through. I felt a bit rusty, but it's nice to get the legs going again."

Moose Jaw Warriors captain Brayden Point was in a similar situation. He has missed his past nine games with a shoulder injury and returned to practice alongside Hawryluk as the two extra forwards on the Canadian junior roster.

If anybody can bounce back swiftly it is Hawryluk. In the 2014 WHL playoffs, Hawryluk found himself in the hospital after he collapsed following the third game of the first-round series against the Regina Pats.

It was determined Hawryluk had a bout of dehydration. Like his mother, he suffers from low blood sugar and he had logged plenty of minutes in an intense 5-4 win. After nearly two days in the Brandon Regional Health Centre, Hawryluk was released in time for Game 4. He had a goal and an assist to help the Wheat Kings complete a sweep.

Hawryluk is a self-described Brendan Gallagher type. He loves the way the Montreal Canadiens forward attacks the game and throughout Hawryluk's development in his four years with Brandon, he has become a complete player.

"With any player who grows up in your organization, you want to see some maturity, leadership abilities and a game that becomes more well-rounded. He has done that job," said Kelly McCrimmon, the Wheat Kings general manager and coach as well as an assistant coach on the Canadian junior team staff.

"Jayce has prepared himself to do whatever it takes to make this team. We expect him to provide energy, hard work, be physical and responsible in managing the puck."

Hawryluk exhibited these traits last month in the WHL's two-game series against a Russian select team. McCrimmon coached the WHL team.

The lifelong junior hockey man couldn't help but smile when asked what first caught his eye when he scouted Hawryluk as a bantam out of Roblin, Manitoba, 2 ½ hours northwest of Brandon.

"He was tenacious and wanted the puck," McCrimmon said. "What defined him back then was his work ethic and competitiveness."

Hawryluk, 5-foot-10 and 197 pounds, was raised in a competitive environment. He has three older brothers who all played hockey when they were young. Jayce had to keep up. But while Logan eventually preferred baseball, and Lance and Jayden became snowboarders, Jayce stuck with hockey.

"I just have always had a passion for hockey," Hawryluk said when asked why he stuck with the game.

Now in his final season of junior, he has a chance to play for Canada with his junior coach behind the bench.

"It definitely helps," Hawryluk said, when asked about McCrimmon's presence on the Canadian coaching staff. "He's a great coach. He's developed me as a player with Brandon over the last four years."

Of course, McCrimmon is pleased to see his player have an opportunity to make the Canadian junior team, which opens competition at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship against the United States on Dec. 26 in Helsinki, but it was Lowry who delivered the news with a phone call that Hawryluk was invited to the selection camp.

"I was super excited," Hawryluk said. "I couldn't wait to get here.

"There's always that pressure with 30 of the best junior-aged kids in the world here. No spot is set in stone. You have to go out there and work as hard as you can and show you belong."

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