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Last year's late cuts motivated to make Canada

by Aaron Vickers /

CALGARY -- The sting still resonates for New York Islanders prospect Michael Dal Colle.

It remains as painful as the day he, forwards Rourke Chartier and Jason Dickinson, and defenseman Haydn Fleury were the final cuts for Canada prior to last year's World Junior Championship.

Canada won the tournament for the first time since 2009, and Dal Colle watched and wondered.

"I was rooting for them," Dal Colle said this week at WinSport's Markin MacPhail Centre at Canada Olympic Park. "I was happy for a lot of my friends that I grew up playing with. There was a ton on that championship team. I was very happy for them. But it was tough; I can't lie, being so close. And the goal as a kid is to play in that gold-medal game. Hopefully I get the chance this year."

Dal Colle is one of 39 players at this year's Canada national junior team summer development camp, along with Fleury and Chartier.

"We always talk to guys, and there's no better way to learn than to live it," said Canada coach Dave Lowry, who was an assistant last year. "Those guys have lived through the disappointment, and you hope they take it and channel it the right way and come out and prove to us they're worthy of a spot this year."

Chartier, a San Jose Sharks prospect, said, "You never want to be on the outside looking in. That was definitely tough. At the same time, you've got to take from it. You see where you have to be. It feels like a huge missed opportunity and you think what you could've done to be there. It's a new year this year. You have to focus on that instead.

"It fuels the fire."

Understandably, it took Chartier some time to channel the burn into motivation. Being among the final group to get cut was disappointing to the point he couldn't watch Canada play.

"At first it feels kind of weird," he said. "But by the end I was watching all the games. They're all your good friends, but you go from competing with them, to playing with them in exhibition games, to watching them win the gold medal. It can be mixed emotions. At the same time, it was good to see them win."

Following the cut, Chartier returned to Kelowna of the Western Hockey League and scored 15 goals with 30 points in the final 28 games of the regular season, then 20 points in 16 games to win the Ed Chynoweth Cup as WHL champions.

Chartier and the Rockets lost to Dal Colle and Oshawa in the Memorial Cup final.

"Last year was tough for me," Dal Colle said. "I think I bounced back well, had a good second half to the year, and this year I'd like to be a leader on this team and a big part of this team. This is the first part of it and I'm looking to make a good impression. I learned to stay positive."

Like Dal Colle, Fleury treated the cut as an educational experience. More specifically, as a history lesson.

Defenseman Darnell Nurse was the No. 7 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft by the Edmonton Oilers; he didn't garner an invite to Hockey Canada selection camp in 2014. Last year, Nurse helped Canada win a medal for the first time since 2012.

"I just need to prove I can be that guy that they need on that team," said Fleury, drafted No. 7 by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2014. "I need to play like a guy like Darnell Nurse was for them last year. He was a key part of their team last year. I need to show I can play like that.

"I always look at Darnell and how he didn't make it his first year. Last year he was a really key part of their team. He was a leader. He played in all situations. … That's how I want to try to play."

It's the same for Chartier and Dal Colle.

"This country has some of the best players in the world and they have to make a lot of tough cuts every single year," Dal Colle said. "There are players left off the roster every year. It's just part of the process.

"I think it still drives me. I definitely use it as motivation this year."

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