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Family drives Khaira in hockey career

by Ashley Docking / Edmonton Oilers
Photo by Getty Images.
PENTICTON, B.C. - “I don’t think, at the time, I was that player that stood out in anyway. I just worked hard and went under the radar."

That sentiment is a far cry from the imposing 6-foot-4 third-round Oilers draft pick today. At 13-years-old, Jujhar Khaira was hovering at just about 5-foot-5 when he was passed over in the WHL Bantam Draft.Over the next three months, a timely growth spurt caused the teen to sprout five inches. The new size didn’t present any of the teenage awkwardness on the ice that most teens are accustomed to having.

“At the time, I was skating so much that you kind of just get used to it as you’re growing. I’m pretty sure I had some growing pains in the shins, in the feet and the whole bit, but I didn’t feel anything too major."

No growing pains to his game, but definitely an evolution for the newly developed forward.

“It changed my playing style a lot. When you’re smaller, it’s hard to be a threat in the corners and protect the puck.”

Khaira immediately used his newfound edge to become more physical and that play naturally made more room for his teammates on the ice.

Photo by Getty Images.

After adopting a more effective playing style, Khaira headed to college at Michigan Tech where he recorded 25 points and 49 penalty minutes in 37 games for the Huskies. Following the 2012-13 season, the Surrey, B.C. native did not take the decision to leave school and devote all of his time to hockey lightly.

“It took me two to three weeks. It was exciting just knowing that Edmonton was ready to sign me, but at the same time I made a lot of good friends and learned a lot in college. So it was a really tough decision.”

Khaira’s parents, Sukh and Komal, who placed an emphasis on the hockey-school balance throughout his life, didn’t fight him on the verdict.

“They always believed in me and encouraged me. So I think just having them by my side really helped my hockey career."

It’s not just in his career. Sometimes, a parent’s advice transcends the game.

“Just be humble, don’t take anything for granted. Just go out there and work hard and earn everything you get.”

Khaira will have the chance to turn some heads and increase his stock, while gaining the confidence he is looking for this weekend at the 2014 Young Stars Camp in Penticton.

Khaira will not play on Saturday night against the Calgary Flames but is expected to be back in the lineup on Monday against Winnipeg.

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