|Sens forward prospect Mark Stone is headed to Alberta later this month to represent Canada at the 2012 world juniors (Hockey Canada photo).
Mark Stone is finally getting his chance to wear the red maple leaf.
The Ottawa Senators forward prospect learned today he'll be part of the 22-man squad Hockey Canada sends to Alberta later this month for the 2012 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship. The tournament begins on Dec. 26, with Canada facing off against Finland at Rexall Place in Edmonton.
Back in June, the 6-3, 200-pound right-winger with the Brandon Wheat Kings told ottawasenators.com about his desire to represent Canada on the international stage — something he'd never done previously.
"It's great when it's in Canada," he said of the world juniors, which have become a holiday tradition in this country. "We have great fans ... it's a huge deal in Canada. Everyone watches at Christmas time and it's a big part of everyone's lives. To be a part of that would be so special for me and my family."
Stone was only a sixth-round selection (178th overall) by the Senators in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, but his game has blossomed since then. He racked up 37 goals and 106 points for the Wheat Kings in a breakout 2010-11 season, and currently leads the Western Hockey League in scoring with 65 points (27-38) in just 33 games.
In September, his overtime goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs allowed the Senators to win the rookie tourney in Oshawa, Ont.
The 19-year-old Winnipeg native figures to have plenty of familiar company at the world juniors. Sweden's roster for the tournament includes centre Mika Zibanejad, the Senators' top pick (sixth overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, and defenceman Fredrik Claesson (fifth round, 126th overall, in 2011 draft).
In addition, Ottawa 67's centre Shane Prince — a second-round selection (61st overall) by the Senators in the 2011 draft — is a candidate for the final United States team, which will be named three days before the start of the tournament. The Czech Republic's roster includes Jakub Culek, a Senators third-rounder (76th overall) in 2010.