For every junior player in the Canadian Hockey League, a goal that may be more immediate than making the NHL and winning the Stanley Cup would be donning the red and white at the World Junior Championships.
The annual event that begins at Christmas-time captivates the entire country for two weeks. Right now, Sharks defensive prospect Taylor Doherty
is participating in the invite-only camp to try and make that roster.
“This is our second full day,” said Doherty on Thursday. “Yesterday was a full day with meetings and photo shoots in the morning. Then we had a practice at night. Today we had an hour-and-a-half practice this morning with some scrimmages and special teams.”
Doherty is not exactly a fish out of water at the camp as he has two junior teammates attending with him.
“I know a fair amount (of players),” said Doherty. “(Two) guys from my junior team. Also guys that I played with on the under-18’s or under-17’s. It’s good to have some familiar faces around.”
The chance to represent his country is exciting for the six-foot-seven, 220-pound blueliner.
“The World Junior team means the world to Canada,” said Doherty. “This is the first step to the development of the team. Everybody here is really excited about it; the players, the coaches and the staff. It’s pretty special for me to be invited here and participate in this camp.”
Doherty noted that players have to be themselves while at the camp and not try to perform in ways they are not accustomed to.
“They (the coaches) basically say, ‘do what got you here, play your game, play your style’,” said Doherty. “Don’t go away from that because you’re at a big camp. They want us to compete and work hard no matter what situation we’re in and to play good physical hockey.”
So what are Doherty’s strengths?
“I’m a big strong defenseman,” said Doherty. “I play physical in my own end and punish guys when I can, without getting out of position. Working hard is a big part of my game. I take care of my defensive zone, making sure everything’s OK in there, and try to create a little offense.”
The camp concludes this weekend and then Doherty will rest a bit from being on the ice before continuing his development.
“We’re done Saturday night and I’ll fly home early Sunday morning,” said Doherty. “I’ll get back to my hometown for three-and-a-half weeks or so, then I have the Kingston training camp for a week and then I fly out there.”
The summer travels have literally taken Doherty from coast to coast this summer with the Team Canada camp in Newfoundland and the Sharks summer development camp in San Jose.
“It’s been busy,” said Doherty. “I probably never would have come out East, so it’s been great to come out here and experience this and going out to California was another great experience for me. So it’s all amazing.”
He will return to California next month for training camp, but if all goes well, he will be back with many of the same junior players he is with this week for the World Junior Championships in Buffalo in December.