This week two Sharks prospects are battling it out in Edmonton for a spot on Team Canada’s 2012 World Jr. team. They are Michael Sgarbossa and Freddie Hamilton and together are looking forward to being teammates in the fall and down the road in the NHL.
“It’s good right now, it’s a lot of fun,” Sgarbossa said of the early happenings at the camp.
Hockey players traditionally don’t skate much in the offseason and the junior hopefuls are going full steam with great expectations.
“It’s definitely intense and the tempo is really high here,” Sgarbossa said. “For being a summer camp, it’s more than anything a lot of the guys have already done with their summer programs.”
The talent level is high considering 47 of Canada’s best are pitted against each other, but Sgarbossa views that as a positive instead of a negative.
“There are a lot of skilled guys here and it’s actually a lot of fun because everybody tries to push each other,” Sgarbossa said.
With talent popping up all over the ice, it might be a matter of will over skill to determine who claims the final spots this winter.
“The skill level is about the same, so it’s pretty much whoever is going to work harder is going to succeed,” said the Sharks free agent signee.
Sgarbossa has some degree of familiarity with the 47 players at camp.
“There are a lot of guys from the OHL here. When I played in the under 18’s I got to know a lot of the guys here and became friends with most of them,” Sgarbossa noted. “It’s good to see them again because I don’t get to really talk to them during the year. When I get to see them here, I try to make the most of it.”
Fellow Sharks prospect Hamilton might be the most familiar face.
“I’ve known Freddie for while now, about three or four years,” Sgarbossa said. “He’s actually on my team. They’ve split us up into red and white teams and it’s good to see him and he’s doing well too.”
For teenagers across Canada, this is the ultimate goal before moving to the NHL.
“It’s huge, it’s a chance to represent your country,” Sgarbossa said. “It’s the biggest tournament of the year and it’s become a tradition on Boxing Day here. Pretty much everybody watches the World Jr. tourney.”
As a team and a nation, much is expected of the players who don the maple leaf.
“Team Canada, they expect gold,” Sgarbossa directly stated. “If they don’t’ get it, the silver or bronze is not good enough for them. They didn’t win it last year and the year before, so this year they are trying to pull out all the stops.”
The primary purpose of the camp is to help prepare whoever the final 22 players will be in December.
“We’re going to get into some scrimmages,” Sgarbossa noted. “We’re going to have the red and white game. Most of it is to get into the system Team Canada is going to play. There are 47 of us and if we all learn the systems, when they cut down to the team, we are already going to know it. That is what they are trying to do here. Most of the stuff is pretty basic. They’re not going to make it rocket science.”
Off the ice, the experience is much like the Sharks summer camp for prospects.
“They have us in a hotel and it’s the same as the (Sharks) development camp. You have a roommate, you eat at the hotel and have a bus to the rink and back,” Sgarbossa said. “Team wise, we all stick together. There aren’t too many times where you are alone.”
Sgarbossa is simply enjoying the process and seems very relaxed about the prospects.
“I’ve never been to Edmonton so it’s pretty good for me to come and see it,” Sgarbossa noted. “It’s the best players for our age and it’s cool to see how you stack up. I can see what the other players do and how they play. What kinds of sticks they use and stuff like that. It’s fun to compare and a lot of fun.”
It will be a lot more fun if Sgarbossa and Hamilton get the call in December.