It came as no surprise, but Team Canada made it official Thursday: Dallas Stars prospect Brett Ritchie is headed to the 2013 World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia.
“It’s the biggest tournament of the year. I’ve always watched it growing up and it’s been a dream to maybe play on this team some day,” Ritchie said in a phone interview. “It’s a huge honor to be named today.”
After Team Canada defeated a CIS All-Star team, 2-0 in an exhibition game in Calgary this afternoon, Hockey Canada officials finalized their roster for the World Juniors, and Ritchie was among the 13 forwards to make the 23-man roster. He was considered a lock for a spot, but there were still nerves as the final roster cuts were being announced on the third day of Canada’s National Junior Team selection camp.
WATCH: Brett Ritchie at 2012 Development Camp
“There are always going to be nerves right up until they select it,” Ritchie said. “I was sitting in my room checking Twitter to see the updates on who got cut. Once I noticed there were enough cuts made that I was on the team, there was obviously a huge sigh of relief.”
Ritchie is projected by many to be a top six forward for Team Canada, likely on a line with his Niagara IceDogs teammate Ryan Strome. Ritchie is not sure what role he’ll play or where he’ll fit in the lineup, but the 6-4, 218-pound right wing said he is ready to fill whatever role the team needs.
“I just want to play the way I did in camp and where ever that lands me, that’s what I’ll get,” he said. “I want to bring a physical presence. I am one of the bigger guys on the team. I can create space for some of the other guys. Just play a well-rounded game. I want them to trust in me in different situations. I want to contribute in any way I can.”
Ritchie, Dallas’ second round pick (44th overall) in 2011, is currently tied for the goal scoring lead in the Ontario Hockey League with 27 goals in 32 games. He has tallied 26 goals over his last 20 games for Niagara.
“We got off to a great start and recently I’ve been getting some goals and points, and playing really well,” he said. “I think it was perfect timing leading up to this camp. I think I played the same way I had been and that’s what landed me a spot on this team.”
Canada’s roster boasts 10 NHL first round picks including Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the first overall pick in 2011. It also includes Nathan MacKinnon, who could be the first overall pick in 2013.
Here’s a look at Canada’s roster for the 2013 World Junior Championship, which begins December 26 and runs through January 5.
See the full roster here.