At the 2006 World Junior Hockey Championships Morgan Rielly found an idol in Kris Letang and cemented his dream of one day winning a gold for Canada himself.
Thursday, Rielly found out he would live his dream of playing at the world junior championships.
“As a kid growing up in Canada, you’re always watching the tournament around Christmastime and when you see that you’re going to get the opportunity to play for Team Canada it’s a great feeling,” said Rielly. “It’s just a dream come true.
“I’m extremely honoured to get the opportunity to play for Team Canada.”
Rielly was 10 when Canada won a world junior title at the Rogers Arena in his hometown of Vancouver. He remembers it well.
“I had the chance to go to three games,” said Rielly of the ’06 tournament in B.C. “It was at that tournament that I kind of chose Kris Letang was probably going to be one of my top players. He was team captain that year. I got a chance to see him play a bunch and that was pretty cool feeling.”
Rielly and his Canadian teammates will practice this morning in Calgary and then spend the rest of the day travelling to Helsinki, Finland where they will set their pre-tournament camp. They will travel to Ufa, Russia on Dec. 23 before opening the tournament there against Germany on Boxing Day.
Rielly admitted he was nervous heading into the camp in Calgary, but he needn’t have been. He played in the first intrasquad game and then was able to watch from the stands while his teammates played the University of Alberta twice to battle for the final roster spots.
“I came in under the impression that I would probably have to play in every game and that I would probably have to prove myself,” said Rielly. “I was pretty happy with how I played (in the scrimmage) and then, obviously, I didn’t have to play in the other games. So that was nice.
“I was still quite nervous. It’s always a pretty tough experience when you’re in your hotel room waiting for a call and hoping not to get it. I was pretty happy when I heard the good news.”
It was good news for Rielly and his roommate — Tyler Wotherspoon from the Portland Winterhawks — who joined him on the blue line.
Rielly’s defensive partner at the tournament — and his role on the team — will evolve during the pre-competition games. To date Rielly has been in the top-four on the blue line and paired with returning veteran Dougie Hamilton
“I had a chance to play with Hamilton in camp ... if I got the chance to play with him that would be pretty special,” said Rielly.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was named the team’s captain Friday. The former Red Deer Rebel was the Edmonton Oilers first overall pick in the 2011 NHL draft. He scored 18 goals and 52 points with the Oilers last season.
Scott Harrington of the OHL’s London Knights and Jonathan Huberdeau of the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs were named alternate captains.