How most kids feel on Christmas Day was how a trio of Moose Jaw Warriors felt on Boxing Day.
Brayden Point, Josh Uhrich and Miles Warkentine were all thrilled to join their regional under-17 teams for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge on the 26th.
“I’m very excited. I was honoured to be selected for Team West. I want to represent Moose Jaw ... and try to play my top game,” said Uhrich.
Uhrich and Warkentine will join Moose Jaw’s Rhett Gardner on Team West which comprises the top players from Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Rob MacLachlan from the Warriors is also the head scout for Team West.
Point will represent Team Pacific which features the top players from B.C. and Alberta.
Point had five goals and nine points at the Western Canada Under-16 Hockey Challenge last year. He led Alberta to the U16 title and was the tournament’s leading scorer. He is expected to be a key part of a very talented Pacific team, but Point isn’t
“I try not to put any pressure on myself. It’s just another game. That’s how I try to approach it, though obviously the stakes are a little higher,” said Point who is from Calgary.
“Obviously we want to win and it’s going to be good to play against some international competition. I’m just really proud to be representing the Pacific part of our country and hopefully we can bring back gold.”
B.C. and Alberta were the dominant U16 teams a year ago and feature Vancouver Giants starting goalie Payton Lee and former first overall WHL pick Jake Virtanen up front.
Point has eight goals and 26 points in 36 games to sit sixth in WHL rookie scoring, though the five players ahead of him are all at least a year older and none of them are Canadian. He said he’s going into the tournament with an open mind.
“We have a good squad, but we know the competition is going to be good there. We can’t take anything for granted. We have to work hard, listen to the coaches and try to adapt to their game plan,” said Point. “In a short competition like that everyone has to buy into their role. I’m going to buy in to whatever they give me and hopefully I can help the team.”
For Warkentine it’s a chance he missed out on last year when he broke his wrist while practicing with the Sask. team for the Western Canada Under-16 Challenge in Moose Jaw.
“It should be a good experience to go out and play against all of those guys from other countries and see how you stack up,” said Warkentine who is looking forward to throwing his six-foot frame around against players his own age.
“It’s a little tougher playing that way against 20-year-olds,” said Warkentine. “You can play the body, but you’re not necessarily going to rock anyone bigger than you. It will be nice to hopefully play a little more of a physical game.”
Uhrich is also expected to fill a bit of a physical two-way role with Team West.
“I think I’ll play a similar role to how I play (with the Warriors),” said Uhrich. “I’m an energy player. I go out there and bang bodies. I get pucks to the net. I try to set up the top players to score.”
The tournament will be held in Drummondville and Victoriaville, Que. begins Saturday and continues until Jan. 4. Both teams will play an exhibition game today before opening the competition Saturday.