Nathan MacKinnon and his teammate Jonathan Drouin would be the last to say their age would be a hindrance in making Team Canada.
“I’m confident I can play with those guys,” said MacKinnon, a forward with the Halifax Mooseheads, said after practice Monday at the Metro Centre. “For me they know I can score. They want to see me be reliable. They want to see me be good defensively and have a mature game and be patient. That’s what I’m going to bring to camp to try to crack the roster.”
At 17, the gifted linemates were the youngest of 37 players invited to Hockey Canada’s junior team tryout camp on Monday, which begins Dec. 10 in Calgary.
For MacKinnon, he’s embracing the challenge of competing with a plethora of NHL-caliber players like Jonathan Huberdeau and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in hopes of cracking the first or second line.
“Those guys are already on the team pretty much, and there are a lot of people battling,” he said. “I’m going to make the most of it. I’m going to try to bring my speed on both sides of the puck and make smart decisions.”
Team Canada head coach Steve Spott says, for him, age is irrelevant.
“At no time did we talk about birth years,” Spott said during a press conference Monday in Calgary. “Both have shown that they are elite players in the Canadian Hockey League and that’s why they are attending this camp.”
Right after Drouin got the call from Hockey Canada on Sunday night he gave his dad a phone call to share the good news.
But, like his teammate, he says there’s no doubt in his mind that he belongs.
“I’m in a great mood and I want to keep that going,” said Drouin. “It’s a great boost. It would be a better boost if I make the team, but I just have to prove I can.”
Moose coach not worried about losing entire top line
In a matter of days Mooseheads coach Dominique Ducharme will lose his trusted top line but he realizes it’s for the greater good.
Besides MacKinnon and Drouin, forward Martin Frk has been invited to the Czech Republic junior camp and is considered a lock to make the team.
“It’s all positive; the whole organization is proud,” said Ducharme. “If they make it we’ll find a way. It will make them better and us better but in the meantime everyone here has to chip in and do more and make sure we play as a team. Last year we got through key injuries. It’s just a different challenge for us.”
While he remains confident the trio will be successful, he also stressed they’ve already achieved something extraordinary.
“They want to be difference makers. They don’t want to be on the ice and be passengers. It make them better and it makes everyone else better.”
MacKinnon, Drouin and Frk will all be in the lineup Tuesday night when Halifax visits the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles.