KAMLOOPS — The newly-named head coach of the Canada under-18 team says there may be a spot or two available for his best 2000-born players in Kamloops.
Don Hay thinks 17 year olds Brodi Stuart, named rookie of the year with 16 goals and 22 assists in 70 games, and Jackson Shepard have a chance.
"Both very good players. Jackson played in the Hlinka tournament last year in the summer time, won a gold medal. Brodi Stuart I thought had a really outstanding year as a 17 year old player for us here in Kamloops," noted Hay. "So both players are definitely candidates and possibilities."
It's the fourth time Hay has been asked to coach a Canadian team — twice at the world juniors, which included a gold-medal win in 1995 and a bronze medal in 2012, and now twice at the under-18 world championships. He led Canada to gold in 2013.
"Whenever you get asked to represent Canada, that's a very proud moment," said Hay. "I think it's just a great opportunity to continue coaching at a high level, to represent your country and to work with high-level athletes. For me, it's an extension of playoffs. It's my playoffs."
Hay got the call last week from his Blazers coaching mentor Tom Renney, the President of Hockey Canada, days after the team's season had ended. Hay acknowledged with the CHL playoffs going on, he doesn't expect the best Canadian team there is out there.
"You have to be patient as a coach. You might not see your team until later, or after the tournament starts. So there could be players you're working with that aren't going to make your team but are going to make your team better," said Hay. "That's always a challenge to stay on course. You can't get frustrated, you can't get ahead of yourself. You just stay patient and work with the players that Brad McEwen has isolated for you and you work with them and try to form a team with the players you have. There's going to be some real good players, players that are going to be good players in the upcoming NHL Draft in June."
The last time Hay coached the U18 team was in 2013, and he happened to have the player who is now the best in the world, Connor McDavid.
"That was his first taste of international competition with Canada," he said. "Obviously being from the West, you heard a lot of good things about Connor McDavid. You never had the opportunity to watch him. He took part in the camp and obviously made the team as an underage and did well. He was named the tournament MVP. I hope there's a Connor McDavid out there this year."
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