Ryan Howse may finally get his chance to don the Canadian maple leaf this winter as he vies for a spot on Team Canada’s U-20 IIHF World Junior Championship squad.
For years, the Prince George native has been overlooked by the decision makers at Hockey Canada.
But a 47 goal season in 2009-10 seems to have finally caught their attention.
The Calgary Flames prospect is on the list of 41 skaters invited to a Team Canada selection camp that will take place in early August in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Eighteen of those skaters hail from the Western Hockey League.
“I didn’t really believe it at first,” Howse said of his reaction to a call from Canadian assistant coach Bob Boughner. “You sit at home every Christmas watching the tournament and it’s been a dream of mine to play in the tournament for as long as I can remember. Now I’ve got one chance to make it happen.”
Being excluded from Team Canada camps has been a sore spot for Howse throughout his major junior career. There’s no doubt he was at least good enough to get a look last season, but Canadian brass didn’t glance his way.
No one has ever doubted his offensive ability, but Howse believes other facets of his game held him back.
“It was frustrating at times, but they make their decisions on certain things,” Howse noted. “Maybe it was consistency holding me back. I was up and down and hurt a bit the last few years. But last year, I wasn’t hurt once and I was a lot more consistent. I think that really helped me.”
Howse has worked hard to address other perceived deficiencies, guided by Chilliwack Bruins head coach Marc Habscheid. The Bruins bench boss played in the 1982 IIHF World Junior Championship, and coached Canada to silver at the 2003 tournament.
Habscheid has twice coached Canada’s men at the World Championships (gold in 2004 and silver in 2005) and was an assistant coach for Canada at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics.
He knows what’s required.
“It certainly doesn’t hurt to have Marc for a coach,” Howse said. “He tells me what I need to do and I work hard on what he tells me. Now I’m being rewarded for it.”
With just one chance left to realize a lifelong dream, Howse knows how crucial the August camp is.
But he’s not about to let the pressure get to him.
“All the pressure is on the high draft picks,” he said. “I’m going in there to play my game. Everyone deserves to be there and I think if I go in there and play the way I did last season, I should be good.”
Get the full selection camp roster online at www.hockeycanada.ca.