Brandon’s Tyson Verhelst has been anxiously counting down the days until the start of the second annual Allstate All-Canadian Mentorship Camp for the last few weeks.
The 15-year-old goalie was the only hockey player from Manitoba invited to the elite camp that will be run by the National Hockey League Players’ Association from Tuesday through July 21 in Mississauga, Ont., and he can’t wait to learn as much as he can at the camp.
"It’s something special I’m going to take pride in, listen and work really hard so I can get the most out of it," said Verhelst, who flies out on Sunday. "I think (the instructors are) the top of the line."
The camp directors selected the best bantam-aged players in Canada to come to Mississauga and work with former NHL players — headlined by 21-year veteran Gary Roberts — and some of the country’s top experts in sports psychology, nutrition and strength and conditioning. The goal of the camp is to make the players more well-rounded, on and off the ice.
New York Rangers netminder Martin Biron will work with the six goalies in camp on their footwork, positioning, rebound control and other things he has learned in his 14 seasons in the NHL.
The prestigious camp, however, isn’t just for the players. There are also seminars for parents to educate them about information they need to help their children make well-informed decisions on their future and how to better support them.
Both of Verhelst’s parents — Bruce and Leslee — will join him at the camp, and Verhelst couldn’t be happier about it.
"I’m happy my parents can go," he said. "Then they can learn about it and help me out along the way. They can keep reminding me of it."
The 5-foot-11, 165-pound Verhelst, who posted a 15-4-2-1 record and a 2.04 goals-against average in Division 1 of the Winnipeg AAA Bantam Hockey League last season, knows how valuable this camp will be to help him reach his long-term goals. He wants to play in the WHL and then the NHL in the future.
He’s off to a good start at accomplishing the first part of his goal as he was a third-round selection — 58th overall — by the Spokane Chiefs in this year’s WHL Bantam Draft. Verhelst was also a third-round pick of the Neepawa Natives in the MJHL draft. He has also been invited to the final selection camp for Manitoba’s under-16 team from Aug. 8-11 in Winnipeg. That team will play in the Western Canada Challenge Cup in Calgary in November.
While Verhelst hopes to learn a lot from the NHL players and other experts, the camp’s final activity — an intrasquad game — intrigues him as well. The 42 players will be split into two teams and play a game on July 21 at noon that will be broadcast on TSN, the first step in helping those players get closer to becoming household names.
"It’s going to be something," he said. "It’s going to be super special to be on TV with some really good players in front of a live audience. It will be really neat. I think it will be really good for exposure."