What had once been almost unfathomable has started to become the norm for Travis Sanheim.
The fast-rising hockey star from Elkhorn is off to Montreal tomorrow for the Canadian junior team’s summer development camp.
It’s just the latest in a series of surreal moments for the 6-foot-3, 189-pound blue-liner, who in the past four months has helped Canada win a bronze medal at the world under-18 championship, been chosen with the 17th overall pick of the National Hockey League draft and gone through his first development camp with his new NHL club, the Philadelphia Flyers.
Sanheim is still living every young hockey player’s dream, but with every new experience the 18-year-old is getting better at taking it all in stride and focusing on the task at hand.
“With everything that’s happened over the past few months, it’s another crazy thing to add that is happening in my life right now, but it’s a good experience,” said Sanheim, who will be joined at the camp by Brandon Wheat Kings scoring leader and summer workout partner Jayce Hawryluk. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s a pretty big challenge, but I’m just hoping to play my game and hopefully do the right things.”
Sanheim has done a lot of things right since making the Calgary Hitmen last season, notching five goals, 24 assists and an impressive plus/minus of +25 in 67 games as a Western Hockey League rookie. He proved he could play the international game as well, leading Canada with six assists in seven games at the U18s.
The national junior team takes it to a whole new level. The 41-player camp features the cream of the crop of Canadian juniors, with seven first-round NHL picks on the blue-line competing for spots on a team that is normally stacked with 19-year-olds.
But Sanheim likes the makeup of the camp, which includes four exhibition games, taking place from Tuesday to Friday, against teams from the Czech Republic and Russia.
“I think it benefits me, playing in a game situation instead of practising,” Sanheim said. “Even just getting a chance to play against those European countries and seeing what they have to bring as well.
“We’re not there very long as it’s a quick evaluation. You’ve gotta step up right away and play your game, but at the same time you don’t want to put pressure on yourself. Just play your game; you’re there for a reason, so make the most of the opportunity.”
Sanheim knows that even with a strong showing at this camp, the world junior dream is still a long way away, with rookie camp with the Flyers and the first half of the WHL season with the Hitmen before Hockey Canada sends out invitations for the December selection camp. While it will be a tall order to make it to the next step with the national junior team, he said everything that he learned at the U18 championship and at the Flyers’ development camp last month is helping to push him closer to his goals.
“I’ve been busy the past few months and that helps me a lot, not even having to worry about what’s coming down the road, it’s more just worrying about what’s today,” he said. “… Everything that’s happened is going to help me along the way.”