Tanner Kaspick and Ty Lewis will blaze a new path this summer.
The 16-year-old Brandonites will be part of Hockey Canada’s first national under-17 development camp, starting on July 29 in Calgary, part of the process to pick three national teams for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
The international tournament is undergoing a major restructuring this year, with Canada’s contingent of five regional teams being trimmed down to three national squads, each made up of a mix of players from across the country. The tournament has also been moved from the winter to the fall, with the event slated to start on Halloween at a site yet to be determined.
It’s an opportunity that was offered to only five Manitobans and both say they’re taking it seriously.
"There’s a lot of great hockey players in Canada and to be named among the top 100 or whatever it is, it’s a big honour and I’m looking forward to the opportunity," Kaspick said.
Both Western Hockey Leauge draft picks of the Brandon Wheat Kings, the forwards are coming off fine seasons with the Midget AAA Wheat Kings. Kaspick tied for third in the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League with 63 points, including 28 goals, in 40 games, while Lewis had 28 goals and 57 points in 35 contests to tie for eighth in league scoring.
But the challenge facing them is considerable. In past years, Manitoba and Saskatchewan would combine to form a 22-player team, but this year the two provinces will send only seven players, total, to the summer camp, with no guarantees of representation in the tournament.
"I think the main thing I’m focused on is just trying to work hard right now and get in shape and have a good summer to give myself the best chance at it," Lewis said. "If I go there and I work hard and do my best, I think I’ll have a shot at it. All I can do is just play my own game and whatever happens, happens."
Kaspick has some similar experience he can draw on. Along with fellow Wheat Kings prospects Nolan Patrick and Kale Clague, who will also take part in this summer’s camp, he participated in last year’s Allstate All-Canadians Mentorship Camp, which featured 42 top players from across the country.
"I got to get to know some of the guys all across Canada at that camp, and so it’ll really help me going in to know some of those guys," Kaspick said. "But as far as actually being comfortable, a lot has changed in a year, so I can’t rest on anything and I just have to go in there and work hard."
Regardless of what comes out of the development camp, both players feel it will be a good chance to elevate their game as they try to earn spots this fall with the WHL’s Wheat Kings.
"It will get me in shape for the upcoming (Wheat Kings) camp in August," Lewis said. "There will be a lot of great hockey players there and the pace will be very fast and quick, so it should be a nice little eye-opener for camp coming up in August."