Home­land he­roes Canada not only coun­try that will have CHLers at world ju­niors

The Prince George Citizen - - Sports - Kyle CICERELLA

Maxim Ca­jkovic didn’t know a thing about the Que­bec Ma­jor Ju­nior Hockey League when he left Europe for the 2018-19 sea­son, never mind how the world ju­nior cham­pi­onship is em­braced in Canada.

The an­nual tour­na­ment isn’t viewed quite the same back home in Slo­vakia.

“I hear peo­ple in Canada watch it more than the ac­tual men’s cham­pi­onship,” said Ca­jkovic, a Saint John Sea Dogs for­ward from Bratislava.

“I talked to my bil­let fam­ily and they told me they watch it every year, every game. And I see all the com­mer­cials here so I guess it’s re­ally, re­ally big.”

Canada has in­vited 29 Cana­dian Hockey League skaters to se­lec­tion camp next week, but it isn’t the only coun­try with CHL play­ers at the event.

The 17-year-old Ca­jkovic is one of many CHL im­port play­ers that will be leav­ing his team and head­ing to camp in an ef­fort to crack his na­tional team’s ros­ter for the tour­na­ment that be­gins Box­ing Day in Van­cou­ver and Vic­to­ria.

Kaza­khstan is the only coun­try among the 10 par­tic­i­pat­ing teams that won’t have a CHL player.

“It would mean al­most ev­ery­thing to me,” said Ca­jkovic, who went No. 1 to Saint John in the 2018 CHL Im­port Draft. “I watched world ju­niors last five years and it’s pretty much my dream to go there.”

The On­tario Hockey League’s Sud­bury Wolves will be los­ing a big part of their early-sea­son suc­cess with Fin­nish goal­tender Ukko-Pekka Luukko­nen head­ing to the tour­na­ment for the se­cond year in a row.

He was Fin­land’s starter in the 2018 edi­tion in Buf­falo and is look­ing for some re­demp­tion af­ter his coun­try was bounced in the quar­ter­fi­nals by the Czech Repub­lic and placed sixth.

“Last year was a hard year for us but there’s a lot of things to learn from,” said the 19-year-old, who Slo­vakia’s Maxim Ca­jkovic, cen­tre, bat­tles for puck pos­ses­sion against Cana­di­ans Max­ence Guenette, left, and Pey­ton Krebs dur­ing the Hlinka Gret­zky Cup in Ed­mon­ton in Au­gust. was taken No. 3 in the CHL im­port best com­pe­ti­tion. He moved away fo­cus on what I do with Saint draft. “There’s no easy team in the from home with his mom when John,” said Ca­jkovic. tour­na­ment. You have to be ready he was 12 to the Czech Repub­lic “A lot of pres­sure, most pres­sure for ev­ery­one.” to pur­sue hockey at a higher level, I’ve ever had on me. It’s un­be­liev­able

Luukko­nen plans to have his and went on to play two years in how much pres­sure there is.” par­ents and girl­friend make the Swe­den prior to join­ing the Sea The main rea­son he came to the flight over from Fin­land for the Dogs. He has spent the ma­jor­ity CHL was be­cause he was told it tour­na­ment, which is a big deal of his young ca­reer play­ing with would help his chances of mak­ing back home. play­ers much older than him. it to the NHL.

“A cou­ple real good years and “Hockey (is) pretty much ev­ery­thing “I didn’t know much, just that host­ing in Fin­land, it’s a big thing,” for me,” said Ca­jkovic. “It it was the ju­nior NHL, best ju­nior said Luukko­nen. “Of course it’s was the only thing I ever played league in the world and I would hard for a lot to watch the games com­pet­i­tively. Started at five, com­pete with the best play­ers for when we are in Van­cou­ver but as play­ing with the un­der-11 guys this age. That was pretty much hockey it’s a big thing.” when I was five. it. I didn’t know any teams,” said

Ca­jkovic has never played for “I al­ways played with older kids, Ca­jkovic.

Slo­vakia’s un­der-20 squad but was only sea­son with my age group Just like Canada, which finds an dom­i­nant at the past U18s, where was the first year in Swe­den.” ex­tra gear when it plays the ri­val he fin­ished se­cond in tour­na­ment Play­ers like Luukko­nen have Amer­i­cans, Ca­jkovic says that rep­re­sent­ing scor­ing be­hind Amer­i­can and top used the in­ter­na­tional spot­light Slo­vakia is al­ways ex­tra NHL prospect Jack Hughes, who’s in the past to gain the at­ten­tion of spe­cial when he lines up across ex­pected to be one of the stars at NHL teams, lead­ing to the Fin­nish from the Czech Repub­lic. the world ju­niors. net­min­der be­ing taken 54th over­all “Czechs are re­ally good and they

Ca­jkovic, a five-foot-11, by the Buf­falo Sabres in 2017. think they are bet­ter than us and 179-pound right-handed winger, Ca­jkovic is hop­ing to do some­thing not nice to us, so we just want to has had a long road to the CHL, sim­i­lar in 2019. beat them,” said Ca­jkovic. “Ba­si­cally and is clos­ing in on ful­fill­ing his “You see the rank­ings and a ri­valry. I don’t think we dream of play­ing in the world peo­ple talk­ing about it... it’s pretty have any­one else like that.” ju­niors af­ter years of trav­el­ling tough for my head to think about Slo­vakia opens its tour­na­ment around the world look­ing for the all that stuff. I try to stop and just Dec. 26 against the U.S. in Vic­to­ria, where all Group B games are be­ing held. Canada starts against Den­mark in Van­cou­ver, the site of all Group A games.

CHL play­ers who are at­tend­ing na­tional team camps and could be par­tic­i­pat­ing in the world ju­nior hockey cham­pi­onship in­clude:

Goalie Jiri Pat­era (Bran­don); De­fence­men Filip Kral (Spokane), Radim Salda (Ri­mouski), Daniel Bukac (Ni­a­gara); For­wards Petr Cjaka (Erie), Jakub Lauko (Rouyn-No­randa), Matej Pekar (Bar­rie), Ostap Safin (Hal­i­fax), Krystof Hra­bik (Tri-City).

Goalie Mads So­gaard (Medicine Hat); For­ward Philip Schultz (Vic­to­ria).

Goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukko­nen (Sud­bury); De­fenc­men Ant­ta­lainen Aleksi (Blainville-Bois­briand), Thom­son Lassi (Kelowna).

De­fence­man Dmitry Samorukov (Guelph), Alexan­der Alex­eyev (Red Deer), Alexan­der Kho­vanov (Monc­ton); For­ward Ivan Chekhovich (Baie-Comeau).

Won’t be con­firmed un­til Dec. 15.

De­fence­man Adam Bo­qvist (Lon­don); For­wards Hugo Leufve­nius (Sar­nia), Rickard Hugg (Kitch­ener).

Czech Repub­lic: Den­mark: Fin­land: Rus­sia: Slo­vakia: Swe­den:

De­fence­men Nico Gross (Oshawa), Si­mon Le Coul­tre (Monc­ton); For­wards Valentin Nuss­baumer (Shaw­ini­gan), Nando Eggen­berger (Oshawa), Philipp Kura­shev (Que­bec), Kyen Sopa (Ni­a­gara).

Goalie Kyle Keyser (Oshawa); De­fence­man Joey Keane (Bar­rie); For­wards Sasha Ch­melevski (Ot­tawa), Cole Coskey (Sag­i­naw), Ja­son Robert­son (Ni­a­gara). (Amer­i­cans are not con­sid­ered im­port play­ers in the CHL).

Switzer­land: USA:

CP FILE PHOTO

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