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