The Red Deer Rebels may be represented when Team Canada heads off to the IIHF World Junior Championships.
Rebels’ blueliner Haydn Fleury has been named to Team Canada’s final 30-man selection camp roster for the WJCs, which opens on Dec. 26th in Helskinki, Finland.
“It’s a real honour. It’s a dream come true to be named to the camp and if I make the team it would be just a childhood dream come true,” said the 19-year-old Saskatchewan native.
Fleury will be one of 11 defensemen to attend Team Canada’s last training camp in Etobicoke, Ont. from Dec. 10th-14th.
That short list includes some of the biggest names in the CHL, including Calgary Hitmen star Travis Sanheim.
It is likely the defensive core, easily one of the deepest at the tournament, will be paired down to six or seven before the puck drops on Boxing Day.
“I’m just going to go there and play my game. I mean I went to the camp last year so I know what to expect, I know the intensity that the camp brings,” Fleury said.
The towering offensive defenseman is no stranger to the international stage. He won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and added a bronze medal to his resume at the 2014 IIHF World U18 Championship.
“Anytime you can put on that jersey, whether it’s in Canada or overseas, you play with pride and you kind of play with the country on your back. You want a medal, especially a gold medal for the country, Canada has that gold standard, so you just try to do that extra little bit to win that medal,” he said.
Fleury has been a force in the Rebels’ lineup this year, both offensively and defensively.
The Carlyle, Sask. native has seven goals and 12 assists for 19 points in 23 games this year.
“Things have been going well for me offensively this year. I’m playing well, I think, playing with lots of confidence and being able to make plays and playing with some skilled players like (Ivan) Nikolishin and (Michael) Spacek. That always helps. If you just get open they can give you the puck and give you a good look to score.”
In his own zone, Fleury brings a +6 plus/minus rating and a knack for penalty killing.
“I think I’m just going to be a solid two way guy. I don’t think I’ll be offensive or just a defensive guy. I think I’ll just go there and play a good two-way game, kill penalties and that kind of stuff,” Fleury said when asked about the kind of role he expects he might fill on the WJC roster.
Fleury attended the final selection camp before last year’s World Juniors, but just missed the team.
If he makes it this year, Fleury will head overseas to try and repeat Team Canada’s gold medal effort from last year’s WJCs in Montreal and Toronto.
“I’m a 19-year-old, that’s a big thing. I’ve proven myself before on the international stage. I’ve played my fair share of games on the international level, and I’ve succeeded there, so I think my experience in those tournaments can help me this time around,” he said when asked why he thought he was chosen for the camp.
Perhaps the biggest difference that this year’s crop of young competitors from Canada will have to contend with is the size of the international ice surfaces.
“In the defensive zone, that’s the biggest difference,” Fleury said, adding you can’t go running out of your way to make a hit.
“You’ve got to be more positionally sound and you have to be aware of your positioning everywhere on the ice.”
Spacek is the only other player to be named to his country’s World Junior selection camp roster, he’ll head back to the Czech Republic before Dec. 13th.
Rebels leading scorer Nikolishin is also expected to receive an invite to Russia’s selection camp, although there has been no official announcement.