Although they weren’t able to come away with a medal from the 2019 World Juniors, the chance to play for Team Canada is something that Prince Albert Raiders teammates Ian Scott and Brett Leason won’t forget.
“It’s something you dream about since you’re a little kid,” Scott said. “You grow up and hope that you have a chance to play in the tournament, so it was really special to have that happen.
“When you get the chance to put on the Canada jersey, it’s a proud moment,” Leason added. “It was a really fun experience for me and I really enjoyed every day that I was out there.”
Leason, who led the Raiders in scoring with 66 points in 34 games going into Friday’s home game with the Portland Winterhawks, had a slight scare before the tournament began as he blocked a shot with his hand during the third and final scrimmage at Canada’s selection camp in Victoria.
“Obviously my hand was a bit sore after that, but it turned out to be a little stinger so I felt like I would be okay for the tournament,” Leason said. “With that said, I put in a lot of extra work in order to get back on the ice.
“I think everything really started to hit me as I was getting ready for that first game of the round-robin against Denmark. You start think about what the opportunity that you have and everyone you are playing for. That was a truly memorable moment.”
During the tournament, Leason showed why he’s being talked about as a first round pick in this year’s NHL Draft, as he recorded three goals and two assists in five games.
“ I was lucky enough to play for most of the tournament with (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds teammates) Morgan Frost and Barrett Hayton,” Leason explained.
“They are both smaller guys, but they are really skilled playmakers and really did well together. Unfortunately, we just weren’t able to do enough on offence to get past the quarter-finals.”
Scott, who had a 24-4-0-1 record with a 1.73 goals against average, a .939 save percentage and four shutouts heading into this weekend’s games, served as the backup to Ottawa 67’s netminder Michael DiPietro at the tournament.
He did get the start in one round-round game, as he turned aside 15 shots in a 3-2 win over Switzerland.
“When you step on the ice and see all of the fans around the rink, you get chills,” Scott said.
“I was pretty happy with how I played against Switzerland. It was a slower paced game, but when you are up against international competition you have to be ready at all times because anyone can score when they have a chance.”
Away from the ice, Scott was able to receive his 2018 Calder Cup ring from his stint with the Toronto Marlies at the tournament, as he met up with Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas.
“Kyle happened to be staying at the same hotel that my family was at, so we got we were able to meet up around New Year’s and he presented me with the ring then,” said Scott, who signed his entry level contract with the Maple Leafs prior to the tournament.
“That was a really cool moment for everyone, but I think my dad might have been the most excited out of all us. He sees all of the NHL general managers on TV, so it was pretty neat for him to get to meet Kyle in person.”
While both players are now gearing up to help the Raiders win their first Western Hockey League title since 1985, Leason will soon have another opportunity to showcase his skills on a big stage.
He will represent the team at the 2019 Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, which will be held in Red Deer on Wednesday, Jan. 23.
“I think there’s a lot that I can take away from the World Juniors towards events like that and other opportunities that might come my way in the future,” Leason said.
“When you get to the international stage, everyone’s a step faster than what you see on a regular basis here in the WHL. You realize right away of the level that you need to play at, especially at an event like the World Juniors.”