It’s a dream come true for most hockey players when they’re called to don the red and white for Canada and for a few Mississauga Steelhead players that dream is coming earlier than expected.
Hockey Canada has chosen four Steelheads to represent the country in two upcoming November tournaments.
Michael McLeod and Nathan Bastian will play in the CHL Canada versus Russia series in Owen Sound on the 12th. Ryan McLeod and Owen Tippett will wear the Maple Leaf at the World U-17 Hockey Challenge in British Columbia from the 1st-7th.
“Obviously, it’s a huge honour, and to be with Nathan Bastian, he’s a good friend of mine,” said McLeod after a Steelheads game against Saginaw. “Hopefully we can play on the same line. With our chemistry it could be awesome.”
Michael McLeod, who struggled in his inaugural season with the Steelheads, has come out of the gates strong this season racking up 14 points in the first 12 games and is sitting in top 20 in scoring in the OHL.
Bastian has eight points in his 10 games but has become a leader in his third season with the Mississauga club. Both players are draft eligible this year with McLeod being pegged for a first-rounder and Bastian as a second or third round pick.
Playing with some of the OHL’s best in Owen Sound could be a strong showing of their abilities.
— OHLSteelheads (@OHLSteelheads) October 21, 2015
While it is exciting for the players to be invited to these Hockey Canada events and tournaments, it leaves their league teams with a few places to fill, especially considering all four of them are forwards.
“It creates holes in our lineup,” said Steelheads coach James Boyd. “But it gives an opportunity to other players to come in and those players are usually super enthusiastic when they’re here.”
The Steelheads will bring some call-ups in from their affiliate teams and are also looking into bringing some prospects to fill in for the games the players will be gone for.
Tippett and Ryan McLeod will be missing the most action for the Steelheads; they will leave for B.C. on Monday but for the two OHL rookies, the experience is something to look forward to.
“It’s amazing to put on the red and white and maple leaf on my chest,” said Tippett, outside of the dressing room at the Hershey Centre. “It’s been a dream since I was a little kid so I am really excited.”
The Peterborough, Ont. native has two goals for the Steelheads while McLeod has a lone assist.
Coach Boyd knows that playing for Canada in the tournament will help to shape them to become even better contributors for Mississauga.
“I’ve never had a player that went away to a Hockey Canada event and didn’t come back a better player.”