Ewanyk named to national U-18 team
Centre could become solid NHL role player
By Jim Matheson, Edmonton Journal
April 6, 2011 4:20 AM
Unsung Edmonton Oil Kings centre Travis Ewanyk should be down at the drugstore looking for a card for possible No. 1 draft pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins today.
"I guess I owe him a thanks," said Ewanyk, who was picked to Canada's world under-18 team for the championship in Germany, starting next week.
"I was impressed by how Travis played against Nugent-Hopkins in the Red Deer playoff series. He's got grit, plays hard, can play all three forward positions. You give him something to do and he'll do it," said Kevin Prendergast, who was in charge of picking the under 18 squad, comprised of players from teams eliminated in the first round of playoffs or those clubs not making the post-season.
"Nugent-Hopkins is a great player. He's so shifty. He's got NHL-calibre skills. I was pretty much told to go onto the ice every time he was, especially at home with last (line) change," said Ewanyk, who had 16 goals and 27 points in his first Western Hockey League season. Not great numbers, but his play improved as the season wore on. He could be a late second-round or third-round pick in the June draft now as a solid role player. Every NHL team has scouts at this under-18 tournament because it's chock-full of draft eligible players, so Ewanyk will find himself on a bigger stage than he's ever been on.
"This is a huge surprise for me. I've never experienced something like this before on a national level, being able to put on a Canadian team jersey," he said."Travis has made great strides. He's a less robotic skater and his compete level is unbelievable. He plays with the passion you need to play in the Western League and in pro hockey. I think he'll be a better pro player than a junior player because he fit into a specific role," said Oil Kings coach Derek Laxdal.
Oil Kings centre Michael St. Croix, eligible for the June draft, and defenceman Griffin Reinhart, in the 2012 draft mix, were also considered.
The Americans and Swedes figure to be the top two teams for the tournament, which starts on April 14, but Prendergast and coach Mike Williamson, a Leduc native who coaches Calgary Hitmen, caught a break when Kitchener Rangers lost in the Ontario Hockey League first round and offensive blue-liner Ryan Murphy, an certain top-10 pick in the June draft, became available.
"We're waiting on Ryan. He got cranked on the last shift and he's being examined by doctors (for a possible concussion)," said Prendergast. "He can really skate ... he likes to lead the rush."
Prendergast said McNeill, a player high on the Edmonton Oilers' draft list, or Everett Silvertips defenceman Ryan Murray could be named captain. Murray isn't eligible until the 2012 draft. Swift Current blue-liner Reece Scarlett, who lives in Sherwood Park, is also on the team.
P.K. Subban's brother Malcolm, who's not eligible until 2012, could be the starting goalie.
"He's very athletic," said Prendergast, "and he plays in Belleville on an international size rink, which helps, too."
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