As the lone returnee from the 2019 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, Winnipeg ICE centre Matthew Savoie is excited to take on a leadership capacity in joining 112 Canadian Hockey League prospects at Hockey Canada’s Virtual National Under-17 Development Camp.
Beginning Sunday, the week-long workshop offers invitees the opportunity to build rapport with the coaching staff and potential future teammates on the international stage through online seminars and intimate breakout sessions as on-ice evaluations remain restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You are talking to guys for three hours a day and you are creating relationships,” the 16-year-old Savoie told the Canadian Hockey League. “Sometimes they break you off into smaller groups and you can really go in-depth and create stronger bonds so I think that’s huge.
“There are lots of similar seminars that I went to last year so it is good to be reinforced on those. My coaches see me as a leader on the team and I like that because I am experienced with the camp as I went through it last year. I like to take that role with this group and I think it has been a fun first couple of days. They have made it competitive and there has been a positive atmosphere the whole time.”
Suiting up with Team Canada White last fall, Savoie impressed with point-per-game production counting one goal and five assists to tie for the team lead in scoring as the squad challenged for the bronze medal and finished at the front of the pack among three Canadian renditions. Serving as an introduction to Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence, the unforgettable opportunity also marked the first time the Alberta native pulled on Canada’s iconic maple leaf jersey.
“It was incredibly special. All of the guys were racing to get dressed just so they could put on (the Team Canada jersey),” Savoie recalled. “Playing as an underager, I knew quite a few guys on the team too so that made me a little more comfortable. We wish we made it a little farther but I thought we played well and it was just a great experience with Hockey Canada.”
As a leader among his new teammates, Savoie is excited to take on a veteran role among the 2004-born age group and happily offer advice to first years, a familiar setting for him only a year ago.
“Some guys mentioned that they were nervous. The biggest advice I have is just be yourself and have fun with it,” Savoie said. “The coaches are emphasizing having fun and keeping a positive attitude. The most important thing is building relationships and chemistry with your hopefully later on teammates.”
In all, last year’s experience was part a whirlwind season for Savoie that began with his first-overall selection in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft and culminated with a 22-game trial with the ICE in which he collected seven points. The budding offensive star, who likens his playing style to Colorado Avalanche superstar and Halifax Mooseheads graduate Nathan MacKinnon, believes that experience will be key to adjusting to the league full time in the upcoming campaign.
“Dipping my toe in the water and getting a little more comfortable with the league and the pace of play, I think that will be huge for next year,” Savoie added. “I won’t have to feel it out and I will already know what to expect. I think that will be huge, just knowing what I am going into.”
Hockey Canada’s U17 camp runs through July 25 and will be followed by a virtual edition of the National Junior Team Summer Development Camp scheduled for July 27-31.