|Jujhar Khaira, seen here in the Spruce Kings Intra-|
Squad game is now trying out for Team Canada West
The Prince George Spruce Kings will be without the services of Jujhar Khaira for at least a couple of days this week and hopefully for a week in November too. Last season's rookie of the year will be off in Canmore, Alberta looking for a roster spot on Team Canada West for the 2011 World Junior A Challenge. Coming off an impressive season where Khaira went from being a player that had been passed over to a player that every team had to find ways of defending against.
Khaira was a young 15 year old player that was left behind during the 2009 Bantam Draft and was contemplating handing in his hockey gear for some court shoes and basketball shorts. He played one more season with the Cloverdale Colts where he was spotted and watched on many occasions by Spruce Kings scouts. A year ago that scout found out that Khaira had no options and brought him as a walk-on to the Spruce Kings main training camp. And the rest, as they say, is history.
"The coaches (and scouts) gave me an opportunity to play and show my stuff," said Jujhar Khaira. "I came to camp just looking for the experience and the coaches really liked how I played. That really surprised me. I surprised myself."
Khaira immediately found his grove and had other team's salivating at the prospect of taking this diamond in the rough off of the Spruce Kings hands. Of course the hockey operations team would have nothing to do with such an idea and continue to watch the young stud develop into a player that could easily play in the top six of this team or any other team in the League.
With soft hands and a long stride, Khaira possesses many talents that make him an elite player including the ability to stickhandle in a corner, win almost every puck battle and find an open man in scoring position. It was those skills and many others that landed the rookie a full-ride four-year scholarship from the NCAA Division I Michigan Tech Huskies before the month of October was over.
The amazing thing about all of that was the fact that he was only 16 years old; a youngster for sure but one that was being compared to other 18 and 19 year old veterans of the BCHL. This season, as a 17 year old, Jujhar Khaira has the potential of being one of the stars of the premier Junior A League in Canada and becoming an even brighter light on the hockey radar. He has worked hard in the off season at improving his game and returns to the Spruce Kings as a bigger, faster, stronger and smarter player.
"He had a tremendous season and did everything we asked of him as a 16-year-old," said Mike Hawes, Spruce Kings General Manager. "He worked hard over the summer. He packed on 20 pounds of muscle and grew another two inches. Not only is he gifted on the ice but academically as well and he's a good role model using his hockey to get himself an education. We need more players like him in Prince George."
The acknowledgement of what Jujhar Khaira is capable of doing and achieving this season has already started even before the regular season has officially begun. Khaira received a call about a week ago from Team Canada West Head Coach, Kent Lewis with the request that Khaira join 59 other hopefuls in Canmore Alberta on September 11th for a three-day evaluation camp. Lewis, Head Coach and General Manager of the Powell River Kings, only had an opportunity to see Khaira in game action twice, but that along with all the reports of the player was more than enough to garner the invite.
"Ever since I got the call I've been counting down the days," said Jujhar Khaira. "Hopefully it'll work out nicely."
The sixty hopefuls will begin arriving in Canmore on Sunday September 11th and will hit the ice together on Monday morning as members of three inter-squad rosters. Team Red is on first at 9:00am followed by Team White at 10:30 and then Team Black at noon and again at 4:00pm. Team Red and Team White will play in the first intra-squad game Monday night at 7pm. A similar schedule unfolds the next two days with Team Red and Team Black playing Tuesday night and then Team Black and Team White wrapping up the camp with a game Wednesday night.
Following the evaluation camp, Kent Lewis and the Team Canada West coaching staff will have to find their roster of 23 for the 2011 World Junior A Challenge that will take place from November 7-13 in Langley, BC. The Langley Events Centre will be the only venue used for the sixth edition of the Hockey Canada tournament showcasing six teams from five countries. Canada will be represented by two teams - East and West, while the United States, Sweden, Russia and Czech Republic will all have one team each in the two pool tournament.
The Prince George Spruce Kings have had representation in each of the four years that Team Canada West has come away with a medal. Ryan deVries (2006) and Jeff Forsythe (2007) helped Canada West to gold in back to back years while Kevin Genoe (2008) and Wes McLeod (2009) brought home silver medals in their respective years. Click Here for more information on the World Junior A Challenge including rosters and this year's schedule, visit the WJAC website from Hockey Canada.