Monday, November 14, 2011

Bringing Home the Gold and a Whole Lot More

Jujhar Khaira proudly displays his gold medal he won with
Team Canada West at the 2011 World Junior A Challenge

Jujhar Khaira arrived back in Prince George earlier today sporting a little something around his neck but it was the pride that beamed through loud and clear for this Spruce Kings forward. Khaira spent the last couple of weeks in Langley, BC with Team Canada West sharing a common goal of winning gold and now the hard work hangs off a black ribbon around his neck and lingers deep inside his memory bank.

Into his second season with the Spruce Kings and Junior A hockey career, Khaira has been one of those players that has turned heads, left scouts scribbling notes and broadcasters scratching their heads on how to pronounce this still relatively unknown sensation's name (for the record it is Ja_jar Care_ah). For those that know him, it is a mystery how this skilled, physical forward could have gone unnoticed previously.

At the age of 15, when other hockey players his age were hearing their names called in the Bantam Draft, Khaira did not. It left him wondering if hockey was really the sport for him. He was playing for the Cloverdale Colts and his loyalty to the team kept on the ice and in the game to the end of the season. It was during these late season games that he was spotted by a Spruce Kings scout who sat down with the teenager and encouraged him to come to Prince George.

He came as an unknown and quickly had the attention of the Spruce Kings coaching and scouting staff at the main camp who wasted no time in asking Khaira if he would like to stay and try and make the team through the preseason schedule. He made the team as a 16 year old player and began playing above his age almost immediately, looking more like an 18 or 19 year old on the ice. He had the ability to win puck battles along the board, move the puck through traffic and feather a pass to an open player at will.

These abilities earned him a NCAA Division I scholarship with the Michigan Tech Huskies as his stock continued to rise in the BCHL. In the off season, Jujhar knew that he wanted to come back for his second season as the best 17 year old possible. He worked out hard and had a growth spurt that saw him grow two inches taller and put on 20 pounds of pure muscle. His work ethic and attitude towards the game gave him a spot on the top line which he embraced.

Although he has missed six games with his time away playing for Team Canada West, Jujhar Khaira's name still sits in the top fifteen among the League leading scorers with 11 goals and 16 assists in just 13 games. That puts him on a 2.1 points per game pace which is tops in the League alongside his line mate, Paul De Jersey. With the experience that he has gained playing in the World Junior A Challenge, he certainly hopes he won't be missing a beat when he gets back into the Spruce Kings roster.

Juhar Khaira was the youngest on the 22 player Team Canada West roster having only turned 17 exactly 3 months before the gold medal game was played. Khaira found himself in more of a checking role providing a physical presence with more of a defensive assignment in the games. Spruce Kings Head Coach, Dave Dupas thinks that the experience will make Khaira more of an all-around good player and in the process make the Spruce Kings that much better as well.

I had a chance to sit down with Jujhar after he arrived back in Prince George and got his thoughts on the whole experience.

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