World junior a dream come true for Knights captain

Evan Bouchard was in a familiar spot when he was named to Hockey Canada’s world junior selection camp roster Monday afternoon.

He watched the announcement in the Knights dressing room – despite a scheduled off day for the hottest team in the Ontario Hockey League.

“Being able to play in it would be really special,” the London captain said. “Everyone dreams of playing in it. You think of it as a kid and watch the event for years growing up.”

The 19-year-old Oilers first-rounder is an obvious frontrunner to play a big role on Canada’s blue-line in Vancouver and Victoria later this month. He won’t be going through the process alone. Knights forwards Alex Formenton, a Senators prospect, and Blue Jackets property Liam Foudy were among the 34 players invited to the camp Dec. 10-14 in Victoria, B.C.

“It’s exciting, not just for myself, but that Alex and Liam are going as well,” Bouchard said. “It’s good to have some teammates going with you there.”

This hat trick is nothing new for London.

Formenton was part of last year’s gold-medal team along with Robert Thomas and Victor Mete, who was loaned to the national junior program by the Montreal Canadiens for the tournament.

Thomas is eligible for a similar situation, but there has been no indication the St. Louis Blues will release the rookie for duty. They have until an NHL roster freeze on Dec. 19 to make that decision.

Like the Knights, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds also have three players on board – Morgan Frost, Barrett Hayton and goaltender Matthew Villalta.

Londoners Nick Suzuki (Owen Sound) and Isaac Ratcliffe (Guelph) also were selected for the camp. Suzuki, now a Habs prospect, was a late cut from last year’s team.

He, Bouchard and Foudy are among three of the OHL’s 15 stars heading west. They also are part of a group that includes 16 first-round NHL picks.

Most of the invitees already have extensive international experience.

Bouchard won a gold medal at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, but his under-18 team failed to come home with any hardware.

He has redemption on his mid.

“The world junior camp will be a little different than under-17s and that stuff,” he said. “It’s obviously a little more intense and should be a grind. It should be a good time.”

Bouchard and Formenton appeared in nine NHL games each this fall – and both scored their first big-league goal. They have victories in all 11 games they have played with London since their return as part of the Knights’ current 14-game winning streak.

Bouchard has five goals and 15 points with a plus-20 rating already, while Formenton, one of the two returning players to Canadian camp, has seven goals and 14 points in the last month.

Foudy is still 18 years old and eligible to play in the tournament

“That time in the NHL helps a lot,” Bouchard said. “You go from playing against pros and it makes it that much easier. It feels good to be back with the guys in London again. We have a really strong team this year and all of it helps with the success we’ve had individually and as a group.”

The final roster is expected to be named Dec. 14. Team Canada will play three exhibition games and open the 2019 tournament Boxing Day against Denmark in Vancouver.

rpyette@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/RyanatLFPress

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