After returning last Sunday from a seven-game road trip in the United States, two members of the Saskatoon Blades are packing their suitcases once again.
On Tuesday, Hockey Canada announced that newly acquired forward and Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Fraser Minten, along with the Nashville Predators’ 2023 first-round pick, defenceman Tanner Molendyk, will be heading to Oakville, Ont. for Canada’s world junior selection camp, which begins on Sunday. The tournament itself starts on Dec. 26.
“Obviously it was a goal of mine, and I want to be there and make that team,” Minten said.
Minten said his former coach Shaun Clouston – who will serve as an assistant coach for Team Canada at the tournament – was the one who gave him the invitation.
“It’s a good step in that direction by getting to that selection camp,” added Minten, who played for Clouston with the Kamloops Blazers before being acquired by Saskatoon.
Fraser Minten played his first game as a member of the Saskatoon Blades on Nov. 25 against the Portland Winterhawks. (Portland Winterhawks)
That means the 19-year-old – who has already done a whole lot of travel over the past three months – will have to get on a plane once again.
His journeys began in September when he was invited to the Maple Leafs’ prospects camp. He stuck around in the pre-season and was named to the Maple Leafs’ opening-night roster. He travelled along with the Leafs and played in four games for the club before being returned to Kamloops.
He returned to his junior hockey home of at the end of October, but that didn’t last. Just 22 days later he was traded to Saskatoon, and met up with his new team in Portland to finish off the Blades’ United States road trip.
Minten said he’s accepted that hockey requires logging a lot of miles.
“It’s tough, obviously,” he said. “You’d rather be getting to know your teammates and get more comfortable with an area, but it’s part of the job. You’re a travelling entertainer to an extent, so you don’t really mind it. You get treated really well everywhere. You get a bed, you get food (and) you get an opportunity to play the game you want to play, so it’s not as bad as it sounds.”
Despite leaving his car behind – it now belongs to his brother, who uses it for school – Minten said he has everything that he needs and has enjoyed his time in Saskatoon so far.
“It’s nice to finally get a place that kind of feels like home,” he said. “Getting some nights in the same bed is good – I haven’t had lots of that this year – but it’s a good town, good people and pretty good so far.”
Minten said he hopes his travels will soon include a trip to Gothenburg, Sweden for the world junior championship.
For Molendyk, making Team Canada would be a dream come true.
“I was in Spokane when I found out, and it was kind of surreal,” said Molendyk.
“You don’t expect that call on a U.S. roadie, but it made it a lot of fun hearing that call. You watch that tournament every Christmas, so it’s going to be a lot of fun to maybe play for them.”
Unlike Minten, Molendyk has previously had the opportunity to represent Canada on the international stage, as he played for the national team at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup last summer.
While he has some previous Hockey Canada experience, he didn’t think that would make him an automatic choice for the team.
“I don’t think that really gives anyone an advantage,” Molendyk said. “Everyone’s there for a reason, so I’ll just have to give it my best.”