World Juniors Game Preview: Canada vs. Finland

Following his selection to Canada’s National Junior Team in December, Logan Stankoven used his confidence to end the season on a high

What matters is not how you start, but how you end. Although Logan Stankoven expected a better start to the 2021-2022 season, a good dose of confidence has allowed him to have his best year in the Western Hockey League (WHL).

Fresh off signing his rookie contract with the Dallas Stars last September, he returned from his pro team’s training camp just in time for the Kamloops Blazers opener. However, the return to junior hockey was more difficult than expected for the center player.

“I found it less obvious to adapt to the rhythm and to make plays with my teammates, he confides. At Stars camp, I was trying to keep up with the bigger players, and when I got back to junior hockey, the pace was slower, so my timing was less on point. I tried to be everywhere at the same time, because that’s what I had been used to in professional hockey. »

Even if his start to the season did not satisfy him, the athlete from Kamloops, British Columbia, still scored 13 goals and 32 points in his first 22 games. Still, he was surprised to receive an invitation to Canada’s National Junior Team selection camp in December.

“It was definitely a big surprise,” he says. I thought I had a good start to the season, but not more than that. »

His teammate with the Blazers, goaltender Dylan Garand, also got the call from Hockey Canada. As a player who had lived the experience of the national junior team in the 2021 edition, Garand offered advice to his Kamloops teammate and made sure to encourage him through the selection process.

Due to COVID-19 precautions, Stankoven was only able to play one exhibition game during selection camp, but he made the most of his opportunity.

“He played an excellent game, I told him it was his best performance ever,” said Garand. After this game, I was really not surprised that he carved out a position with the team. »

“I really tried to make my mark,” says Stankoven. My selection to the Junior National Team surprised me, but I was really excited and happy. »

Although he was left out of the preseason and tournament opener against the Czech Republic, Stankoven scored on his World Juniors debut in the Dec. 28 matchup against Austria.

“It was a surreal moment, I grew up following the World Juniors during the holidays, and just to have the chance to play in this tournament, which is such a big one, it was incredible, he remembers. It’s really cool to play on TV and have that exposure in front of family and friends. »

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the competition the following day. Although the 19-year-old was limited to one game, his overall tournament experience had a huge impact on him.

“Just knowing that I had my place with the team, that I was chosen, that the staff of Hockey Canada had enough confidence in me to join the team, it gave me a very big boost. trusted and served as a springboard. »

This wind of confidence was transposed into Stankoven’s game. During the remainder of the regular season, he had 32 goals and 72 points in 37 games; in his last ten games, he had nine more than one points (accumulating 24 points in the process).

He continued to shine in the playoffs, scoring 31 points in 17 games — including four hat tricks. The Blazers suffered semi-final elimination from the WHL playoffs at the hands of the Seattle Thunderbirds.

“As soon as he got back to Kamloops, he took off until the end of the campaign,” said Garand. His contribution to our success has been enormous. We had a really good club and we had a great year. He played a huge role, especially in the second half of the season. »

Stankoven’s prowess on the ice has earned him some accolades. The centerman won the Four-Broncos Memorial Trophy as WHL Player of the Year and the David-Branch Trophy as Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Player of the Year.

“It’s pretty cool to be recognized across the CHL, and there are so many other great players who could have won this award,” he said. I didn’t get this honor just because of my personal achievements, it was thanks to my team that I got it, because I was part of a winning club, and my teammates really helped me. These guys deserve a pat on the back. »

Stankoven also won the Brad-Hornung Memorial Trophy as the WHL’s Most Sportsmanlike Player. This award he dedicates to his parents who taught him respect and humility.

“It doesn’t matter how good you are at hockey or in any sport, it doesn’t mean anything, he philosophizes. If you’re not a good person, you won’t get far in life. When I finish my internship in Kamloops, I want to be remembered as someone who had a positive influence within the organization. »

“He leads by example, he shows up with the team to do the right things and work hard every day,” Garand said of Stankoven. “Guys are inspired by him. »

With the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship postponed to the summer in Edmonton, Stankoven, Garand and their teammates have another chance to wear the maple leaf on the international stage.

“For many of us, the news that the tournament was canceled was very difficult to digest, and there was a lot of uncertainty about the possibility of resuming this tournament,” Stankoven said. It’s nice that we can start from scratch and have another opportunity to get our hands on the gold medal. »

“I was one of only three who made a return to the tournament, and we still had a bitter taste of our silver medal obtained in the 2021 edition, confides Garand. It’s our last chance, and there’s nothing in the world I want more than a gold medal. »

The next season will begin in a climate of uncertainty for Stankoven. He had a strong development camp with the Stars last month and was named camp’s best player by the team. He could return to Kamloops to prepare for the Memorial Cup, which the Blazers will host, which will be a first since 1995.

“It’s a win-win situation, regardless of the scenario, whether I go to Dallas or stay in Kamloops,” Stankoven said. Being able to be part of the Memorial Cup host club in my city would be cool, and I’m sure there will be great crowds to support us. It would be really ideal to make the jump to Dallas, but I know that I will have to work very hard. »

For now, Stankoven has only one thing in mind: the gold medal at the World Juniors. He’s ready to build on the momentum he’s built down the stretch of the 2021-22 season to achieve that goal in Edmonton.

“He really found his bearings, he knows what to do to be successful, and obviously, it worked for him,” explains Garand. I know him and I know he will continue in the same vein here in August. I think he will play a much bigger role than last December and his contribution to our gold medal journey will definitely be greater. »

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