Hunt makes U17 World Hockey Challenge roster

October 23, 2018, 10:58 am
Kara Kinna

Daemon Hunt in action with the WHL Moose Jaw Warriors. Hunt has been having a fantastic season so far, and it just got better with his selection to the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.

The hockey season couldn’t be looking any brighter for 16-year-old Daemon Hunt from Moosomin.

Not only is Hunt the only 16-year-old on the WHL Moose Jaw Warriors, with one goal and four assists in eight games already this season, on Tuesday Hunt found out that he was one of only 66 players selected for the Hockey Canada 2018 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge set for Nov. 3-10 in Saint John and Quispamsis, New Brunswick.

The 66 players will be divided into three teams—Team Canada Black, Team Canada Red, and Team Canada White—and will compete against the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden and the United States in their quest for a gold medal.

In July, 112 players were invited to participate in Canada’s national under-17 development camp and introduced to the Hockey Canada Program of Excellence. The players chosen to represent Canada at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge were selected by Brad McEwen (of Whitewood, Sask.), head scout for Hockey Canada, with assistance from U17 POE management group lead Martin Mondou (Grand-Mère, Que./Shawinigan, QMJHL), as well as regional scouts Carl Bouchard (Quebec), Barclay Branch (Ontario), Barclay Parneta (West), Darren Sutherland (Atlantic), and Darrell Woodley (Ontario).

“Any time you bring together the best young players in the country there are bound to be difficult decisions when selecting players, and we feel the 66 young men we chose exemplify the core values of the Program of Excellence,” said McEwen. “We believe that these players possess a willingness to learn and grow as they progress through our program and represent Canada, and give us the best chance to compete for a gold medal this November.”

Hunt said Wednesday he was still trying to process the news that he’d been chosen.

“I found out this morning—I got the call,” he said. “It’s something that I am still soaking in. Ever since I was a kid I’ve been watching the World Juniors, and being part of Hockey Canada, I guess you could say it’s something that is super special to me. I can’t really put it into words, it’s really surreal, honestly. I leave October 29 for the tournament. It’s going to be a special time for me and my family. Putting on that jersey is something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life, that’s for sure.”

Hunt says he enjoyed the selection camp and felt confident throughout the process.

“The camp was really challenging physically, and mentally. It was something that I really enjoyed and really soaked up,” he says. “There was lots of good classroom sessions, lots of good on-ice learning tips. It’s players from all over Canada, and it is fun to meet all the new guys and meet the top players that are part of my caliber all across Canada.

“Going in, I thought I had a really good chance. Everyone there is a first or second round pick in the CHL, so they have always been the top of their team. I felt confident going into camp and after camp I felt that I personally displayed a good level of skill, too, and I tried to be good off the ice as much as I could, and always follow the coaches and respect them as much as I could, because I know that they watch those little things a lot too.”

Hunt says being selected is a big deal for his career.

“This is a huge step in my career so far,” he says. “There are only 66 players in all of Canada. It’s honestly something that I’m super proud to be part of, and for my career the next step after this is U18. There is no camp for that, there’s just an invite and you go play, and that’s overseas next year, but I won’t focus too much on that now. I think U17 is a big step towards U18 next year and moving forward with Hockey Canada.”

Hunt says he feels like things can’t get any better right now.

“Right now I feel like I’m playing at the top of my skill level,” he says. “I’m in the WHL right now and things are going really well, but the hockey that I’m going to be playing in the U17s is going to be really good. I’m competing against other countries, the best in the world, so I feel confident that I should be where I am right now. But honestly, I’m going day by day just trying to improve the little things that will make a difference in the long run.

“I’m just looking forward to competing against the other countries just to see what it’s like and how the hockey is going to be. And honestly just being part of Hockey Canada and getting to wear the jersey every day is something that is so special to me. Growing up in small town Saskatchewan it’s always been something that I’ve dreamed of. I’m just super excited for the next weeks to come.”

On top of his selection for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, Hunt has also been iced in every game with the Moose Jaw Generals so far this season, and had racked up five points, as of last week, with a goal and four assists.

“It’s just been a blast out here so far,” he says of playing with the Generals. “The coaches don’t talk a whole bunch, but when they are not talking to you it’s obviously a good sign, and right now I think they’re really happy with my play. I just go out there and work as hard as I can and do everything I can.”

The World Under-17 Hockey Challenge opens Saturday, Nov. 3 at the qplex in Quispamsis when Finland takes on Sweden at 3:30 p.m. AT, followed by Team Canada Red, silver-medallist last year, facing off against Russia at 7:30 p.m. AT. The United States will kick off the action at Harbour Station in Saint John on Sunday, Nov. 4 when it plays the Czech Republic at 12 p.m. AT, followed by an all-Canadian match-up between Team Canada Black and Team Canada White at 4 p.m. AT.

Hunt said last week he didn’t know yet which Canadian team he’d be on.

More than 1,700 NHL draft picks have suited up since the inception of the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in 1986, including 13 first-overall draft picks since 2001 (Ilya Kovalchuk, 2001; Rick Nash, 2002; Marc-André Fleury, 2003; Alexander Ovechkin, 2004; Erik Johnson, 2006; Patrick Kane, 2007; John Tavares, 2009; Taylor Hall, 2010, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 2011; Nathan MacKinnon, 2013; Aaron Ekblad, 2014; Connor McDavid, 2015; and Auston Matthews, 2016).

Hunt was drafted in 2017 by the Moose Jaw Warriors in the first round, and was number 15 overall in the WHL Bantam Draft.