The 2015 Western Canada Under-16 Challenge Cup opens on Wednesday in Calgary and the Moose Jaw Warriors will have six prospects hitting the ice during the tournament.
Coleton Bilodeau – the Warriors' eighth round pick in 2015 – is one of the prospects that will be suiting up at the tournament as he cracked the Team B.C. roster along with fellow Warrior draft picks Luka Burzan and Austin Chorney.
“I was so excited I almost started crying when I got the news,” said Bilodeau last week.
“It was a long process, started in April and we just found out in a couple of weeks ago, but it was pretty stressful at times. It was good news for me and I'm really excited for it.”
Bilodeau is playing for the Okanagan Rockets in the BC Major Midget Hockey League this season. He has two goals and five points in 11 games so far.
He said getting to experience training camp with the Warriors in August really helped set him up for his first season of midget AAA hockey.
“I just learned to continue moving my feet and never be stationary, I'm a bigger guy and if I keep my feet moving, it pretty hard to slow me down,” said Bilodeau. “It's all about quickness.”
Team B.C. is generally a favourite heading into the Western Canada Under-16s with one gold medal in 2012. The tournament wasn't held in 2014 with the players instead taking part in the 2015 Canada Winter Games, in which Team B.C. finished a disappointing sixth on their home ice.
Bilodeau said the team is aiming for a return to the top this year with a loaded roster.
“Last year fell a little short, so we want to make sure that we're not in that spot this year,” he said.
With a talented roster around him, Bilodeau is looking to play whatever role the coaches want during the tournament.
“At the top-40 camp, I played a bit of centre and wing, so I think the coach is going to put me in where he needs me,” Bilodeau said. “Where ever he wants to play me, that's what I'll do and I'll play my best in that spot.”
The B.C. roster is from across the province and Bilodeau added that if they can come together a team quickly, that will bode well for them during the short tournament.
“The team that wins is going to be the team that comes together the fastest,” he said. “If you click together as a team, it makes things so much easier, so that's a key for me.”
The Warriors have prospects on every provincial team at the tournament: Bilodeau, Burzan and Chorney will be representing Team B.C.; Louis Jamernik is there with Team Alberta; Connor Hayward will be suiting up for Team Saskatchewan; and Jett Woo with Team Manitoba.
The tournament opens on Wednesday with Saskatchewan facing Manitoba at 3:00pm and Alberta battles British Columbia at 7:00pm. The gold and bronze medal games go on Sunday.