When Mitchell Callahan’s telephone rang on Sunday and the man on the other end of the line was U.S. national junior team general manager Jim Johannson, the 19-year-old Kelowna Rockets forward was beyond excited.
Johannson was calling to invite Callahan to Albany, N.Y., and USA Hockey’s pre-tournament camp in advance of the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo.
It was a call that Callahan, a native of Whittier, California, nearly forced USA Hockey to make—what with 14 goals, 16 assists and 32 penalty minutes to lead the Rockets in scoring after 28 games.
“I was pretty ecstatic (to get the call),” said Callahan. “The world junior is something special. Every kid dreams of playing in the world junior for their country. Even just to get a shot at making the team is pretty special to me.”
Callahan will be among 29 American juniors vying for 22 spots on the team. The camp begins Dec. 17 and includes three exhibition games against Rensselaer’s men’s ice hockey team, the Czech Republic and Norway before the team is announced.
“Mitch is a guy that came off the radar for us,” Johannson said during a live announcement of the pre tournament roster Tuesday morning. “He wasn’t at our summer camp. He’s a guy that played his way into consideration for the team. He’s well-rounded, plays a physical game, he’s a guy with some penalty minutes. He’s not afraid to mix it up.”
A gritty forward who was a walk-on to make the Rockets three years ago, Callahan knows the style of play that earned him the attention of USA Hockey.
“I think I can play all four lines,” he said. “I can be the energy guy and I can also contribute offensively. I think they like the grit that I bring, the agitating part of the game…I’m not going to back away from anybody.”
Callahan will play Wednesday night when the Rockets host Swift Current. He will be with the team to start its five-game road trip this weekend but will report to Albany for the start of the Team USA pre tournament camp on Dec. 16. If all goes well he won’t be back with the Rockets until after the New Year and the conclusion of the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship.