Kaeden Korczak, the Kelowna Rockets’ rookie of the year in 2017-18, was one of 14 defenceman to earn an invitation. -Image: Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze

Rockets D-man selected for U18 national camp

Kaedan Korczak is among 44 players invited to Hockey Canada’s Hlinka Gretzky Cup development camp

Kaeden Korczak’s earliest recollection of international hockey is one the Kelowna Rockets’ defenceman insists he’ll never forget.

On a crisp winter night back in January 2009, a nine-year-old Korczak was among the thousands of fans all across the country who witnessed one of the most dramatic moments in Canadian junior hockey history.

With the seconds ticking down and Canada trailing Russia 4-3 late in the semifinal of the world junior championship in Ottawa, Jordan Eberle delivered one of the most memorable goals in Canadian hockey lore.

“I had to go to school the next day, but I remember mom and I sitting up and watching when Jordan Eberle scored with a few seconds left to force overtime,” Korczak said from his home in Yorkton, Sask. “It was so exciting, we were cheering and jumping up and down. It seems like it was yesterday.

“It’s been a dream of mine since then to one day play in the world junior championship and the NHL.”

That game helped shape what has become a defining goal of Korzcak’s ever since—pulling on a Canadian jersey in international competition.

The 17-year-old defenceman got another step closer to fulfilling his lifelong dream this week when he was one of 44 players invited to Canada’s U18 development camp late next month in Calgary. Hockey Canada will choose 22 of those players to don the Maple Leaf at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup this August in Red Deer.

“It’s pretty special to be invited to the camp,” said Korczak. “There a lot of good D guys in our age group, so it’s not going to be easy. I’m just excited to be getting the chance and am just going there to compete and try and make the team.”

Korczak gained his first international experience last year playing for Team Canada Black at the World Under 17 Challenge in Dawson Creek and Fort St. John.

Now that he’s firmly on Hockey Canada’s map, Rockets assistant coach Kris Mallette is looking forward to watching Korczak continue to progress and develop.

“It’s gets tougher at each level you move up, so being one of 44 players chosen for this camp is a feather in Kaeden’s cap,” Mallette said. “He’s worked extremely hard on his game, he really turned the corner after Christmas and just got better and better.

“He’s skates well for a big guy, he has a good hockey IQ and sees the ice very well,” added Mallette. “He’s going to play a huge role for us next season, so every opportunity he gets like this really bodes well for him and us.”

Korczak was the Rockets first choice, 11th overall in the 2016 WHL bantam draft.

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound rearguard lived up to his billing by winning the Rockets rookie of the year awards, recording three goals and 16 points in 67 games.

Rockets forward and Korczak’s teammate, Nolan Foote, played on last year’s gold medal-winning Canadian team at the Hlinka U18 tournament in Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

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