CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – A Summerside native and a pair of Charlottetown Islanders teammates have cracked Hockey Canada’s invite list for the world junior development camp.
Defencemen Noah Dobson and Pierre-Olivier (P.O.) Joseph and goalie Matthew Welsh made the 40-man roster for the Sport Chek World Junior Showcase in Kamloops, B.C., July 28-Aug. 4.
“It’s a great honour,” Dobson said after the news was announced on Wednesday. “Growing up as a kid you watch and dream of playing in the world juniors.”
One memory that sticks out for him was watching with his friends as Jordan Eberle tied the 2009 semifinal with Russia in the dying seconds of the game in Ottawa. Canada won the contest in a shootout and claimed gold by beating Sweden.
In January, the Summerside native, Acadie-Bathurst Titan defenceman and New York Islanders first-round pick could be part of the team helping the next generation of hockey players dream of making Team Canada.
But Dobson isn’t getting ahead of himself and is just focused on improving his game.
“Coming into the camp, you want to fight for a spot and have the opportunity to represent your country,” he said.
Dobson and Joseph are both first-round picks by NHL teams while Welsh was passed over the past two years and wasn’t invited to an NHL camp.
He said getting the call from Islanders head coach Jim Hulton, an assistant with Team Canada, was “pretty emotional.”
“For me, it was just about continuing to work hard and not letting it get to me,” Welsh said. “It’s really nice to see that hard work pay off with recognition from Hockey Canada.”
Welsh was a rookie with the Islanders in 2015-16 when his teammate Mason McDonald wore the Maple Leaf at the world juniors.
“Mase has always been a great mentor to me,” Welsh said. “It’s hard to believe that I’m actually that age now. It seems like it was yesterday.”
Welsh was quick to thank those who have been involved in his development from teammates and coaches to family and friends. He is excited by the door that has opened for him and looking forward to the opportunity to showcase his skills as one of four goalies invited to camp.
“When you get an opportunity such as being able to try out for Canada’s world junior team, it’s not something you want to waste,” he said. “I’ve been working really hard all summer. Now that I have this news, it’s not going to change. I am just going to keep working and try and make the most of this opportunity.”
Welsh was also excited for his Isles teammate.
“He’s an unbelievable player,” he said. “I don't know a guy who fits the Hockey Canada model better than P.O.”
Joseph called Welsh an “incredible” person.
“Everything that comes to him, he deserves it all.”
Joseph said he was honoured to be invited but noted it is only a step towards his ultimate goal.
“I’ve been looking forward to wear that Maple Leaf once in my life,” he said. “It's a great opportunity and I will put all my effort to make the team and compete against the world in December.”
Joseph’s older brother, Mathieu, was a forward on the 2017 squad that lost to the Americans in the final. To follow in his footsteps and wear the Maple Leaf would be “incredible,” he said.
While many of the players invited to the camp were top picks in their major junior draft, Joseph was a fifth-round selection — a lesson for all young players not to let where they are selected determine their future.
“It means a lot, but it doesn't mean a lot at the same time,” Joseph said. “You just have to go there and show yourself, show to that person that believes in you. . . I was really grateful to get drafted in Charlottetown.
“I owe them everything for where I am now.”
Hulton said the selections were made before he was asked to be an assistant coach. The staff split up the roster to call the players, and Hulton asked for his two players.
“I think the silence spoke volumes,” he said. “I was thrilled for both kids.”
He said the character both show is tremendous and he knows they will “bleed the tank” dry in an effort to make the squad. He said it was nice to see the team’s success translate into individual recognition as both players are not driven by individual statistics.
“The only stat they’re worried about is wins,” Hulton said.