Jonathon Brodie – Recorder & Times
Cameron Crotty was no different from any other child in Canada. He hunkered down in front of the TV starting Boxing Day and stay glued to it for a week-and-a-half to watch the country’s best hockey prospects suit up for the IIHF World Junior Championship. It was always a dream of his to one day be one of those top teens, but it’s something Crotty never thought was possible even a year or two ago.
This week the steps toward the dream came true with the former Brockville Braves defenceman named to Team Canada’s training camp roster, along with 33 other players.
Crotty, 19, found out last Sunday he was invited to the camp, less than 24 hours before the news was made public.
“It definitely takes you back to watching it at home as a young kid and it’s, obviously, the biggest junior event in the world and being from Canada every young boy watches it and dreams about one day being able to play there,” said Crotty. “Even being considered for it is pretty crazy. It’s definitely not something you would have thought would happen for me like a year or two ago.”
Crotty, currently in his sophomore season at Boston University, left Monday to head to the camp in Victoria, B.C. Twenty-two players will earn a spot on the Canadian roster.
It was only recently that Crotty learned he was that high on Hockey Canada’s radar, he said. It was within the last few weeks, said Crotty, that people from Hockey Canada, his Boston University coach Albie O’Connell, and his adviser let him know it was possible he had a shot at attending the Team Canada camp.
That doesn’t mean it wasn’t on Crotty’s radar, though. He made it a personal goal to get a shot at the World Junior tournament at the beginning of the year.
Crotty, drafted in the third round by the Arizona Coyotes in 2017, was recovering from shoulder surgery when Team Canada held its summer camp, which typically gives people an idea of who the team has their eye on. Steve Staios, from Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence management group and consults on the camp invitees, reached out to Crotty’s adviser in the summer and mentioned they were watching him, despite the Braves alumni not able to attend the camp. That ended up being a huge motivating factor for him to push that much harder this season.
Crotty always had a maturity to his game. He joined the Braves as a skinny 16-year-old – a boy playing against young men – in 2015-16 and he never looked out of place. He’s speaks maturely as well. It’s easy to get high expectations and lose yourself in a scenario you’ve thought of since you were a kid, said Crotty, but his plan at the tryout is to play his brand of hockey.
Most of his first year at Boston University was surviving and learning, said Crotty. He got a lot of ice time for a freshman defenceman on a really good team that made it to the quarter-final in the national championship tournament. Crotty had to learn how to make the simple plays to gain confidence and then build from there. The biggest difference going into his sophomore season is confidence and comfort, Crotty said.
Crotty hasn’t picked up a point in 13 games this season, but ranks second on Boston University with 21 blocked shots. He also has 19 shots – ninth on the team – so points should come.
“Younger me wouldn’t believe this, so I’m just going to go in and have fun and play like I can,” said Crotty. “I’m just going to go in and do what I can, play my game, and not try to do anything too complicated. I think it’s easy when you get invited to things like this or even back in minor hockey tryouts to try to do way more than you have to.”
As is the case pretty much every year, Canada has a strong crop of blue-liners attending the training camp, which features a three-game series against Canadian university all-stars. Half of the 12 defencemen at the tryout were selected in the first round of the NHL draft. Crotty is also just one of four splayers at the camp not playing in the CHL.
The right-shooting defenceman doesn’t know many of the players personally attending the Canadian camp except for Boston University teammate Shane Bowers. Most of them are players that have gone through the Hockey Canada system at the U17 and U18 level. This is all a big leap for Crotty. He was thrilled to have earned a spot on the Canada East team playing in the World Junior A Challenge two seasons ago. Now he’s a cut away from playing in the world’s biggest junior hockey tournament.
Crotty is considered a late-bloomer, who was always deemed to have potential because of his size. He’s proving to be much more than that. Braves co-owner Dustin Traylen said he believes Crotty would be a top-two defender on any major junior hockey team in the country.
“You know what’s funny? They call him a raw prospect,” said Traylen. “He’s not a raw prospect at all. He’s got very good feet. He’s an NHL skater, he skates like an NHL player. He has the IQ of an NHL player, he’s got the size of an NHL player and he’s only getting bigger. He’s going to be an NHLer before long.”
Original Story at Recorder.ca