It's been a busy week for me, personally. I've been writing some freelance stories for the East Ottawa Star, trying not to get too caught up in the stream-of-consciousness style that blogging tends to lure writers into. You know, not just re-posting other people's work, but actually calling people, and talking to them. (It's more difficult than it sounds).
The editors there do a lot of legwork for their freelancers, and last week, I was presented with the opportunity of speaking with Orleans native Erik Gudbranson, a 6' 3" defenceman from the Kingston Frontenacs.
Forget Ryan Smyth, they should call this kid Captain Canada. Since January, he's played in three tournaments representing both Ontario and Canada in international competition.
In January, he competed in BC as captain of Ontario's U17 team. And as you can see, they won the big trophy.
In April, he took off to Fargo, North Dakota and Moorhead, Minnesota to compete in the IIHF U18 championships. No hardware from that one - a fourth place finish, losing the bronze medal game in a shootout to Finland.
Of course, any time Canada doesn't win gold in international hockey competitions, something is amiss (I don't know wtf is wrong with the Olympics these days). The IIHF U18's happen during the OHL playoffs, meaning many of Canada's best 17 year-old players are unable to travel and compete.
Luckily, there's another tournament held in the Czech Republic and Slovakia that made everything right--and Erik was there, of course. The Ivan Hlinka memorial tournament (for 18 year-olds and younger) is considered the truer test of international hockey strength because it occurs in the depths of summer, when all are free to compete. As a result, Canada won gold (of course).
(FYI: Ivan Hlinka was one of the first and most dominant Czech hockey players. He briefly coached in the NHL and was tragically killed in 2004.)
But we didn't just win, we cream 'em. Canada won every game they played (and maybe even some they didn't) from the preliminaries all the way to the finals. These Canadian goal-scoring robots (I suspect) beat their opponents by a combined score of 40-7. In the final, they put Team Russia to shame with a 9-2 massacre.
Erik is pegged by some to go early in the first round of the 2010 NHL draft. He was recently featured on NHL.com as a North American player to watch for the draft.
But there's more to the story than a solid young defender making it big. Check out the youtube vid.
In a world of overpaid and overly sensitive "stars", this guy seems to have the right ideas and the right values. I'm looking forward to following this native Ottawan and proud Canadian's career develop over the next few seasons.
More stories on Erik (by friend of the blog, and huge Sens fan, Dan Plouffe):
Captain Gudbranson wins U17 worlds for Ontario
Gudbranson will play for Canada at Ivan Hlinka tourney
PS: When I was interviewing Erik and he referred to his coach in Kingston as "Dougie", I almost spit. I'm no Leafer, but even I would call him Mr. Gilmour. Apparently, Killer's cool with it.