Connor Bouchard has a habit of turning heads with his larger than life play and did so again at last week's Team Canada U17 development camp at WinSport in Calgary.
Standing 5'6", the 16-year old native of Cochrane may be short in stature, but he's a presence on and off the ice and his passion to succeed leaves a lasting impression. He hits hard, digs in the corners and along the boards, blocks pucks and picks his battles well on the penalty kill and he's lightning fast at reading breaking plays.
The U17 Team Canada head coach Paul Boutilier was similarly impressed with Bouchard's competitive play during the camp.
"He sure doesn't play like his side," says Boutilier. "You see him compete in the corners against the big guys without slowing down at all. Actually, he scored a goal by being in the slot and going for the rebound which is a feature for a player that age going into traffic and willing to compete. We're looking for that in the slot."
"You cannot take away the willingness to make a difference every time you step on the ice and he's got that. It shows in the practices, off the ice and especially in the games."
Bouchard was an alternate captain for gold medal Alberta team in the Western Canada Challenge Cup last October, and established a reputation of being there for his team. Apparently it's the same in this camp.
"He's always smiling but at the same time is serious and can alleviate the mood of the room."
Bouchard doesn't take his success for granted or any of the opportunities provided him, whether it's representing Alberta or having a shot at making the national team.
"I don't know if it has sunk in yet.," says Bouchard. "Everytime I put that logo on chills run down my back. To represent your country, even trying out, is just unbelievable feeling."
He's feisty on the ice and realizes its important to have that presence.
"Being a smaller guy, it's something you've got to do. You have the work for everything. I like to be that guy that works hard and gets in the corner."
While the roster for the U17 won't be announced until October, Bouchard has another daunting challenge just ahead and after a quick break will get back to Penticton to train for his upcoming Tri-City Americans camp. He was signed by the WHL team on May 1 and it's his aspiration to be playing this fall.
"I've got to work hard this summer to try and crack that roster. Nothing is guaranteed anymore, so I have to work hard and put in hours and hopefully I'll make it."
He's impressed with the Americans organization.
"They just do a great job and I so excited to jump in and hopefully play for them this season."
"At the end of the day, that's where I want to play; I want to play for the guys that believe for me."