They are only classified as international exhibitions, but defenceman Scott Walford of the Victoria Royals realizes there’s much at stake personally in the games between the Western Hockey League select team and Russian junior select team in the CIBC Super Series.
The WHL won 2-1 on Monday night in Kamloops. The second game of the set is tonight at the Langley Events Centre.
Walford knows this is the best and last chance to impress selectors ahead of the Canadian team selection camp to be held next month at Naden and The Q Centre ahead of the 2019 IIHF world junior championship at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria and Rogers Arena in Vancouver.
“It is definitely my goal in this series to receive an invitation to the Canadian selection camp,” said Walford, a third-round NHL selection of the Montreal Canadiens.
“I am excited and humbled to be given this opportunity and I am confident I can earn an invite to the Canadian camp. I am going to give it my best shot.”
Walford was paired Monday in Kamloops with second-round Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick Calen Addison of the Lethbridge Hurricanes. They are part of a loaded WHL blue line that also includes first-round NHL draft pick Ty Smith of the Spokane Chiefs, second-round Vancouver Canucks selection Jett Woo of the Moose Jaw Warriors, second-round Canadiens prospect Josh Brook of the Warriors, and projected 2019 first-round NHL draft lottery pick Bowen Byram of the Vancouver Giants.
“It’s an amazing group of guys,” said Walford.
“We battle so hard against each other in league play that you don’t realize they are the nicest guys off the ice.”
There was much banter between the WHL blueliners of not only how their current WHL seasons are progressing, but also their NHL training camp experiences to date in their emerging careers.
As the youngest and only undrafted member of the WHL blue line group, Byram has been a sponge listening to all the tales from pro camps.
“You can tell Bowen [Byram] was soaking it all in,” said Walford.
Walford and Byram have been drawn as roomates during the WHL-Russia set. The irony isn’t lost on Walford.
“We have such a crazy rivalry with Vancouver,” he added.
Walford said he was looking forward to playing the Russians, several of whom will be on their national team to the world junior tournament.
“We expect the Russians to be fast and skilled,” he said, after Monday’s morning skate in Kamloops.
Walford is the sixth Royals player to play for the WHL in the series following Matthew Phillips last year, Tyler Soy, Steven Hodges, Kevin Sundher and Joe Hicketts twice.