By Woodard, Dale on June 13, 2020.
So how was Zack Stringer’s rookie campaign with the Lethbridge Hurricanes?
Evidently, good enough to land him on the Hockey Canada radar.
The Lethbridge product and the Canes eighth overall pick in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft was among 12 WHL players on the list as Hockey Canada released of list of 46 players that were invited to take part in Canada’s National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team selection camp.
The 46 players – six goaltenders, 14 defencemen and 26 forwards – were slated to compete for spots to represent Canada at the 2020 Hlinka Gretzky Cup Aug. 3-8 in Edmonton and Red Deer, but the tournament was cancelled in April due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Still, there are heads to turn and a potential roster spot on Team Canada at the IIHF U18 World Championship to compete for and fittingly, Stringer was at the gym when he got the good word Thursday that he was one of the hopefuls.
Or at least the good news kicked to voice mail at first.
“I was actually at a workout when I found out,” said Stringer. “I was training and missed the call due to workouts, but I called them back and they told me what was going on. It was pretty cool. The first thing I did was phoned my mom and told her. It was pretty cool to be recognized.”
The good word spread fast to Stringer’s Hurricanes teammates as well.
“The boys had really good words about it, they’re all pumped for me,” said Stringer. “They’ve been a big part of my success for a while now, my new teammates as well.”
Stringer’s Hurricanes teammate Dylan Cozens was part of the Team Canada squad that won the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup in Edmonton.
Due to COVID, this year’s tournament has been iced, but there’s still plenty to play for in the spring as Stringer remains in contact with Hockey Canada, who continues to navigate the unique situation.
“They’re telling us how they’ll be putting stuff out, emails just to let the boys know how to go about this process,” said Stringer. “Obviously it’s a little different than normal. But they’re going to take it day-by-day and see how it goes.”
That’s been the motto for Stringer and all his fellow major junior players since the WHL announced the cancellation of the season and playoffs March 23.
“It’s just working out and just grinding away and school work so far,” said Stringer.
“Hopefully I’ll get back on the ice and take a couple weeks break before camp and just grind it out again.”
Before the season ground to a halt due to COVID, the six-foot-one, 165-pound forward who turned 17 April 10 was enjoying a solid rookie campaign in his hometown, scoring 11 goals and 34 points in 48 games, going plus-13.
Those numbers earned Stringer the Hurricanes Rookie of the Year award.
Still, with the Hurricanes sitting at 37-19-2-5 and in third place in the WHL Central Division heading into late-March, having the season slammed shut due to COVID was tough.
“It was obviously a dagger, being my rookie season, and for the 20 (year-olds) in the league as well,” said Stringer.
“It’s definitely a hard way to go out. You go to the rink one day and you’re told the season is cancelled. It was kind of weird and it took a while to swallow. But I wish the 20s the best.”
As he awaits word on the 2020-21 season, Stringer is understandably excited to get his sophomore season going.
“I definitely can’t wait to get going, to meet up with the boys and get back on the ice, hopefully soon. Everything is opening up,” said Stringer.
A host city for the IIHF U18 World Championship next spring has not been determined.
The Czech Republic will host the 2021 Hlinka Gretzky Cup before the event returns to Edmonton and Red Deer in 2022.
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