Thomas Chabot is hopeful this visit to Canadian Tire Centre will go much better than his last one.
The 19-year-old will get a chance to impress the Ottawa Senators, his future employers, when Canada faces the Czech Republic on Wednesday night in an exhibition game in advance of the upcoming world junior hockey championship.
Chabot was selected 18th overall by the Senators in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. He survived the cuts out of training camp this season, but played just one regular-season game before he was sent back to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Saint John Sea Dogs after the Senators felt he wasn’t quite ready for the rigours of the NHL.
While disappointed by the Senators’ decision, Chabot was determined to return to his junior team and make the most of his season.
Chabot has five goals and 20 points through 14 games with the Sea Dogs, but what the Senators are most anxious to see is his performance on the world stage.
Only returning defenceman
Chabot, named an alternate captain for Canada earlier this week, is the team’s only returning defenceman and will be counted on to play significant minutes.
“You can’t buy experience,” head coach Dominique Ducharme said. “To have gone through this before helps you understand what needs to be done and where you need to go and we have five returning guys, but he’s the only defenceman so that’s an important piece for us.”
Chabot has played so far alongside Philippe Myers, a member of the QMJHL’s Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, and the two have found early chemistry.
“Defensively they’re so mobile that they’re right on top of guys and they don’t give time and space,” Ducharme said. “I like the way they work together and to be playing against them you have to be pretty quick at taking space away from them.”
Myers said he much prefers Chabot as a teammate than as an opponent.
“He’s one of the best D’s in the league and it’s a great honour to play with him,” Myers said. “He’s got great hockey sense, he’s a great skater and put all that together and it makes a great hockey player.”
This will be Chabot’s third time representing Canada, but first in a leadership role.
“There’s a lot of great leaders in the room, but to wear a letter is special for me,” said Chabot. “It’s always fun to help the new guys that never went through that tournament. It’s fun to help them out and get ready for the tournament.”
Chabot didn’t get a lot of playing time while with the Senators, but says the experience of being around professionals on a daily basis left a lasting impression.
“I learned a lot in Ottawa off the ice, on the ice. I learned a lot of things about myself. I think I grew a lot as a player and became a bit more of a pro player.”
‘Hard tournament to play in’
After finishing sixth last year’s world junior championship, Canada is looking for a much better showing. While Canada is always expected to do well internationally, players know pressure will be even higher with the tournament being held in Montreal and Toronto.
“We learned a lot,” said Chabot of last year’s disappointment. “It’s a hard tournament to play in. Every night you’ve got to show up whether you think that country might not be as good as you are you still have to play as hard as you can. It’s a tough tournament.
“I feel it as good pressure. We all know we have a good team this year and we all work together. We worked a lot on our game the last couple weeks and we’re all really excited for the tournament.”
Canada plays its final pre-tournament game Dec. 23 in Toronto against Switzerland and opens the tournament Dec. 26 against Russia.