Three players of Asian heritage are vying for spots on the U.S. and Canadian teams that will compete at the 2018 International Ice Hockey Federation World JuniorChampionship.
Forwards Jonathan Ang and Nick Suzuki were among 32 players Hockey Canada selected last week to participate in the selection camp to determine Canada’s 22-player roster for the eight-team WJC tournament to be played Dec, 26-Jan.5 in Buffalo, New York.
Ang, a center for the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League, and Suzuki, a center for the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack, begin their quest for roster spots Monday at Hockey Canada’s four-day camp in St. Catharines, Ontario.
“It’s an honor to be given the opportunity to attend selection camp,” Ang said. “Growing up and watching the World Juniors every year, it’s an unbelievable feeling to be considered for this year’s National Junior Team and to be given a chance to represent our country.”
Peterborough Petes forward Jonathan Ang hopes he’ll don Team Canada’s jersey at the 2018 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship in Buffalo, New York Dec. 26-Jan. 5 (Photo/ Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images).
Kailer Yamamoto, a right wing for the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League, was chosen for the United States’ preliminary WJC roster. He’ll be among 23 U.S. players who’ll attend USA Hockey’s training camp Dec. 15-19 at Nationwide Arena and OhioHealth Ice Haus in Columbus, Ohio.
If Yamamoto, makes the cut, he’ll attend an additional camp in Jamestown, New York, Dec. 20-23.
Suzuki, whose great-great grandparents immigrated to Canada from Japan in the early 1900s, was the 13th overall pick in the 2017 National Hockey League Draft, chosen by the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.
He leads the Attack, a major junior team, in scoring with 17 goals and 27 assists in 26 games. He said he’s looking forward to Canada’s World Juniors camp.
“It’s been on my mind since the summer. I definitely want to make that team,” he told the Owen Sound Sun Times. “I think I can PK (penalty kill), or be on the power play, or maybe even be a lower-line guy and just build energy for the top line…I think I could do any role for the team.”
Ang, 19, became the first player of Malaysian heritage to be drafted by an NHL team when the Florida Panthers, chose him in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. He signed a three-year entry level contract with the NHL team in November.
Ang is the Petes’ top scorer this season with 15 goals and 20 assists in 31 games.
Yamamoto, 19, was taken by the Edmonton Oilers in the first round of the 2017 draft with the 22nd overall pick.
“I think it’s a testament to the growth of the game,” Richard Park, a retired NHL forward and an assistant coach for the South Korean national team that will compete in the 2018 Winter Games, told me recently. “I think it’s very welcoming, I think it’s very refreshing. I think it’s a testament again to all these cultures that the game is reaching.”
Park, who’s also a development coach for the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, and retired NHL defenseman Jim Paek, the South Korean men’s national team’s head coach, are helping guide the country of their ancestry up the world hockey ladder.
They coached South Korea to a dramatic 2-1 shootout win against Ukraine in April, earning a second-place finish at the International Ice Hockey FederationWorld ChampionshipDivision I Group A tournament in Kiev.
The victory bumped South Korea up to the IIHF’s top division next year, joining the United States, Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland and other hockey powers.
“Korea has never ever been close, let alone in the top division in the world of hockey,” said Park, who played 738 NHL games for the Wild, Pittsburgh Penguins,AnaheimMighty Ducks, Philadelphia Flyers, Vancouver Canucks and New York Islanders. “It’s huge. It’s big, it’s never been done before. But in saying that, what it leads to in the future is kind of up to not only the media, but the young kids, and the really young next generation in Korea.”
In North America, a next generation of players of Asian descent is already making its presence known. Just take a glimpse at NHL Central Scouting’s player rankings for the June 23-24 draft at Chicago’s United Center.
Owen Sound Attack center Nick Suzukiis ranked as the 10th-best North American skater. The 5-foot-10 native of London, Ontario, was Owen Sound’s second-leading scorer last season with 45 goals and 51 assists in 65 games.
Owen Sound Attack forward Nick Suzuki hopes he’ll be chosen in the 2017 NHL Draft in June (Photo/Terry Wilson/OHL Images)
His younger brother, forward Ryan Suzuki, was the first player chosen in the 2017 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection Draft in April, plucked by the Barrie Colts.
Kailer Yamamoto is hoping to hear his named called at next month’s NHL draft. The 5-foot-8 right wing for the Western Hockey League’s Spokane Chiefs is ranked as the 17th-best North American skater by Central Scouting.
Spokane Chiefs’ Kailer Yamamoto is the 17th-ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting (Photo/Larry Brunt/Spokane Chiefs).
A Spokane native of Japanese and Hawaiian heritage, Yamamotoled the Chiefs in scoring in 2016-17 with 42 goals and 47 assists in 65 games. His older brother, Keanu, was Spokane’s fourth-leading scorer last season with 26 goals and 43 assists in 72 games.
USA hockey National Team Development Program defenseman Tyler Inamoto (Photo/Rena Laverty/USA Hockey).
Whether he’s drafted or not, defenseman Tyler Inamoto knows where he’s headed this fall. The 6-foot-2 blue-liner for the USA Hockey National Development Team, ranked the 68th-best North American skater, will be skating for the University of WisconsinBadgers in 2017-18.
“He’s big, strong and has a mean streak,” said Badgers Head Coach Tony Granato, who enjoyed a long and prolific NHL career, “He’ll be a physical impact player right away next year.”
If drafted, Inamoto, Yamamoto and Suzuki, hope to join a small but growing list of players of Asian heritage who are on NHL career paths.
Center Cliff Pu, Buffalo Sabres’ third-round draft pick in 2016.
Last year, the Buffalo Sabres took London Knights forward Cliff Pu in the third round with the 69th overall pick in the NHL Draft. Pu led the Knights in scoring in 2016-17 with 35 goals and 51 assists in 63 regular season games.
The Florida Panthers chose Peterborough Petes forward Jonathan Ang in the fourth round with the 94th overall pick of the 2016 draft.
Ang, the first player of Malaysian heritage to be drafted by an NHL team, was the Petes’ third-leading scorer in 2016-17 with 27 goals and 32 assists in 69 games.
Andong Song also made history when the New York Islanders selected the Beijing-born defenseman in the sixth round with the 172nd pick of the 2015 draft.
Song, who has committed to play hockey for Cornell University in 2018-19, will likely be a key member of China’s hockey team for the 2022 Winter Olympics, which will be held in Beijing.
George Chiang’s voice fills with pride and hope when he talks about players like Pu and
Forward Jonathan Ang, the Florida Panthers’ 4th-round pick in, 2016.
“Cliff Pu has good size and plays for the London Knights, which is great,” Chiang told me recently. “Jonathan Ang just seems to become a better player every year in the OntarioHockey League. It’s kind of cool seeing those guys.
The elder Chiang dreamed of pursuing a pro career when he was younger. But that dream was stymied by his parents, immigrants to Canada from Taiwan, who initially forbade him from playing hockey.
Lee Chiang playing for the North York Rangers in 2015.
” I came from immigrant parents and they didn’t understand hockey. I begged every year since I was five,” Chiang, 47, told me recently. “They put me in baseball because they understood baseball. It’s the national sport of Taiwan. Finally, when I was 12 they let me play on a (hockey) team.”
Unlike his folks, Chiang didn’t hesitate in allowing his son to lace up the skates and grab a stick.
“My plan was to also put him in baseball, but he ended up hating baseball and he loved hockey,” George Chiang told me. “He’s a hockey player.”
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Once the whirlwind of the two-day, seven-round 2016 National Hockey League Draft was complete, five players of color or minority ethnic heritage were selected, including the Number One overall pick.
Here’s a Color of Hockey snapshot of the five player chosen.
The Toronto Maple Leafs surprised no one and took forward Auston Matthews with the first pick. You want diversity? Matthews is it. The son of a Mexican mother and a California dad, Matthews began playing hockey in Arizona, a state that is slowly gaining a reputation for the sport beyond the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes.
That’s a heavy burden for a 18-year-old to carry, especially in the hockey pressure-cooker that is Toronto. But at 6-foot-2, 216 pounds, Matthews can shoulder the load.
He already has pro hockey experience, having played last season for the ZSC Lions in Switzerland’s top league. He scored 24 goals and 22 assists in 36 games regular season games for the Lions and had 3 assists in four playoff games.
Matthews also played for the United States in 2015-16, tallying 7 goals and 4 assists in 7 games of the International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Junior Championship and 6 goals and 3 assists in the IIHF World Championship.
The Detroit Red Wings took right wing Givani Smith of the Ontario Hockey League’sGuelph Storm in the draft’s second round with the 46th overall pick. The 6-foot-1, 216-pound forward was second on the Storm in scoring in 2015-16 with 23 goals and 19 assists in 65 regular season games.
Detroit Red Wings 2016 draftee Givani Smith (center) patterns his game after Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds (Photo/Terry Wilson/OHL Images).
Smith said his game is similar to the way rugged Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmondsplays.
“The way he plays his game, he a force on the ice,” Smith said. “He scores goals right in front of the net, and that’s where I like to score. He’s a good skater, he finishes checks, and he’s not scared to fight.”
Right wing Cliff Pu of the OHL’s London Knights didn’t have to go far to check out the facilities and offices of the team that drafted him. He was taken by the Buffalo Sabres, host of this year’s draft, in the third round with the 69th overall pick.
On a London Knights team filled with stars, forward Cliff Pu’s all-around game impressed the Buffalo Sabres (Photo/Aaron Bell/OHL Images).
On a star-studded team Knights team, Pu scored 12 goals and 19 assists in 63 regular season games. However, the 6-foot-1, 185-forward was a scoring machine in the OHL playoffs with 8 goals and 5 assists in 18 games.
Pu said he’s proud to be drafted by the Sabres, but he’s even prouder of his parents who moved to Canada from China. Pu’s father, Jun, arrived when he was 25. His wife joined him a year later.
“Coming over from a different country isn’t easy, and he came over with a few hundred bucks in his pocket,” Cliff Pu told reporters. “I’m really proud of him.”
The Sabres have been one of the NHL’s more aggressive teams when it comes to drafting or signing minority players. They drafted right wing Justin Bailey – second round, 52nd overall – and right wing Nick Baptiste – third round, 69th overall – in 2013. The organization signed left wing Evan Rodrigues, a former Boston University star, in 2015.
The Maple Leafs nabbed U.S.-born defenseman James “J.D.” Greenway in the draft’s third round with the 72nd overall pick. A member of the USA Hockey National TeamDevelopment Program, the 18-year-old 6-foot-4, 205-pound New York native had 5 goals and 23 assists in 68 games for the U.S. National Under-18 team.
Toronto Maple Leafs draftee James Greenway will play for U of Wisconsin this winter..
Greenway is the newest member of the NHL Draft’s black brothers brotherhood. His older brother, Jordan Greenway, was a second-round, 50th overall pick of the Minnesota Wild in 2015.
In addition, there’s the Smith brothers – Givani, who was drafted earlier on Saturday, and Gemel, a 2012 Dallas Stars fourth round pick, the 104th overall.
And the Jones boys – Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones, first round, 4th overall in 2013 by the Nashville Predators; defenseman Caleb Jones, fourth round, 117th overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 2015.
And, of course, there’s the Subban clan – defenseman P.K, MontrealCanadiens, second round, 43rd overall in 2007; goaltender Malcolm, Boston Bruins, first round, 24th overall in 2012; and defenseman Jordan, Vancouver Canucks, fourth round, 115th overall in 2013.
Peterborough Petes center Jonathan Ang admitted that he didn’t actually hear his name called when the Florida Panthers took him in the fourth round with the 94th overall pick. He was taking a bathroom break at the time.
But that didn’t diminish the thrill of being picked or the history he likely made. Ang is probably the first player of Malaysian heritage to be drafted by an NHL team.
Florida Panthers draftee Jonathan Ang (Photo/Aaron Bell/OHL Images).
He finished fourth on the OHL Petes in scoring in 2015-16 with 21 goals and 28 assists in 68 games.
The 5-11, 160-pound Ang led the Petes in playoff scoring, tallying 3 goals and 6 assists in seven games with one playoff game-winning goal.