It wasn’t the golden experience Justin Sourdif hoped for during his very first trip to Europe, but there was a silver lining for him and his teammates in the Czech Republic.
With Team Canada, the Surrey-raised player scored a silver medal at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup hockey tournament after the squad fell 3-2 to Team Russia in the gold-medal game Saturday (Aug. 10).
“We outshot them pretty good,” Sourdif said following the game on the phone from Breclav.
“You know, obviously not so great with the outcome, and any team wants gold, and I thought we did a good job, for the most part, of adjusting to the time change and the climate, and the ice wasn’t too great, and we adapted pretty well,” he added. “I thought our team battled right to the very end, and obviously it just didn’t pan out.”
Sourdif, 17, was given first-line minutes by coach Michael Dyck, Sourdif’s bench boss with Vancouver Giants during the WHL season.
— Team Canada Men (@HC_Men) August 2, 2019
Sourdif was among 13 forwards – and one of only two B.C.-based players, along with Victoria-raised goaltender Dylan Garand – named to Team Canada following a five-day tryout camp in Calgary last month.
“I was confident all the way through that,” he said. “I wasn’t too sure what my role on the team would be, but I was confident I’d be able to help the team out in any way I could. And being on a top-two-line role here, that does a lot for your confidence. Overall it was a pretty good experience.
“The Czech Republic, it’s a pretty nice country,” Sourdif added. “They have some beautiful castles here and we were able to do stuff on our days off, so it was a nice experience, but having gold would have been that cherry on the top, right.”
The 2002-born prospect is about to enter his NHL Entry Draft year with the Giants, following a rookie season that saw him post 23 goals and 23 assists for 46 points in 64 games. He led all 2002-born players in the WHL in both goals and points. He also became just the third Giant ever to surpass 20 goals in his 16-year-old season.
Being named to Team Canada for the Hlinka Gretzky Cup will help NHL scouts take notice of Sourdif, but he knows he has work to do with the Giants this season in order to take the next step.
“This tournament obviously is a great showcase for guys in their draft year, but it’s not the be-all, end-all,” Sourdif said. “Some guys on the Hlinka team last year weren’t picked at all (in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft), so you know it all depends on consistency and how you play throughout the year, so whether you played well at the Hlinka or even made the team, that doesn’t really matter. It’s what you’ve been doing lately.”
J.D. Burke, who scouted players at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup as Editor in Chief of eliteprospects.com, said it was an inconsistent tournament for Sourdif.
“He found the score sheet often enough,” Burke told the Now-Leader, “but that’s the case for the majority of the Canadian forwards. Considering how much time Sourdif spent on a line with Cole Perfetti — the new leading scorer in tournament history — that seems like the bare minimum anyway.”
Burke said what makes Sourdif effective is his ability to maneuver in tight spaces, from below the hashmarks and along the half-wall, and to inflict himself on opposing defencemen on their puck retrievals.
“He’s got a fine top-gear in a straight line, but it’s his first two steps that make him a threat low in the offensive zone, particularly on the forecheck.”
There were flashes for Sourdif at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, Burke said, “but he got away from his game more often than not.
“That said,” he added, “I still like Sourdif as a prospect, and I don’t think this tournament will affect his ranking anywhere — certainly not on my board. His vision and offensive instincts are high-end. He’s the type of player that sometimes suffers in environments like these, where structure and chemistry are nowhere to be found.”
“Everybody was really happy for me. It was cool to experience that.” – @SourdifJustin
— Vancouver Giants (@WHLGiants) September 24, 2018
With some of his summer spent in Team Canada colours, Sourdif will now relax for a bit before focusing on the Giants’ season ahead, with training camp just a couple weeks away.
“It’ll be a little different coming into my second season,” he said, “and I’ll be relied on a little bit more and bring more of a leadership role, after my rookie year of growing and getting used to things – mistakes and just learning from them. So in my second year, you kind of have to pass your knowledge down to the rookies and take them under your wing and kind of lead the way.”