The Steinbach Pistons sent two players to the Canada West selection camp for the first time this past weekend. Defenseman Darby Gula and forward Mackenzie Graham are both vying to represent Canada at the upcoming World Junior ‘A’ Challenge December 13-19 in Cobourg/Whitby, Ontario.
The two Pistons players left this past Friday to join 58 other Junior ‘A’ players from across Western Canada in Leduc, Alberta. Where they are competing over a three-day camp to see who will be on Canada West’s roster for the upcoming tournament.
“I’m really excited and honoured to be recognized for something like this,” said Graham about being picked to go to the selection camp. “I’m honoured to represent the Steinbach Pistons and the entire MJHL.”
Both Graham and Gula have made their impact at a young age on a skilled Pistons squad full of veteran players. Graham is one of the first prospects to come to Steinbach from the Toronto area while Gula is a home-grown talent having played for the Steinbach Millers and Eastman Selects.
Gula says he’s also very excited about the opportunity and hopes to use the experience to continue to grow his game. “I hope to soak up any info from the coaches and learn as much as I can and then bring it back to Steinbach,” says the 17 year-old rookie who has made a seamless transition from ‘AAA’ Midget.
Gula started the year as the 7th defenseman and now is one of the go-to-guys on the power play. The young defender says his experience so far at the junior level has been surreal.
“This is the best place to play,” said the former Eastman Select about being in Steinbach. “I wouldn’t want to play anywhere else, watching the team growing up – this is a dream come true.”
Meanwhile for Graham, Steinbach is the farthest thing from home. Despite the distance from his family, he has taken a liking to southeastern Manitoba.
“To be honest, it’s a nice change,” said Graham about the automobile city. “Toronto is a big city and it is awesome, but to get out of there and get a small town experience has been unique and I’m really enjoying it so far.”
The Pistons have worked hard at developing an atmosphere that players choose to not only grow their hockey skills but also advance educationally. And both players are taking advantage of that by setting scholarship goals.
“I want to go to the [United] States for an NCAA scholarship,” stated Graham, who is 18 years-old. “I still have a few more years to get that, but I’m working towards it.”
Gula and Graham are joined by five other MJHL players. The 60 players in selection camp will be notified late Monday or Tuesday morning on if they will be making the trip to Ontario this upcoming weekend.
PIcture Above: Mackenzie Graham left – Darby Gula Right