By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
Rejection stings. Just ask Colin Smith.
Smith, who is preparing for his sophomore season with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, was cut by Canada’s under-18 team on Tuesday, told that he wasn’t good enough to play in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament that opens Monday in Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Canada has won the event five of the last six years.
“Any time you get told you’re not good enough, it’s going to fire you up,” said Smith, an Edmonton native, adding that he will use the rejection slip as motivation for the approaching WHL season.
“I thought I did well,” he continued. “I worked hard and did all I could. I guess I just wasn’t what they were looking for.”
Smith was one of 38 players who took part in a five-day came at Father David Bauer Arena in Calgary. But he wasn’t one of the 22 players selected to the team that now is in Europe.
In fact, only four WHL players — defencemen Myles Bell (Regina Pats), Ryan Murray (Everett Silvertips) and Duncan Siemens (Saskatoon Blades) and forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Red Deer Rebels) — made the grade.
“There were a lot of guys who had good camps (and didn’t make it),” said Smith, who said he feels he matched up well in the practices and scrimmages, all of which he said were conducted at a “high tempo.”
“It makes it a little bit tougher,” he said, “when you put yourself through that and you come up short.”
Al Murray, Hockey Canada’s head scout, said he liked what he saw of Smith.
“He was good. He played well,” Murray said from St. John’s, Nfld., where he is at the national junior team evaluation camp. “He just couldn’t generate enough offensive chances to take one of the offensive spots and the coaches didn’t see him as being an energy guy or a defensive guy.
“When you’re that type of player and you don’t have the versatility to take on other roles, then you’re limiting the amount of chances you can get and you have to hope you outscore and outchance the other guys. He created some things but he didn’t score to the point where they would say, ‘Yeah, he’s going to be one of our top guys’, ahead of someone like Nugent-Hopkins.”
Murray said the under-18 camp may be the most competitive one held by Hockey Canada.
“That camp always has more good players cut than any because it’s the only thing we do, apart from the Olympic Games, where we get to bring all of our best players together,” Murray explained. “You’re not missing guys in the NHL, there are very few injuries . . . you’ve got the 40 best kids in their age group in Canada and that’s always a good group of players.”
Now, then, Smith will begin looking to Aug. 26, which is when the Blazers open camp.
“Maybe the time off isn’t such a bad thing,” Smith said, trying to put a positive spin on things, “with getting ready for camp and that.”