Despite not being selected to attend the Ontario Hockey Federation (OHF) U-16 camps this past summer, forward Ryan Kujawinski of Iroquois Falls has overcome the odds.
Playing with the Sudbury Anmar Minor Midget Wolves and benefiting from plenty of tournament exposure, Kujawinski was named to the squad that will represent the province at the Canada Winter Games this February in Halifax.
Kujawinski joins a roster that includes the bulk of the top OHL draft eligible players, prospects such as Max Domi, Darnell Nurse, Nicholas Ritchie and Nicholas Baptiste.
"I am very proud to have a member of our team chosen for this great honour, representing Sudbury, northern Ontario and Ontario at the Canada Winter Games," team manager Adrian Gedye said. "Ryan is not only a gifted hockey player, he is also a very modest and polite young man off the ice."
According to Team Ontario director of operations Matt Rabideau, there was plenty to like about the package that Kujawinski brings to the table. "His size, his skating ability, the way he brings pucks to the net, his work ethic," Rabideau said.
While Kujawinski, who played A level hockey one year ago as a member of the Iroquois Falls Bantams, was not invited to the U-16 camps over the summer, he was equally not a completely unknown quantity to OHF officials.
"I was definitely aware of him," Rabideau said. "I think that his continuous progression, from the time that we first saw him in September to this most recent tournament last week, when we made our final decisions, was impressive. It was a unanimous decision of the coaching staff to have Ryan as part of our team.”
While the debate will rage on about whether minor midget players are best served on an AAA minor midget team such as the Anmar Wolves versus playing in the Great North Midget League, Rabideau steered clear of jumping in too heavily on one side or the other.
"I think that wherever you play, if you have the talent, our scouts would find you," he said.
The Canada Winter Games tournament features 12 teams comprised of three pools, with squads covering the 10 provinces, the North West Territories and the Yukon. Based on the 2007 Canada Winter Games rankings, Team Ontario is seeded first and is in Pool A that also includes British Columbia, Quebec and Nova Scotia.