Smith ready for U-18 camp

Colin Smith has his bags packed and he's ready to go . . . to Calgary and then to Europe.

Smith, who is heading into his sophomore season with the WHL's Kamloops Blazers, is one of 38 hopefuls - 24 of whom are forwards - who will report today to Calgary's Father David Bauer Arena, site of the national under-18 team's selection camp.

The camp will run through Tuesday, at which point two goaltenders and 22 skaters will be named to the team that will represent Canada at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament in Breclav, Czech Republic, and Piestany, Slovakia.

"They told everyone to pack as if you're going to Europe," Smith said. "So I've packed for, like, two weeks."

Now he will hit the ice and try to prove to the coaching staff that he's worthy of making the team, meaning all the packing wasn't a waste of time.

"The opportunity is huge . . . to be able to make Team Canada is pretty speical," he said. "It's my first chance to do something like that."

So he really wants to prove to head coach George Burnett of the OHL's Belleville Bulls and assistants Ron Choules (QMJHL's Acadie-Bathurst Titan) and Jim Hiller (WHL's Tri-City Americans) that he belongs.

Asked if he feels ready, Smith replies: "Yeah, I think so. But I'm a little nervous."

If he doesn't make it, it won't be because of a lack of offseason work.

The 17-year-old Edmonton native has been working out five days a week at Body by Bennett, a personal fitness studio operated by Simon Bennett, who works with the NHL's Edmonton Oilers. Smith also has been running on weekends, and has been skating Tuesdays and Thursdays with a group that includes the likes of Oilers veterans Ladislav Smid and Zack Stortini.

Smith also has done some offseason skating at Vimy Ridge Academy in Edmonton and also spent three weeks at Quantum Speed, doing some power-skating work along with Kamloops defenceman Bronson Maschkmeyer.

Through it all, Smith figures he has grown about half an inch and put on almost 10 pounds, bringing him up to 5-foot-10 and, he said with a chuckle, "I'm getting close to that 170 pounds . . . I'm at 167 today."

Smith is anything but big-boned and knows it. As he said, "With my body type, it's tough to put on pounds. But you really see the strength increasing."

Smith, the seventh overall pick in the 2008 bantam draft, had 26 points, including five goals, in 48 games last season. He got off to a late start after suffering a broken arm during the Blazers' intrasquad game.

Smith definitely showed improvement as the season went on - he picked up 11 points over his final 18 regular-season games and then added a goal and three assists in four playoff games.

He hopes to carry that late-season momentum into the U-18 camp.

There will be nine WHLers at the camp, including defenceman Reece Scarlett of the Swift Current Broncos and forward Mark McNeill of the Prince Albert Raiders, both of them good friends of Smith. As well, defenceman Duncan Siemens of the Saskatoon Blades is from Sherwood Park, Alta. "He and I have played together for years," Smith said.

So there will at least be some familiar faces in the camp.

The rest then is up to Smith.

"I don't know," he said, when asked what he expects starting Saturday. "I'll just show them what I've got and see what happens."

Team Canada will play an exhibition game against Czech Republic in Breclav on Aug. 7, before opening the tournament against Sweden on Aug. 9 in Piestany. Slovakia and Switzerland also are in Canada's pool.

JUST NOTES: The Blazers will open training camp on Aug. 26 at the McArthur Island Sports and Event Centre. There won't be any ice in the Interior Savings Centre until after Cirque de Soleil completes its five-day run on Sept. 5. . . . Simon Wheeldon is the new head coach of the B.C. major midget league's Kootenay Ice. He spent the last five seasons as GM/head coach of the junior B Nelson Leafs. . . . Tri-City announced Thursday that associate coach Terry Virtue has resigned "due to personal reasons." He had been on the Ams' coaching staff for three seasons. As for a replacement, GM Bob Tory said he has targeted a candidate and expects to make an announcement early next week.

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