Colton Kammerer took the chip on his shoulder everywhere with him this
summer. Every time he walked into the gym, every time he stepped on the
ice, there it was.
He watched friends and teammates make the trip to Calgary at the end of
July for Canada’s national under-17 development camp while he stayed in
Ontario and wondered, ‘Why not me?’
So he made it his goal to never ask that question again.
“It was a bit disappointing, but I just tried to use it as motivation,”
Kammerer says of not getting the summer camp invite. “In the summer
whenever I was working out, I’d always work hard to just prove them wrong.
“Going into the year I even said to my GM that one of my goals was to prove
to Team Canada that I should have been at camp. I was expecting that to be
for, say, under-18s or sometime in the future.”
Well … the future is now.
A third-round pick of the Sarnia Sting in the OHL Priority Selection last
spring, Kammerer earned a roster spot out of training camp and quickly
became a valued contributor, no easy feat for a 16-year-old.
His play caught the eye of Hockey Canada scouts and when the Canadian
roster was announced for the 2017 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in
mid-October, there was Kammerer – the lone player among the 66 named who
did not attend summer camp.
(He was one of two non-campers when the puck dropped in Dawson Creek and
Fort St. John; Dylan Holloway, who joined Kammerer on Canada Red late last
week as an injury replacement, also wasn’t present in Calgary.)
So what changed in four months? What did the October version of Colton
Kammerer have that the July version didn’t?
“When you talked to some [scouts], he was a good player but they didn’t see
the total upside and see the package that all of the sudden he has become,”
says Brad McEwen, head scout with Hockey Canada. “I don’t think there is
any real substantial answer [to his improvement], but he obviously had a
good summer, and he is a confident player.”
It also doesn’t hurt that Kammerer just so happens to play for one of the
best Major Junior teams in the country; the Sting have an OHL-best 15-3-0-0
record, were ranked No. 1 in the CHL and had reeled off 13 straight wins
before he departed for British Columbia.
The fact he was playing, playing lots, and contributing – Kammerer has a
goal and four assists in 14 games with the Sting – resonated with McEwen
and the Hockey Canada staff.
“One of the challenging things with this age group is that a lot of the
kids don’t play,” he says. “It’s their first year in Major Junior and
they’re usually getting slowly worked into the roster, so it is a little
bit hard to evaluate that last piece.
“But with Colton, he was playing; you could sit and watch him play, see his
skillset, see his competitiveness and hockey sense, and that made it pretty
easy [to include him among the final 66].”
So step one is complete – making the roster. Next comes step two – proving
Because he wasn’t at camp, Kammerer came into the World Under-17 Hockey
Challenge at somewhat of a disadavantage, having missed out on 10 days of
team-building, practices and learning systems.
His immediate problem, though, had nothing to with anything his coaches
could draw on a whiteboard.
“It was nerves,” Kammerer says. “The coaches had never seen me play so I
could really feel it in the first practice. The nerves were coming in. I
was missing some passes, but I just tried to focus in when the coaches were
talking, listen the best I can and so far I’m starting to get the systems.”
It shows. Kammerer has been a fixture on the Canada Red blue-line thus far,
seeing time on the power play and posting one assist through two
He’s using his time with the Maple Leaf on his chest for exactly what it is
– a chance to represent his country, get better on and off the ice, and
take another big step in his young hockey career.
“I’m already learning a lot from the coaches, and playing on a world stage
like this is a great experience,” Kammerer says. “I’m just trying to soak
in as much as I can and use it as a great learning experience.”