The hockey spotlight continues to shine on Israel Mianscum after the announcement that the Mistissini native will make his international hockey debut as a member of Team Canada at the upcoming World U-17 Hockey Challenge.
Taking place November 2-9 in Medicine Hat, Alberta, and Swift Current, Saskatchewan, the World U-17 Hockey Challenge brings together many of the best young hockey players in the world, and represents the first step in Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence.
The Program of Excellence is used by Hockey Canada to identify and develop players who will move on to represent Canada on both the U-18 team and the national junior squad that participates annually in the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships. It has served as a springboard for countless players who eventually reached the NHL, including superstars like Connor McDavid, John Tavares, Taylor Hall and Nathan MacKinnon.
For Mianscum, who turned 16 in April, his selection to one of the three Canadian squads participating in this year’s tournament marks the latest chapter in what is quickly becoming an impressive hockey career.
The talented power forward is making his QMJHL debut this year after being selected 10th overall by the Sherbrooke Phœnix. Currently perched atop the CHL national rankings, the Phœnix have racked up an impressive early-season record of 13-1-2.
Playing with a powerhouse club like the Phœnix certainly hasn’t hurt Mianscum’s development, or chances of gaining an edge over the stiff competition battling to get noticed by Hockey Canada. In addition to playing alongside NHL prospects like Pittsburgh Penguins’ pick Samuel Poulin, breaking into junior with a top club eases the transition for young players getting their first taste of high-level hockey.
Hockey Canada head scout Brad McEwen, responsible for developing young players through the Program of Excellence, has kept a watchful eye on Mianscum’s development.
“We have had Israel on our radar, and he was well tracked during his draft year,” McEwen told the Nation. “Israel ticks a lot of the boxes, in terms of his skill set, his play with the puck, and the way he skates. His size is a bonus, and he has good presence, and lots of offensive upside.”
Mianscum’s performance at the scout-laden Gatorade Excellence Challenge earlier this season proved to be a turning point. Mianscum led the Québec-Bleu squad to a championship win while tallying seven goals and six assists in five games to garner tournament MVP honours.
But while Mianscum has made significant strides over a short period of time, plenty of hard work remains before he can lay claim to a spot at the next level. The experience at the World U-17 Hockey Challenge is particularly intense, exposing players to a gruelling tournament, where McEwen and his staff expect them to expose their hockey identity.
“This is a tough event,” McEwen said of the World U-17 Hockey Challenge. “And for almost all these players, it will be the first time they are playing alongside and against the legitimate best players in Canada, and from around the world.”
The tournament hosts U-17 teams from Canada, the US, Russia, Czech Republic, Finland and Sweden.
“We want to get these kids outside their comfort zone, challenge them to show us who they are as hockey players, and then we measure them based on our criteria for what we are looking for in players that can go to the next level,” McEwen said.
According to McEwen, participation in the U-17 program can emerge as a defining moment for a player.
“My experience with this program is that there are some players who take a great leap, and some who struggle after participating at this event. We’re talking about the top U-17 players in Canada. With their CHL teams, a young guy may have to take a back seat, but prior to that, they were the top players wherever they played,” he said.
“And when they come to us, the expectations get cranked up, and it is a real challenge for players to quickly figure out where they fit in on the team. With this event, the way that players mentally deal with how they are used, how they treat their teammates, and how they react to new coaches, can really define where they go next.”