U-18 Experience with Team Canada's Markus Phillips
The World Juniors has become a cultural phenomenon in Canada. Every year in December, the best junior players from across the country shoulder the collective hopes and dreams of the nation as they do battle with other countries for Gold. Unlike the World Juniors, the April U-18 IIHF world championships do not generate the same fanfare or viewership, due to the Stanley Cup playoffs or road to the Memorial Cup for junior teams taking precedence on our attention span. What the April U-18 does have though is a more important set of eyes watching them, in the form of scouts and representatives from all 30 NHL teams, scrutinizing every play, making this tournament a crucial step for these players striving to show their NHL potential.
'' Being selected to the U18 Team Canada roster is defeiently the highlight of my career to date ''
This year’s tournament was in Grand Forks, North Dakota and featured many of the top players eligible for this years draft, along with a select group hoping to hear their named called in 2017. Canada’s roster featured three of these youngsters, including Markus Phillips, rookie defenseman for the Owen Sound Attack, and a student at the Universal Hockey School. This was not Phillips’ first time representing Canada in international competition, having represented team Canada Red at the 2015 World U-17 Hockey Challenge in November. But as a high first round pick, 9 th overall, his spot on one of those three Canadian squads at the U-17’s is all but assured. Phillips told me he had a hunch he’d be invited to the U-18 camp. But to actually be picked as one of the select few, he says, is the highlight of his career to date.
The team itself started strong but ultimately fell short of gold with a 10-3 loss to a tough US squad in the bronze medal game. Asked how quick it took him to adapt to the high level of international play, Phillips was blunt but apt, saying, “Playing with the best ’98 born players in Canada was a smooth transition. Everyone was fast, skilled and smart”. Watching Phillips throughout the tournament it is easy to agree with him. The two-way rearguard played primarily on the 3rd pairing, managing to chip in 2 assists, and deftly held his own when thrust into duty.
The transition for Markus in his rookie season with the Attack was more challenging. When asked how long it took to finally be comfortable at the OHL level, Phillips admitted that the speed and tempo of his first OHL practice “took [him] by storm”. Ultimately it wasn’t until about 5 to 10 games into the season that he fully adjusted to the pace of the OHL game. Once the acclimation was complete, Phillips blossomed, finishing the season with a solid 12 points in 63 games for the Attack. For a rookie defenseman making the jump from the GTHL to the OHL, one has to look beyond the usual metrics of goals and assists to evaluate his true impact on the ice. As his game matured and confidence increased, he was rewarded with more responsibilities and ice time and his game benefitted immensely.
Of course, Phillips’s successful rookie season was due to his hard work and talent, but he has had some help to get there. Markus has been working with Daniel Bochner and Universal Hockey for 5 years now, saying “Without Daniel I wouldn’t be the player I am today…He has helped me in all areas of my game skating especial but also…my skill and little details in the defensive zone”. He plans to continuing working with Daniel with the aim to lengthen his stride. “You can’t be too good of a skater,” he says.
Next year will be a big one for Phillips, with the NHL Draft in sights, and the scrutiny and pressure that comes with it. But with his talent and work ethic, a successful rookie season, and the coaching of Daniel to help him get better, next season is poised to be a big one for the up and coming d-man Markus Phillips.
Video : See Markus Phillips training with Universal Hockey in the video below.
Blog Post by Max Lewis
Max Lewis is an aspiring sports writer. He has written for the Don Mills Flyers, GTHL and now Universal Hockey. He will be attending Ryerson for Sports Media this coming fall. When he is not writing about the game he is playing it, suiting up for the U-21 AAA Humberview Huskies.
Minas Panagiotakis HHOF/IIHF IMAGES | Markus Phillips in action with Team Canada against Slovakia
Terry Wilson OHL IMAGES | Markus Philips in action with the Owen Sound Attack of the OHL