To represent your country on the international stage.
Hitmen forward Jonas Peterek and defenceman Egor Zamula are overseas battling for roster spots for their respected countries of the Czech Republic and Russia at World Junior selection camps.
They’re one step closer to making the dream of playing in the tournament a reality.
“This is my favourite time of year and every kid dreams of making the national team,” Zamula said. “Every year I watched it growing up and now I’m ready to play in it.”
“It means a lot to get the invite and I’m going to do my best to make the team,” Peterek added. “It’s always been a holiday tradition to gather around the TV to watch the tournament and I’m very honoured to get this opportunity.”
For Zamula, the 19-year-old smooth skating defenceman has picked up right where he left off last season with 28 points (7G, 21A) in 28 tilts this year to sit third in defenceman scoring in the WHL. The towering defender is already just three goals shy from his career high of 10, which he set last season.
“It was hard work to get to this point,” said the Philadelphia Flyers prospect. “This past summer I would skate at 5:00 a.m. for one hour, sleep for a couple hours, workout and then back to the ice. I think all that commitment has paid off but I want to keep pushing to get better.
“I know my stick handling is not too bad as a defenceman. My coaches back home would always say I have hands like a forward.”
Peterek meanwhile has tallied 15 points (7G, 8A) in his first season in the WHL, getting the chance to play in the top-six and power play time as a rookie.
There’s a little more incentive for the 18-year-old with the Czech Republic hosting the tourney.
Representing your country as the host nation, it doesn’t get more special than that.
“It’s about 20 minutes from my hometown so it’ll be nice to be close to family and get to see them again,” he said. “Some guys that are invited to the camp I played with last year and it’s going to be fun to reunite with them.
“The fans love their hockey there and it’s going to make for a fun atmosphere with the buzz and energy.”
With the tournament set to begin on Boxing Day in Ostrava and Třinec, a factor that will play a significant role is the larger ice surface compared to what they have become accustomed to in the ‘Dub.
Larger ice surface equals a slower paced game.
“It’s going to take a bit to get used to again,” Zamula said. “I like the smaller surface in North America because it makes for a faster pace and you really need to rely on your quick movements and decision making.
“I immediately loved the speed of the game once I came over from Russia.
“With the larger rink, it’s going be a completely different game,” Peterek added. “It’s been a little tough to get used to losing the time and space here in North America and it’s definitely a lot more physical.
“I think I’ve started to get more comfortable with it but it’s funny that now I might be going back to what I’ve been used to my whole life.”
And, how fitting is it that both the Czech Republic and Russia are in the same group along with Canada, Germany and the United States.
Meaning a potential Peterek vs. Zamula bout could be in the works.
“Russia will be ready to go and I told him that we’ll get the win,” laughed Zamula. “It’ll be a tough game for us to start it off and overall a tough group but we have the skill and structure to have success.
“Having both of us represent the Hitmen at this will definitely be special.”