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By Michael Boriero - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Samuel Poulin, Sherbrooke Phoenix captain and Pittsburgh Penguins first round pick in the 2019 National Hockey League (NHL) draft, is one step closer to making Canada’s 2021 World Junior Championships squad.

The 19-year-old forward was told last week that he had been selected to take part in a 51-day evaluation camp featuring 46 other Canadian hopefuls. This is the first time Poulin has been invited for a chance to represent Canada at an under-20 world hockey event.

“I’ve been watching the world juniors for a long time and it’s always been my dream to be a part of that,” he said. “This year is my final chance to make that team, so I want to make sure I’m proving myself every day and showing some good stuff on the ice.”

Poulin put up impressive numbers in the 2019-2020 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) regular season, notching 32 goals and 45 assists in 46 games. While he hasn’t played for the under-20 team, the power forward has appeared on the international stage before.

Poulin played for Canada’s under-17 squad and twice cracked a roster spot on the under-18 team. This is different, though, as the under-20 World Junior Championships showcases many of the best and brightest NHL prospects around the globe.

“There’s a lot of good players out there, it’s going to be a hard battle, but if I show some good stuff on the ice I have a good chance of making that team,” said Poulin.

Sherbrooke head coach Stéphane Julien also understands the gravity of the situation for his team’s captain. He wasn’t invited to the training camp last year, which weighed on him, Julien explained. Poulin spent all summer training just for this moment, he continued.

“He’s fit and very powerful right now and he’s got an objective to make the under-20, but it will be a good challenge for him with a lot guys coming back because the NHL is not starting right away,” Julien said.

While he considers himself fortunate to have already donned the maple leaf three times in his career, Poulin said the world juniors would be the cherry on top of the cake. The camp begins on Nov. 16 in Red Deer, Alberta.

Players and staff members will be tested regularly for COVID-19 once the camp kicks off. Once the team is finalized, they will enter a world junior bubble in Edmonton, Alberta. Canada kicks off on Dec. 26 against Germany at Rogers Place.

It’s every kids dream to play for Canada, said Poulin, and although he has already had the opportunity to represent his country on several occasions, it’s going to sting if he doesn’t make the squad this year. But, either way, he is prepared for what comes next.

“For sure, I’ll be really disappointed if I don’t make that team because it’s my last chance. It’s something I’ve always dreamed of, but it’s part of hockey and it’s not always easy; you’ve got to be ready for those kinds of things,” Poulin said.

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