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2024 wjc owen allard

Never give up

Owen Allard wasn’t expected to make Canada’s National Junior Team, but hard work and dedication have brought him to Gothenburg for a chance to wear the Maple Leaf

Jonathan Yue
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December 26, 2023
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A look at Owen Allard’s hockey career so far reveals a résumé one might not expect to see from a member of Canada’s National Junior Team.

The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds forward was a seventh-round pick in the 2020 Ontario Hockey League (OHL) Priority Selection and has been passed over in consecutive NHL drafts. But that hasn’t stopped the Renfrew, Ontario, native from putting in the work and earning a spot on the Canadian roster at the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship in Gothenburg, Sweden.

“I laid it all on the line,” Allard says. “I thought I had a strong performance at [selection]camp, I did my thing and I had no regrets. I dreamed of playing at the World Juniors as a kid, so it’s a really special moment for myself, and my family and friends.”

Allard joins an select group of skaters (forwards and defencemen) to make Canada’s National Junior Team after going undrafted in back-to-back drafts, joining the likes of longtime NHLers Bob Bassen (1985) and Mike Keane (1987), Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Mark Recchi (1988) and the most recent player to add his name to the list, Brett Leason (2019).

(Leason ended up being the 56th overall pick by Washington in his third draft and is a constant presence in the Anaheim Ducks lineup this season.)

“It has been a crazy path,” Allard says. “I was a late-round draft pick in the OHL and really wasn't supposed to make the Soo Greyhounds as a 17-year-old. But, I went in there, did my thing and made the team. I think it is the same thing here. I wasn't really supposed to be invited, I mean I am undrafted in the NHL and I only played 14 games last season.”

That’s right… Allard forced his way into the Team Canada conversation despite playing only 14 games after suffering a torn labrum ahead of the 2022-23 season that required shoulder surgery. The recovery time meant Allard didn’t make his season debut until Feb. 23 and once again put his resilience, mentally and physically, to the test.

“I definitely put in the work to be here and to have an opportunity to be on this team,” Allard says. “[Before the injury], I thought I was going to have a big year, especially being passed over in the draft, but that goal collapsed after the injury and a lot of doubt went through my mind. I stayed positive and stuck with it, did the rehab and worked extremely hard to get back onto the ice. Everything happens for a reason, so everything happened last season so I can be here right now.”

Improving himself

While he may be representing his country for the first time, this won’t be Allard’s first experience on international ice. During the 2020-21 season that was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Allard crossed the pond to France, where his brother Sutton was getting into a few games in the Ligue Magnus, the country’s top league. Allard skated with the U17 and U20 teams with the Caen Drakkars recording 15 points in eight games.

“It was super beneficial for my development during those lockdown years,” Allard recalls. “I was still getting better, getting the reps, and being able to play on the bigger ice unlocked some new skills that I took back to make the Soo Greyhounds as an unexpected player at the following camp.”

As for advice from his journey so far? To never give up, something Allard lives by. At every stage of his career, he knew he could have hung up the skates and pursued something else, but he made sure to keep going.

“I’ve defied all odds and stuck with it,” Allard says. “It could have been really easy for me to quit hockey or even just not played, but I say just never give up and trust your abilities. You can always get better, just put the work in.”

Kyle Nishizaki has been Allard’s skills coach for the last 10 years in Ottawa, and knows first hand how much work he has put in during that time. Nishizaki says he is excited to see Allard get the opportunity to show what kind of person and player he is on the world stage.

“His energy is infectious,” Nishizaki says. “You see him on the ice and the work ethic that’s driven him and allowed him to make this team, but it’s the energy, his love for hockey, his teammates. He pushes everyone around him to be better.

As Allard hits the ice with Canada’s National Junior Team, his hard work so far has paid off, but there’s much more work to be done. The goal in Sweden is to make sure he makes the most of this experience and see what’s next for him in his hockey journey.

“It’s been rewarding,” Allard says. “For all the hard work I’ve put in, the sacrifice my family has made for me, it feels really good, and I think [Hockey Canada] saw something in my game that they needed in this tournament. Only a select few get to wear the Maple Leaf, so its a crazy feeling and I am going to do everything I can to help this team win."

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

emadziya@hockeycanada.ca 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

ssharkey@hockeycanada.ca

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

jknight@hockeycanada.ca

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