While the forward lit up the Western Hockey League for the Moose Jaw Warriors – he finished the 2014-15 season with 87 points in 60 games – once the 2015
IIHF World Junior Championship began, he found himself in an unfamiliar position: flying under the radar.
“When you’re the 13th forward and you have guys like [Connor] McDavid and [Max] Domi, I don’t think all the attention is going to be on you,” says Point.
“I just tried to do my best and contribute any way I could.”
Point may have started with his name listed alone on the line-up card, but he promoted himself up the chain with his versatility and play, soon earning
time on the top line. No small feat considering the team that went on to win Canada’s 16th world juniors gold has nine forwards playing – or who have spent
time playing – in the National Hockey League this season: McDavid and Domi, as well as Anthony Duclair, Robby Fabbri Curtis Lazar, Nic Petan, Sam Reinhart,
Nick Ritchie and Jake Virtanen.
He finished with a pair of goals and assists in a supporting role all the while quietly taking in what he’d need to know 12 months later when he was
all-but-certain to assume a leader’s role. Seeing how players like Lazar and Domi not only led but also conducted themselves definitely left an impression.
“I think just how hard they worked and how professional they were about it,” says Point. “They came in day in, day out and gave it their all. That’s what I
took away from them.”
This year Point came to selection camp a virtual lock to make the team, and as one of four returnees to the final roster (along with Virtanen, Joe Hicketts
and Lawson Crouse) having a letter added to his sweater was a distinct possibility.
“Obviously the leadership role is a lot different,” says Point, who this year wears the ‘C’ for Canada. “You go from [being] a guy who’s trying to fit in
to a guy who’s supposed to be leading, so I think I’m just trying to be more vocal in the room than I was last year.”
“He’s obviously going to play a bigger role,” says head coach Dave Lowry. “He’ll have more of an impact and that starts with being the captain and the
leader of our hockey club. He’ll play in all situations for us. He’s been through it; he knows what it takes. He’s played different roles and he can share
Point is no stranger having a letter on his Canadian jersey. He captained Pacific to a fifth-place finish at the 2013 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and
was an alternate captain with Canada’s National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team when it won gold at the 2013 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament.
He showed promise of the leader he would eventually become for Canada’s National Junior Team in August, at the National Teams’ Summer Showcase. He played
in only two of the team’s four exhibition games, but led all 40 invited players with eight points (three goals, five assists).
That momentum carried into September and the start of the 2015-16 WHL season. In the Warriors’ first 19 games, Point registered 18 goals and 25 assists for
43 points. Then, on Nov. 17, he sustained a shoulder injury in a game against the Prince Albert Raiders.
Point started skating again, without contact, on Nov. 30. He participated in drills at selection camp, but didn’t see game action until Canada’s first
pre-tournament game in Finland on Dec. 19. Point responded with a goal and an assist in the 8-1 win over Belarus, and erased any doubts about his readiness
to compete once the real games began.
“I think you’re a little bit nervous – you don’t know what to expect [the first few times back out],” he says. “Getting used to [the pace] in practice was
huge for me and just trying to get my hands back.”
Most of Point’s teammates already know what it’s like to represent their country. Twenty of the 23 players have played for Canada before, and 15 of them
have brought home at least one gold medal. But only three others have been through a world juniors before and know how much the work is worth the reward.
It’s a thrill Point hopes he can experience twice-in-a-lifetime, and he’s open to sharing anything he can with the 19 newbies in the hopes that when the
IIHF World Junior Championship returns to Montreal and Toronto in 2017, Canada will be coming with its 17th gold medal in tow.
“Just how hard the tournament is, how hard you have to work and just the reward of winning,” says Point. “That was a pretty special time for us, so
hopefully we do it again.”
Last year it may have been easy to overlook Brayden Point.