Wheat Kings star on road to recovery

KEN WIEBE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:35 AM ET

Matt Calvert will never really know for sure if his best shot was good enough to earn a spot with Canada's world junior hockey team.

The Brandon Wheat Kings forward suffered a back injury in his last game before training camp was set to begin in Ottawa and despite his best efforts, Calvert wasn't able to participate fully in the on-ice portion of the tryout.

As a result, Calvert got the dreaded early-morning phone call and became a spectator, much like most of the nation as Canada rolled to its fifth consecutive gold medal.

"It was pretty tough, I only got to skate for about five minutes there," Calvert said in a recent telephone interview. "But it was something I don't regret going to. It was a real good experience and I learned a lot from it.

"When you watch (the practices and intrasquad games), your competitiveness comes out in you and you want to be out there and show what you can do. When the (real) games started, you still want Team Canada to win. You are always cheering for them every year and it was great to see them win the gold medal. Obviously, they picked the right guys to win it."

After missing 10 games with the back injury, Calvert returned to action and made sure the road to recovery would be prosperous.

With two goals and 10 points in January, Calvert was showing signs of life.

But in six games in February -- including two goals in a 4-1 win over the Prince Albert Raiders on Sunday -- Calvert has seven goals and 16 points to increase his season totals to 19 goals and 52 points.

"Another part of the game is battling adversity," said Calvert. "It's too bad (the injury) happened then, but I'm healthy right now. Hopefully, I can keep getting stronger and we can go on a long playoff run."

During the last year or so, Calvert has experienced a lot of highs, including the fact he was chosen in the fifth round (127th overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"It was something to get accustomed to because growing up I never really had any expectations on my shoulders," said Calvert, a 19-year-old Brandon product who had 24 goals and 64 points in 72 games last season. "Two years ago, I was playing midget so I came into the Western Hockey League as an unknown player and an 18-year-old rookie."

These days, Calvert is anything but an unknown.

"Our line got off to a bit of a slow start, but lately he's been on fire and has been one of our best players," said Wheat Kings forward Scott Glennie, who spent much of the campaign on a line with Calvert and Brayden Schenn before suffering a broken elbow. "He's got really good vision out there and he can find you in most spots on the ice. He works well in the corners, he's strong on the puck and he manages to get the puck out into the scoring areas.

"He's really good to play with."


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