Surrey’s hockey future on the big stage sure looks bright.
We’ve already seen a couple of goalies start to make an impact this year with the likes of Tristan Jarry and Laurent Brossoit. Surrey native Jujhar Khaira is also playing the best hockey of his career with the Edmonton Oilers.
However, there’s a chance that 15-year-old Justin Sourdif could one of the most dynamic hockey players to ever come from the city.
There was a reason why he was drafted third overall in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft by the Vancouver Giants, a moment the young Surrey native won’t soon forget.
“I was really happy when it happened,” said Sourdif. “I get to stay home now and I’ve got lots of family to come see me. It’s just a great organization and I’ve been watching them ever since I was young. It’s a great honour.”
With his play in the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League this season, it’s plausible that Sourdif will make the jump sooner rather than later.
Valley West Hawks coach Rob Evers sure is high on Sourdif’s potential.
“Justin has been really good,” said Evers. “He’s one of the top players I’ve coached in 20 years.”
“I’ve never coached somebody who’s so tenacious at both ends of the ice.”
Evers believes that Sourdif could be playing regularly in the WHL right now, even as a 15-year-old.
“100% he’s WHL ready. Not only is he ready to play, he can contribute at every end of the ice and play in a top-nine role. I won’t be surprised if he’s an everyday contributor in the WHL next season.”
Sourdif was rewarded for his strong effort with the Hawks, by earning a call-up to the Vancouver Giants in November, where he played his first game for the franchise.
Even at such a young age, Sourdif already looks like someone who could be the complete package. He has the skills and the physical tools to go along with a high hockey IQ.
“My biggest strength is probably my decision making,” said Sourdif. “When I’m out on the ice I think I can make the right play. I can find the open man and I’m not afraid to put the puck in the net.”
The vision that Sourdif has shown on the ice this season has made him one of the top rookies in Major Midget Hockey. He’s seventh in league scoring, and he’s formed a dangerous duo with fellow rookie and teammate Cameron MacDonald.
The two players were able to showcase their skills together not just in the BCMML, but also in the 2017 WHL Cup. Both players were a key part of Team B.C. when they knocked off a perennial powerhouse Alberta Squad.
“Beating Alberta when we weren’t expected to was a pretty good feeling,” Sourdif said. “Everybody was clicking and I don’t think we could have played any better.”
Sourdif points to his chemistry with MacDonald as a factor in his success this season. Sourdif spoke about something that makes all coaches happy by saying he’s is especially proud of their defensive work.
“We mesh pretty good together, especially on the (penalty kill). I love going out with (MacDonald) and we don’t get scored on much. We’re doing pretty good as rookies.”
With the Hawks in the BCMML this season, Sourdif has been playing in all roles. Evers hasn’t been afraid to put him on the power play or the penalty kill, and he’s thriving in all situations.
“Probably the biggest progression for Justin is his ability to understand special teams responsibilities and adapt in regards to playing in a system,” Evers said. “Justin is capable of beating guys one-on-one, but eventually players have to play in a system.”
Sourdif noted that there was an adjustment period when he joined the Hawks, although you wouldn’t know by looking at his stat sheet with 36 points in 19 games.
“I think I’m doing pretty good,” he said. “It’s a lot faster than bantam and the guys are a lot bigger. At first, I was struggling a bit but I think I’ve gotten into a groove now.”
Now that he’s dominating as a rookie in the BCMML, the next question will be, can Sourdif crack the Giants roster as a 16-year-old?
“It all depends on how everything goes for the rest of the season and next summer. I want to get bigger and stronger and we’ll go from there.”
Strength and size are important for players as they move up the ranks. However, Sourdif has a skill set that can’t always be taught.
He also tries to emulate his game after some pretty notable players.
“I like Jonathan Toews and T.J. Oshie. Both are two-way players who know how to move the puck and know how to put the puck in the net. Both are just 200-foot players who I like to model myself after.”
While all hockey players have aspirations of making the NHL, Evers believes that Sourdif truly has the ability.
“In 20 years of coaching, this is the third time I’ve said that ‘I think he’s going to play in the NHL,’” said Evers.
Evers had a pretty staunch NHL comparable for young Sourdif.
“He plays the game a lot like Pavel Datsyuk. He’s somebody who is a complete player, a 200-foot player, and someone who is elusive when he plays the game.”
Evers earmarked Kyle Chipchura, a veteran of nearly 500 NHL games, as one of the guys who would make the NHL. The other was 17-year-old Surrey native Luka Burzan.
So far, Evers hasn’t been wrong yet.