Cameron Allen has always put one foot ahead of the other, taking hockey one stride at a time and never looking too far ahead.
But the next stride for the defenceman is a pretty big one – Allen will captain Canada’s National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team at the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, marking his first major appearance on the international stage with Team Canada.
“I was always really competitive as a kid, even to the present day, but I just took it a game at a time,” says Allen of his journey. “I never really looked too far ahead, and it was just my passion for the game that has got me here and I think it will continue to help me grow in the future.”
A standout in minor hockey with the Toronto Young Nationals of the Greater Toronto Hockey League, Allen has always dreamed of playing in the NHL. From his start in U7 with the North Toronto Hockey Association to joining the Guelph Storm in the Ontario Hockey League and now to Team Canada, Allen credits his coaches for helping him reach the highest levels in the game.
“I had a lot of support from people in minor hockey. Brett Punchard, Joe Latham, they were great coaches that I had helping me make that transition,” he says. “When I got to Guelph, George Burnette and Scott Walker were great at assembling a team that was really tight knit; that really helped and I’m super thankful to them.”
The third overall pick in the 2021 OHL Priority Selection (despite not playing a single U16 AAA game in his draft year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic). Allen made an immediate impact with the Storm – he posted 37 points (13-24—37) in 65 games, fourth-best among all rookie OHL defenders, although his numbers were tops among 2005-born blue-liners.
His performance earned him the Emms Family Award as OHL rookie of the year – the first defenceman to take the honour since Ryan Merkley, another Storm d-man and fellow Team Canada alumnus, in 2016-17 – as well as a place on the OHL First All-Star Team.
2022 #OHL Awards 🏆:@Storm_City blueliner Cam Allen is the 2021-22 recipient of the Emms Family Award presented annually to the #OHL Rookie of the Year. https://t.co/yLwaspjK9a pic.twitter.com/OVPqQM3bQf— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) May 24, 2022
“He was a pleasure for us and lived up to all of our expectations,” says Storm head coach Scott Walker of Allen’s rookie year. “He’s a mature, fit kid who is built like a hockey player [and] who is a few years ahead of others. Working well with the rest of his teammates, he’s also a leader, even as a 16-year-old kid coming into the OHL.”
The Hlinka Gretzky Cup won’t be the first time Allen dons the Maple Leaf, having won gold with Team Canada Black at last year’s Capital City Challenge. That tournament was held in place of the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, which was cancelled for the second year in a row due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The tournament featured three national under-17 teams and Canada’s National Women’s Team, providing an opportunity for 2005-born players to experience the Program of Excellence for the first time and for the National Women’s Team to compete as part of its Olympic centralization schedule.
His leadership skills and maturity will be on full display in Red Deer with the ‘C’ on his chest. His alternate captains are Zach Benson, Jordan Tourigny and Brayden Yager – familiar faces from the Capital City Challenge (Benson and Tourigny were Canada Black teammates, while Yager was part of the silver medal-winning Canada Red).
As captain, Allen is bringing his ‘one step at a time’ approach to Red Deer. Understanding the importance of building from the tournament, he wants to make the most of his time with the U18 team and take what he learns into his NHL draft season.
“It’s the first time [for this age group] where it’s really the best players; it’s great personalities in the room and it would be incredible to share a gold medal with these guys,” Allen says. “We all have that in our minds.
”Next year's a huge year for me, just going into that NHL draft year and then hopefully I get drafted. That's where the work begins.”
With a successful rookie OHL season behind him and his draft campaign just around the corner – he has been projected as a potential top-10 pick in a few very early mock drafts – Allen is ready to showcase his talents on the international stage, with dozens of NHL scouts in attendance.
“[It’s my] first time seeing these European teams,” he says. “I haven't really had a taste of the Swedish players or Finland [or any of those countries, but] I think it's going to be a great experience.”
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