Vince Loschiavo, 15, is headed to the Western Canada U-16 Challenge Cup.
The Garden City Collegiate student and Winnipeg Thrashers right-winger is one of 20 players on Team Manitoba who will compete for gold in Calgary from Oct. 31 to Nov. 3.
Loschiavo — who was drafted in the second round, 31st overall by the Western Hockey League’s Kootenay Ice earlier this year — hopes to provide some firepower to the Manitoba lineup.
"I’m a skilled forward, not really a power forward, but a skilled forward," Loschiavo says, who stands almost 6-1 and comes in at about 170 pounds.
"I’m big. I don’t really use my size too much, but I’m fast."
Team Manitoba head coach and Thrashers assistant coach Doug Sinclair says he was particularly impressed with Loschiavo’s play last year, as a Bantam-aged player with the Winnipeg Hawks.
"He played on a team with Nolan Patrick (a fourth overall pick of the Brandon Wheat Kings) and Nolan missed almost half the season with a shoulder injury, so Vince had to pick up the slack as a scorer, and he did," says Sinclair, who also works as a hockey scout and is a former professional hockey player.
Sinclair says Loschiavo is very attentive in games and in practice and is very hard-working hockey player.
"Whether it’s U-16 or the Thrashers, he’s one of those guys who grasps the idea right away and executes it," Sinclair says. "He’s attentive, he’s got good listening skills, he works hard and when we’re trying to get the guys working and moving a little bit more, he responds really well."
Sinclair says that Loschiavo is adjusting to the faster pace of AAA Midget hockey quite well and that he’s only going to get better.
"He’s a taller guy and he’s probably going to fill out," Sinclair says. "That’s one area of the game he needs to work on. It’s a strength thing and throughout the course of the year hopefully he gets stronger physically."
Sinclair says Team Alberta and B.C. are the perennial favourites at the Challenge Cup, but that Manitoba could easily surprise everyone with hard work and team chemistry.
"We’ve done a lot of team-building," Sinclair says. "These kids are really getting to know each other and I think they want to play for one another. That’s the key for me."
"A lot of our team played together when we were nine for a tournament with the Jr. Jets," Loschiavo adds. "Also, a lot of our team played together two years ago for spring hockey, so we should have some good chemistry. Get things going quick."
Loschiavo says he hopes to play in the WHL next year as a 16-year-old. He’s got NHL ambitions too.
"That’d be good, but that’s long-term," Loschiavo says, noting his favourite player is Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews.
"Obviously every kid’s dream is to get there, but yeah, just got to keep working hard. Just work hard and do whatever I can to help my team win gold."