It's not the cure for cancer nor is it the formula for cold fusion, but 10 goals in 36 WHL games is no small thing for a 16-year-old hockey player.

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It's not the cure for cancer nor is it the formula for cold fusion, but 10 goals in 36 WHL games is no small thing for a 16-year-old hockey player.

Monday, as he was getting to know his Team West teammates for the upcoming World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, Winnipeg's Brendan Leipsic practically turned his nose up at the achievement.

Winnipeg's Brendan Leipsic (left) hasn't backed down with Portland this season.

COLIN CORNEAU / BRANDON SUN ARCHIVES

Winnipeg's Brendan Leipsic (left) hasn't backed down with Portland this season.

"I'm never really satisfied," the Portland Winter Hawks centre said very matter-of-factly at the MTS Iceplex. "I'm always trying to push myself to be the best I can be.

"I'm playing with really good players and I'm really benefitting from it."

Leipsic has 14 points so far for the Western Conference-leading Winter Hawks.

"Expectations are really high but the team's doing really well and I'm really benefitting from the good coaching of Travis Green and Mike Johnston," Leipsic said. "I'm hoping to contribute more down the road."

Team Quebec’s Charles-David Beaudoin strikes a pose during picture day at the 2011 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, which begins with tune-up games tonight.

JOE.BRYKSA@FREEPRESS.MB.CA

Team Quebec’s Charles-David Beaudoin strikes a pose during picture day at the 2011 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, which begins with tune-up games tonight.

More immediately, his contributions may have a lot to say about the success Team West may enjoy at the tournament.

"Brendan's small in stature but large in work ethic, grit and determination," said Team West's coach Garth Mitchell of Elkhorn. "He's got some very good offensive skills. His success in the WHL doesn't surprise me."

Added Leipsic: "Team West is never really the team to beat, right? So we're definitely the underdogs and we want to surprise some people."

Team West has its only pre-tournament game tonight in Portage la Prairie against Team USA, then starts the tournament proper Wednesday night at the MTS Iceplex against Team Pacific.

"(The buzz) is starting to set in," Leipsic said. "We've got our equipment. We're starting to see all the other teams walking around. We're all eyeing down our opponents. I think everyone's eager to get it underway."

The 10-team competition, with five teams from the various regions of Canada, is usually referred to as the first step on the road to the World Junior, which is two or three years down the road for some of these players.

And they know it.

"It seems like I was playing peewee yesterday and watching the world junior," Leipsic said. "It definitely shows how close you are to getting up there. Getting involved with the Hockey Canada program now definitely helps a lot."

Team West had three practices under its belt by Monday afternoon and preparations were on track, according to Mitchell.

"As planned," the coach said. "The first couple were just to get the nerves out."

Today's tough test against the defending champions, though it doesn't count in the standings, will show Mitchell much of what he'll need to know.

"I think that's probably a perfect spot for us to start, actually," he said. "It's as big a challenge as we have in the tournament. The Americans always come in, perennially, as pre-tournament favourites. We've got players who come in from various leagues and levels and this is going to be instant bar-setting for us.

"The goals? Win or loss isn't that important. Just adapt to the speed and the pace of the game and have our players leave the game with an understanding of how much we've got to work to compete against top teams like Ontario and Pacific."

Team West, Ontario, Pacific, Czech Republic and Slovakia make up the tournament's Pool B.

Round-robin games continue until Jan. 2. Medal-round and placement games take place Jan. 3 and 4.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca