A smile crept across Jason McKee’s face.
Yes, his Vancouver Giants team was celebrating a 6-1 victory over the Kelowna Rockets, the team’s fifth in their past seven games (5-1-1-0). But the question posed to the head coach was about a future member of the Giants, 15-year-old Justin Sourdif.
“I love him. He’s an intelligent player and he plays the game right way,” McKee said.
“I think he is going to be a sponge in terms of coaching and you can see it already — you tell him one thing and he puts it into play right away and those are the the types of players you can win with.”
Sourdif was the Giants first pick, third overall, in last spring’s WHL bantam draft.
As an under-age player, he is eligible to play five games with the Giants until his major midget season ends.
And the Surrey native — currently playing for the Valley West Hawks of the BC Major Midget Hockey League — got the call on Saturday morning that he would be playing the first of those five with the Giants that night against the Rockets.
The five-foot-11, 152-pound forward was also the 2017 HockeyNow player of the year for B.C. after scoring 32 goals and 68 points in 29 games for the Delta Hockey Academy bantam prep team.
There were plenty of family and friends in the stands at the Langley Events Centre, adding to his nerves, Sourdif explained, about wanting to balance having a solid debut and making the most of his opportunity.
Sourdif — who is fifth in league scoring with 23 points in 11 games— centred Vancouver’s fourth line, with Tyler Ho on one wing and Aidan Barfoot on the other.
He finished pointless, and won one of two face-offs he took.
“It was nice to get the butterflies out of my stomach,” Sourdif said about his first shift.
“Just trying to keep my head up and try to make a couple of nice passes.”
And he did just that, making a nice tape-to-tape pass through traffic in the neutral zone to Ho, with his winger wiring the shot off the bar, during one first period shift.
The biggest adjustment was the speed, both in terms of the on-ice action and in how quickly the players have to react, Sourdif said.
And count Giants captain Tyler Benson among those impressed.
“He played a really smart game, that is what I noticed,” Benson said. “He was really good defensively.
“If he didn’t have that cage on (as a 15-year-old), he would fit right in.”