The further a hockey player makes it in his playing career, the more likely it is that at some point, there was a moment in their hockey life where they felt slighted and turned it into a motivational tool.
Maybe it was falling to the third round of the NHL draft, or maybe it was being told you’re too short or not strong enough to make it in a respective league.
For Oilers’ prospect and current Denver Pioneer Carter Savoie, not being considered to represent Team Canada at this year’s World Junior Championship was his moment. To the surprise of many, he wasn’t even invited to Canada’s National Junior Team summer development camp, a roster that included 30 forwards.
Despite how poorly the IIHF handled the World Juniors, forcing the cancelation of the tournament, the lack of consideration still stings Savoie.
“Definitely one of those moments for sure. I think everything happens for a reason and it wasn’t meant to be for that to happen,” Savoie told Hockey Buzz. “Just got to move on and continue with my everyday life, focus on myself and pushing myself to get to the next level.”
Growing up not too far from Edmonton in St. Albert, Savoie was born and raised an Oilers fan. Obviously, when Savoie got the call that he had been the 100th overall pick by the Oilers in the 2020 NHL draft, it was a dream come true.
“I had just gotten off the ice and I got a call saying I had been picked by the Oilers. I did a couple of interviews right after that,” Savoie said. “All kids dream of going to NHL games and playing for their hometown team. Being drafted by the Oilers was a dream come true, really exciting for me and my whole family.”
Up until he left Canada to begin his college career at Denver, playing hockey in his home province of Alberta was all he knew, eventually landing with the Sherwood Park Crusaders of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, his last taste of hockey in his home province before jetting for the United States and his new home of Denver, Colorado.
The Savoie family was always close with the Benning family seeing as Savoie and Panthers’ prospect Michael Benning were teammates from their days as young hockey players all the way to America, the NCAA and the University of Denver.
The two families also lived within a five-minute walk of each other.
“It was a really good experience [playing in the AJHL], especially playing with Mike, both me and Mike had good years our first year and it carried over to our second year,” said Savoie. “It was nice to play in Sherwood Park, it was close to home, got to be around my family a lot and live at home, that was really nice, too.”
In 2017 Savoie was a second-round draft pick of the Regina Pats of the WHL. But after consulting with Brian Benning—Michael’s father— who played two seasons in the WHL prior to a lengthy NHL career, Savoie decided that college hockey was the right path for him. Savoie committed to Denver in 2017, Benning in 2018.
“Growing up my family was always close with the Bennings, I think Mike’s dad Brian had a lot of knowledge. He obviously has been through the WHL process and he played in the NHL,” said Savoie.
“He was a great mentor for me and kind of pushed me a little bit more towards the college route and I think it was the best decision for me just because I get those extra years of development, being in the gym all the time, being around the boys, getting my degree, all those things.”
Getting your first taste of college hockey can often be an overwhelming experience. Doing so in the middle of a global pandemic where you have no idea if you’re going to be able to practice the next day, let alone play a hockey game made that experience even more difficult.
But it didn’t seem to faze Savoie who led the team with 13 goals and was second in points with 20 as a freshman.
“I think I jumped into the league with a hot start, I think I had a really successful time playing in the bubble there,” said Savoie. “Just kind of kept the momentum rolling and grew as the year went on. Got better every day, worked hard in practice and the gym, all those things and kept on building.”
This year, he’s been even better. Once again, he leads the team in goals with 12 and is tied for second in points with 22. He was rewarded on Wednesday being nominated for the Hobey Baker award.
“It’s a huge honor,” Savoie said. “It’s really exciting to be thought of in that sort of way. A really good league, a really deep league, a lot of good players.”
Coming out of the holiday break, the Pioneers have nothing but conference games left on their schedule. They currently sit third in the NCHC, three points behind Western Michigan and nine points behind North Dakota.
With college hockey awarding three points for a win, one good weekend and Denver can find itself knocking on North Dakota’s door. The Fighting Hawks swept the Pioneers earlier in the season.
While Savoie and the Pioneers hope to stay atop the conference standings, securing a home-ice series in the first round of the NCHC playoffs, they know it won’t be an easy task. Weekend series with St Cloud State, Minnesota Duluth and Western Michigan lie ahead.
“From here on out we’ve only got conference games, every game is huge in terms of the standings and where you’re going to be at the end of the year. I think we’ll get tested every weekend and we got to show up and be ready,” said Savoie.
“I think we’re still a young team and the biggest thing for us is practice, the workouts, school, come ready to work and continue to get better as a group every day.”
Despite much success in America with Denver, it seems like only a matter of time before he’s back home in Alberta, finding success at home once again.
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