Teddy Purcell, the most unheralded player to be named to the Canadian team for the 2012 world hockey championship, is also the most excited.
The 26-year-old Tampa Bay Lightning forward, along with Alex Burrows of the Vancouver Canucks, are the only undrafted NHL players with Canada and the only two who will pull on a Canadian sweater at any level for the first time in their careers.
Canada begins its quest for its first world championship title since 2007 with its tournament opener against Slovakia in Helsinki on Friday.
"It was pretty cool to pull on the jersey for the exhibition game the other day against Switzerland," Purcell said. "I'm even more excited to get going on Friday against Slovakia in the real games.
"This doesn't happen all the time for a player like me. I'm going to learn from it. All these guys in this room are world-class players. I'm going to learn as much as I can, soak it in and take advantage of it. Hopefully, it's another stepping-stone for my career."
Purcell hails from St. John's, Nfld. He's the latest hockey talent from the Rock to turn heads, following the path skated by junior stars like Dwayne Norris, John Slaney, Brad Brown and Terry Ryan in the 1990s to Stanley Cup champions like Dan Cleary and Michael Ryder to other solid players like Ryane Clowe, Colin Greening, Adam Pardy and Luke Adam.
When Purcell was a teenager he didn't believe he was good enough to play in the NHL, but he felt he had enough talent to score an education through a hockey scholarship.
So at age 17, he packed up his belongings to attend the famed Athol Murray College of Notre Dame in Wilcox, Sask. and played junior for the Hounds. Another two seasons in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Purcell landed a scholarship at the University of Maine.
"Those guys [Newfoundlanders in the NHL] are my friends now that I've played in the league," Purcell said. "With them having success in the NHL and some of them winning Stanley Cups, they are easy guys to look up to.
"At a young age, I didn't really have a lot of exposure. I always wanted to play in the NHL, but I didn't think that was a reality. So my goal was to get a college education and we felt Notre Dame was the first step in attaining this.
"After getting a scholarship to Maine those aspirations came true."
Kings came calling
After only one season at Maine, the Los Angeles Kings came calling on the advice of their scout Steve Greeley. Kings general manager Dean Lombardi, assistant GM Ron Hextall, director of pro development Mike O'Connell and vice-president of hockey operations Jeff Solomon visited Purcell and sold him on turning pro.
"They were really honest with me," Purcell said. "They went over the good stuff in my game and the bad stuff, too. That was really appealing to me.
"I just felt real comfortable throughout the whole process with them. Unfortunately, it didn't work out in Los Angeles. But I still have friends in that organization today."
Greeley recalled what he liked about Purcell's game.
"Right away I knew Teddy was a special player," said Greeley, who played at Boston University. "His range and vision with the puck off the rush was high end and as good as any college player I've seen, whether he was a first-round pick or not. He has elite hands and vision.
"The other thing I noticed was how much he knew about the game. He knew about every player on the Kings roster, whether they shot left or right and what kind of tape they used on their sticks. His passion is unmatched. He grew up watching Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday night in the East and absolutely loves the game."
After a strong start to his pro career in the AHL with Manchester and later the Kings, Purcell found himself watching too many games from the press box. So Los Angeles dealt him to the Lightning at the 2010 trade deadline.
He really came on for the Lightning in the playoffs a year ago, and had a strong finish to his season this year with his usual linemate Vincent Lecavalier on the sidelines with a broken hand. Purcell was among the league's top point getters in the last 30 games of the regular season (goals-assists--points).
Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh 22-27--49
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay 25-14-39
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh 8-29--37
Teddy Purcell, Tampa Bay 11-25--36
Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit 13-21--34
Jason Spezza, Ottawa 14-20--34
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia 8-26--34
*Crosby's totals were after his final 22 games.
"Coming back this season our team got off to a slow start and we had to play catch up," Purcell said. "It was a case of too little, too late. For me personally, when your big guys go down you want to step up and be a go-to guy.
"I really worked on my consistency and getting a chance to play a lot with [Martin] St. Louis and Stamkos, I thought that was really helpful. When you do get some results and get those big minutes you do get your confidence and for a player like me that really helped."
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