Shortlisted by Team B.C. Under 16 in the summer, it was Coleton Bilodeau’s job to further impress coaches and scouts as the Okanagan Rockets season opened.
Bilodeau, a power forward who never takes a shift off, got the job done and will play for B.C. at the 2015 Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup, Oct. 28-Nov. 1 at the Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary
“The head coach (Leland Mack of Port Moody) called me last Tuesday and was leaving me a voicemail when I picked up the phone,” said Bilodeau, a Vernon product. “He welcomed me to the team. I’m super excited for the tournament.”
Bilodeau is one of five 2000-born players with the Major Midget Rockets. He has one goal and one assist through six games, playing right wing with older veterans Alex Zawatsky (4-2-6) and Hayden Dick (2-3-5).
“I love it so far,” said Bilodeau, of his time with the 3-2-1 Rockets. “It’s really good hockey.”
Team B.C. features five skaters from the Interior, including Bilodeau’s Rocket teammate Eli Zummack. The Rockets attend Okanagan Mission Secondary and practise Tuesday and Thursday nights at the Capital News Centre.
“I think our forwards are really strong and fast and our dee is solid. On a team like this, everybody is pretty good.”
A big fan of Jonathan Toews of the Blackhawks, Bilodeau is one of 12 forwards. He is the third biggest at 6-foot-1, 170 pounds. Bilodeau and Rocket teammate Matt Kowalski (3-6-9) trained under Sam Mowat in the summer.
“Some tough decisions, but we are happy with the team that’s going to Calgary,” said Mack. “We have a good mix of smarts, skill and size. We will need to be 20 strong for the whole tournament. All four provinces are capable of winning. The entire group is honoured to represent B.C. and B.C. Hockey.”
Added Marty Floris, of Vanderhoof, director of operations: “I am very pleased with the process so far. Our staff has worked hard in conjunction with BC Hockey staff to assemble a team that will be exciting to watch. I am looking forward to working with the staff and the players to have a great tournament.”
B.C. meets Alberta in their Oct. 28 opener and then take on Manitoba and Saskatchewan in following days. The tournament was not held last year due to the Canada Winter Games. B.C. took silver in 2013 and gold in 2012. Morgan Rielly (Maple Leafs) and Griffin Reinhart (Oilers), both of Vancouver, have represented B.C. in the Challenge Cup.
Bilodeau rang up six goals and 19 points in 21 games to finish third in team scoring with the Pursuit of Excellence Bantam Prep team in Kelowna last year. He was taken in the eighth round of the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft by the Moose Jaw Warriors.
“Coleton is a good solid player. He has good size, he has a step and a half in his game,” said Moose Jaw GM Alan Millar on the Warrior website. “We believe he has good upside.”
Added Warriors assistant head scout Doug Gasper prior to Moose Jaw’s prospects camp in late May: “Coleton is a big body player that is a solid skater and strong on his feet. He plays a very strong game along the wall and competes very well in one on one battles. He likes to finish his checks and has a good scoring touch. Coleton’s strongest attributes are his ability to win puck battles and his high level of compete. He thinks the game well and knows where to be to create scoring chances for himself.”