Lukas Svejkovsky was somewhere in US airspace when one of the biggest moments of his hockey career unfolded.
The 18-year-old Point Roberts native was about 2.5 hours en route to Michigan when he was selected in the fourth round by the Pittsburgh Penguins in last month’s NHL Entry Draft. Svejkovsky was on his way to the Team USA Selection Camp in Plymouth for the 2021 IHF World Junior Hockey Championships.
“I told my mom I needed a wifi pass. I was trying to follow the draft on the plane but the service wasn’t great and it was kind of behind (real time),” said Svejkovsky. “All my buddies were texting me and I couldn’t even upload the nhl.com page so I didn’t even know where I went or anything like that until 10 minutes later. It was a crazy day but super exciting obviously. I couldn’t wait to land and call my parents.”
The trip back east wasn’t routine either thanks to COVID-19 restrictions. With his father Yogi being a renowned skills instructor in Metro Vancouver and his siblings also playing hockey, the family made the decision to relocate to Tsawwassen to eliminate cross-border travel. Lukas’ trek to Michigan included a flight from YVR to Seattle then heading to Plymouth where the team was in a “bubble” environment for the entire six days.
It was his first time attending a U21 USA camp and it’s something he won’t soon forget regardless if he makes the roster of what’s expected to be a very strong American team. He was among 42 players invited, including 15 that were selected 2020 NHL draft.
“I have done some U16 and U17 stuff but this was my first U21 camp and it was a great experience. Such high class and the players treated so well,” continued Svejkovsky. “It was a real honour to be there in the first place. Lots of great talent there and it was fun competing with those guys. Just a real good week.
“I think they said the decision will be made around the American Thanksgiving. Whatever happens I’m looking forward to it.”
It’s shaping up to be a busy December for Svejkovsky. The Western Hockey League recently announced its regular season will begin Jan. 8 with players reporting to training camp two weeks prior. He will be entering his first full season with the Medicine Tigers after being traded from the Vancouver Giants midway through the 2010-20 campaign.
He managed 28 points in 34 games, including 13 goals. The Tigers are coming off a 41-19-2 season.
“I’m really looking forward to it. I think we will have a really good team again with a lot of young core guys coming back,” he said. “I’m also ready take more of a leadership role with the team too.”
Beside a brief stint with Wenatchee Wild of the BC Hockey League, Svejkovsky had spent his entire career in the Lower Mainland. Now he has experienced junior hockey in a small prairie town.
“The first week I was traded there it was minus 20 and my lips were so chapped,” he laughed. “It’s a really good thing for any player to experience for sure. A lot of people look up to you like the younger players and you’re well known around town as well. You’re representing the team wherever you go and have to be a good role model in the community. It’s different than Vancouver but I really like it either way.”
For now, Svejkovsky continues to work hard on and off the ice, including skill development sessions with other junior players at Planet Ice, led by his dad. It’s a preparation for a potential stretch that also could include his first NHL training camp in the new year.
“All I can do is keep training and working hard on the ice and in the gym. Everything else is out of my control right now,” he added. “It’s been a long summer (of training) but I think it’s better for some of the guys. They are getting more time to get strong and faster.”