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Ladner blueliner will be in BC colours at Aboriginal Nationals

Oliver Melnychuk earns one of 20 roster spots from among 70 hopefuls at tryout camp in Kamloops
Ladner d-man Oliver Melnychuk has been named to the 20-player U18 Team BC roster for the upcoming 2023 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships in Winnipeg. The 16-year-old played this past season in the Pacific Junior Hockey League with the Aldergrove Kodiaks. Mark Booth Photo

Oliver Melnychuk is taking his promising career to the 2023 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships (NAHC) in Winnipeg.

The Grade 11 Delta Secondary student of Musqueam descent earned one of 20 spots on the Team B.C. roster after being among 70 hopefuls to attend a three-day selection camp back in late March in Kamloops.

The male and female NAHC tournaments were established 20 years ago by the Aboriginal Sport Circle and are sanctioned by Hockey Canada. They boast the greatest collection of young First Nation, Inuit and Metis hockey players in the country, while fostering cultural unity and pride.

Past participants include current NHL players Ethan Bear (Vancouver Canucks), Brandon Montour (Florida Panthers) and Zach Whitecloud (Vegas Golden Knights); and national senior women’s team members Jocelyne Larocque, Brigette Lacquette and Jennifer Rattray. The championships run from May 7 to 13 with both B.C. teams earning bronze medals a year ago.

A 6-foot-2 defenceman, Melnychuk came through South Delta Minor Hockey before spending a season with the Vancouver Thunder development program where he suited up for the U15 and U18 teams.

He then took a significant step by cracking the roster of the Aldergrove Kodiaks last summer and being among just a handful of 16 year-olds to play in the Pacific Junior Hockey League. Lining up against older opponents on a regular basis enhanced his physical play and game speed too, from footwork to his decision making.

It paved the way for his Team B.C. breakthrough after taking his first crack at making the final roster a year earlier in Chilliwack. He is also eligible to play in the 2024 tournament.

“It definitely helped and made the second camp a lot easier for me,” said Melnychuk, who grew spending many Tuesday nights at the Ladner Leisure Centre watching the Delta Ice Hawks. “There was just so much more hitting and it’s a case of also gaining confidence as the season went on.”

With the Kodiaks practicing four times a week in the afternoon, Melnychuk is appreciative of his flexible course schedule at DSS that has allowed him to stay at his hometown school.

The Team B.C. commitment has resulted in a change of baseball plans for the multi-sport standout. He is back with the U18 AA Ladner Red Sox this spring after playing at the AAA level with the Richmond Chuckers.