Skillful shooter looks to make impact with junior nationals

Baylee Wright has deked, stickhandled, and scored his way onto the Canadian junior men’s inline hockey team.

At 16, the slightly built, 5’7” 125-pound forward is the youngest player to make the U18 squad that’s headed to the FIRS World Championships being held June 30 to July 8 in Toulouse, France.

He’s also the only Langley skater on the 10-player roster. And while he’s alone in that regard, he isn’t a complete stranger to some of his teammates.

Six of the 10 players who made the team from tryouts across the country hail from B.C.

The remainder of the team is made up of three players from Alberta and one from Quebec.

“I know them from playing against them, in tournaments all around,” Wright said.

The fact that the bulk of the team is from B.C. shows just how strong the province is when it comes to inline hockey, in Wright’s opinion.

“[B.C.] is a lot stronger than other parts of Canada,” Wright said. “Probably because it [inline hockey] is a lot more popular.”

The right-handed shooter earned his spot after a strong showing at a competitive tryout held May 3-4 at the Karen Magnuson Centre in North Vancouver.

Going into the audition, Wright wasn’t sure about his chances of cracking the roster.

“There were quite a few people, so I thought, since I was the youngest to try out, I didn’t think they [his odds of making the team] were very high,” he said.

A few days later, he received an email from Canadian coach Thomas Woods, informing him that he made the cut.

“I was surprised, for being a first year [junior],” Wright said. “There’s been only three other first years who’ve made it before.”

The tryout consisted primarily of scrimmages, with a few breakout and battle drills mixed in.

Looking ahead to the world championships, Wright said he’s nervous about what his role is going to be with the national team, and how much floor time he’ll see.

Canada will face South Korea, Germany, and Switzerland in the round robin portion.

This is the first international tourney for Wright, who has played in high-level inline competitions in Cincinnati, Chicago, and St. Louis in recent years.

By making the team, Wright is following the path of current Canadian senior men’s team member and Langley resident Kirk French.

The two played together during a game at the Hockey House on Tuesday night, June 10.

Wright considers French to be a mentor.

“He’s helped me a lot,” Wright said, of French. “He’s been my coach for three or four years, now. He’s always pushed me to the next level.”

French had high praise for Wright.

“He is a finesse player with a great mind for the game, and he works hard for a smaller stature for his age,” French said. “He’s a good guy ad a pleasure to have on a team. He’s easily coach-able. He’s definitely one of the best players in his age group in Canada. He’s one hell of a player.”

Wright’s club team is the Hockey House Army, that plays in the Platinum Division, in the bantam age group.

Wright is also well-versed in inline hockey’s frozen counterpart. He not only plays on his school’s ice hockey team, the Walnut Grove Gators, he’s also a member of the Langley Eagles midget AAA squad.

But his heart lies with the inline version of the sport.

“I think it [inline hockey] has gotten more popular recently because a lot of the ice hockey players are starting to play,” Wright said.

Inline hockey is played four skaters aside, with two goaltenders, and is non-contact, with no offsides or icing, allowing for a more creative, free-flowing game.

It plays to the strengths of Wright, who describes his style as “skillful.”

“Four-on-four gives you a lot more room,” Wright said.

Wright got into the game at the Langley Sportsplex, which at one time housed a pair of inline surfaces before switching them to ice.

He followed his older brother Jayme, now 22, into the sport.

“Baylee just played because his brother was playing,” said their mom Trish, who noted that every game Baylee plays, he surprises her “with something that he does, or the moves that he does.”

She is joining Baylee in France, and will likely be just as nervous as her son.

“A lot at stake when you’re playing for Canada,” she said. “It’s not just a local tournament.”

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