The Western Hockey League season just started and Vancouver Giants captain Justin Sourdif already has a fat lip.
“I was jamming for a rebound and then stopped, and I was getting cross-checked by two guys and one ended up getting me in the mouth,” Sourdif said. “So I split my gums open and busted my lip up a little bit.
“I definitely feel like hockey is back.”
Giants general manager Barclay Parneta isn’t surprised that Sourdif is always in the middle of the action.
“Justin’s an extremely strong kid that really competes, and the puck just follows him,” Parneta said.
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The 19-year-old centre is back with the Giants for what will likely be his final season of junior hockey. The Surrey, B.C., native impressed the Panthers at his first NHL training camp after Florida drafted him 87th overall in the 2020 draft.
Last month, the Panthers announced that they signed Sourdif to a three-year, entry-level contract, a deal that Giants head coach Michael Dyck thinks may prove to be good value.
“I think they saw that they have a player that they were able to get in the third round who has probably got more of a first-round flair to him,” Dyck said.
“I think he’s got a future there and I think they want him to come back here and be a good two-way player for us and a good leader.”
Sourdif’s time at the Panthers training camp proved to be an eye-opener.
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“It was a crazy experience — surreal,” he said.
“I was sitting beside Patric Hornqvist and (Jonathan) Huberdeau in the dressing room and then to my right was (Aleksi) Heponiemi. So it was a lot of guys to learn from and a lot of advice to bring back here.”
Sourdif says he also learned from Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville, who coached the Chicago Blackhawks to three Stanley Cups.
“It was amazing just being able to talk to him,” he said of Coach Q.
Last season, Sourdif led the Giants in points and assists, racking up 34 points in 22 games.
Now in his fourth WHL season, Sourdif is expected to be a team leader. He’ll also likely play a role for Canada at the world junior hockey championship come December.
It’s a big year for the Surrey teenager, who has been chasing his NHL dream since he was a youngster.
“It’s nice to know that you’re always getting better and you haven’t hit your ceiling, and I feel like I still have a lot of room to grow and a lot of potential that I haven’t quite reached yet,” he said.
The Giants will play their home opener on Friday at the Langley Events Centre when they take on the Prince George Cougars.
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