by Brian McNair – Uxbridge Times Journal
Corey Andonovski has put plenty of patience and thought toward best forging a career in hockey, traits that will no doubt serve him well whether he realizes that dream or not.
By foregoing more traditional routes, the 18-year-old Uxbridge native will at the very least be able to say he won a gold medal while representing Hockey Canada.
Andonovski accomplished that feat at the World Junior A Hockey Challenge in Nova Scotia — but not with the Canada East team one might expect from his residency.
Rather, he won gold with Canada West, a team he was eligible to play for based on his current club, the Chilliwack Chiefs of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL).
Andonovski, who was able to take a small breather back home in Uxbridge over the Christmas break, has had to make two difficult decisions already in his hockey career: choosing U.S. college hockey over the Ontario Hockey League (OHL); and moving west to the BCHL despite offers from Ontario Junior Hockey League clubs.
And, while it may have hurt his chances of being drafted into the NHL in 2017, he’s confident they will be the right choices in the long run.
“Do I step into major junior now and get to that level of hockey right away or do I kind of hold back and choose a different route, which is the college route obviously, and give myself a little more time to develop and mature and maybe take a less direct path to the pros,” Andonovski said of his thought process after being drafted in the fourth round by the Ottawa 67’s in 2015.
“For me, I felt that was the best decision I could make, play prep for a couple of years, let me grow into my body, grow into my game, and then once I get to college, really make an impact at that kind of level.”
Andonovski moved on to St. Andrew’s College in Aurora after his minor midget season with the York-Simcoe Express and landed a scholarship to Princeton University, which is already home to Whitby’s Liam Grande and Courtice’s Luke Keenan.
While certainly a nice fallback plan for Andonovski, who will start at Princeton next fall and expects to major in economics, he says his ultimate goal remains the same.
“Absolutely since I started playing, pro has been my dream, the NHL has been my dream, and that’s something you go with right till the day you hang up the skates, and I’m hoping that’s not any time soon,” he said, nevertheless admitting disappointment at not being drafted in June. “It didn’t happen for me last year but obviously there’s this year too. It taught me that you can’t just expect it to happen. Now I have to work harder, dig down a little deeper and make even more of an impression this year.”
A six-foot, 193-pound right winger, Andonovski is currently fourth in scoring for the Chiefs with 22 points in 34 games, one more than Skylar Brind’Amour, son of former NHLer Rod Brind’Amour, a sixth-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers and bound for Michigan State University next year.
Andonovski admits it would be convenient to be closer to home, but has settled in nicely out west, is loving the level of hockey, and looks forward to the Chiefs hosting the 2018 RBC Cup.
At the World Junior A Challenge, Canada West started slowly with losses to the Czech Republic and U.S., but finished with a bang and won the final three, including 5-1 over the U.S. in the gold-medal game.
“It’s a great experience for anyone, obviously, to wear the Maple Leaf,” said Andonovski, who scored a goal in the final. “My role was a little different than it would have been with my club team, that was the biggest thing I noticed, that everyone just had to buy in to what their role was with the team to help us succeed and win gold.”
Canada West has won five gold and nine medals in the 12-year history of the event, second to the seven gold and 11 medals won by the U.S.