YARMOUTH, N.S. – A Yarmouth hockey player says he’s excited for the opportunity to play and showcase his skills at the QMJHL Gatorade Excellence Challenge happening this week in Quebec.
Ben Charles is on the U16 Hockey Nova Scotia provincial team competing at this tournament. The forward is one of three players selected from the UPS South Shore Mustangs major midget team he played on this past season – goalie Jeremy Robar and defenseman Ewan Keays being the other two.
The N.S. team’s roster is made up of two goaltenders, six defensemen and 12 forwards from across the province.
The Excellence Challenge is an annual tournament that features six teams: Quebec (two teams), New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia. Around 120 of the top prospects from the eastern Canadian region will take part in the event, which scouts use as an evaluation tool ahead of the 2018 QMJHL Entry Draft.
“It was pretty exciting. I’ve been having a pretty good year, doing a lot of hard work,” Charles says, when asked about being selected for the team. “To be selected for a team like this is definitely an accomplishment.”
This past season was his rookie year with the Mustangs, where he led the team in scoring with 15 goals and 10 assists.
Charles left Sunday, April 22, with the team to head to Boisbriand, Quebec. The team were to have a few of practices after arriving – their first practices together as a team – and also do fitness training. The tournament itself runs April 26-29. The names on the team roster are not unfamiliar to Charles as they are players he’s been playing against all year.
Asked to describe his first year of major midget, Charles says he started out getting used to the new pace. As the year went on he adjusted well, he feels, and was able to contribute points to his team.
“I feel I had a really good year overall,” he says.
Rather than billet in the Bridgewater area, Charles continued to attend high school in Yarmouth and commuted back and forth for the team, which was a big commitment with two practices a week and games on weekends.
Prior to Mustangs, Charles played two seasons with the Western Hurricanes major bantam team and before that played on rep hockey teams in the Yarmouth County Minor Hockey Association.
The Mustangs played in some pretty big tournaments this past season, including the Monctonian Challenge in Moncton and the East Coast Ice Jam in Halifax, but the Excellence Challenge is on a bigger level all around.
“All of the top prospects are going to be there,” Charles says. “It should be a good tournament.”
Asked where he hopes hockey takes him in the next few years, he says his game plan is to hopefully get drafted.
“And then see what I can do from there,” he says. “I’m just going to keep working hard.”
Charles, who turned 16 in January, is eligible for the MHL and QMJHL drafts this year.
During the MHL playoffs Charles has also been practicing with the Yarmouth Mariners as he was tagged as an affiliate with the team. He says this has been a good experience.
“It helps a lot to see what the next level is, Jr. A. It’s a lot different than midget, obviously,” he says.
Meanwhile, asked what it is about hockey that he loves so much, he says, “I’ve liked hockey ever since I was little. Getting to skate and shoot pucks, I just enjoy it a lot.”