Tyson Jost has burst onto the international hockey scene in the past eight months, but that hardly came as a surprise to anyone inside Hockey Canada.
After all, the Kelowna, B.C., native has attended almost as many national and international tournaments over the last two-and-a-half years as the staff who work for the national organization.
Jost is the first player to ever participate in all seven national and Program of Excellence events – from his run to the 2014 TELUS Cup (where he helped the Okanagan Rockets to just the fifth medal ever by a B.C. team) to his current adventure with Canada at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship.
In between, he played for Canada White at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, with the Penticton Vees at the 2015 RBC Cup, and for Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge in 2014 and 2015, captaining the team to gold in his second appearance while winning MVP honours.
He was golden at the 2015 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup, and wore the ‘C’ for Team Canada at the 2016 IIHF U18 World Championship last spring, where he was named Top Forward and broke Connor McDavid’s record for points by a Canadian at the tournament.
So … not bad for an 18-year-old.
Now the first-round pick of the Colorado Avalanche wants to cap off his journey through the Hockey Canada system with a 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship gold medal around his neck.
While the World Juniors is certainly the biggest stage he has ever played, Jost is the first to admit there are few high-pressure situations he hasn’t seen before in his young, but busy, career.
“Hockey Canada does such a great job at developing its players,” he says. “If I look back at my first experience at the under-17s, they really make you out to be a pro and to strive [for success] in these short tournaments.
“I remember at the Ivan Hlinka tournament we had a pretty good team going in there, but I learned that you quickly need to adapt to different roles. Whenever you’re playing for Team Canada, you’re playing alongside some of the best players from your age group and from around the country, so it’s always about adapting to different roles and to the game.”
Adaptation to various roles is certainly something Jost is familiar with. The young man who wears No. 17 on his back has been nothing short of impressive in Toronto and Montreal, dazzling not only with his high-end skill, but also his 200-foot game.
“He’s a very complete player,” says Ryan Jankowski, director of player personnel with Hockey Canada. “Coaches love him because he’s as good in his own zone defensively as he is in the offensive zone creating offense and putting up points.
“You can call him a versatile player because he can play on the penalty kill and on the power play. He can be on the ice when you need a goal, but also when you need to defend a lead. All of that summed up by a huge amount of energy and enthusiasm in his game.”
Jost isn’t just a presence on the ice, though – his work ethic and never-ending desire to win makes him a natural-born leader. He wore an ‘A’ on his jersey during his TELUS Cup run before his two assignments as captain last season.
But the University of North Dakota freshman hasn’t always been the full package he is today. It’s through his Hockey Canada experience that he gathered enough know-how to develop into the player he’s become.
“Whether it was with our under-17 or under-18 program, Tyson was always an elite player,” Jankowski says. “But he hasn’t always been dominant. Don’t get me wrong, he was always one of the best players in his age group, but it’s really last year that I saw a lot of improvement in him as a player.
“The fact that he came into the under-18 worlds as our team captain and really took charge of that team. He was its top offensive weapon and really one of the top players in the tournament. That’s where I saw the biggest growth.
For Jost, his progression is the result of learning a little something from each of his national and international experiences and facing off against the best competition possible, every chance he gets.
“It’s great for your development to be able to be a part of all these tournaments and play against the world’s best players,” he says. “It’s just awesome to have the support that Hockey Canada gives you. They pretty much give you anything you need to be successful and to utilize all your opportunities.
“When you go back to your club team, you can take back a whole lot of stuff you learned from the staff and keep getting ready for the next year, when you have that opportunity to wear [the Canadian] sweater again.”
The World Juniors is only the latest stop on the Tyson Jost path to success, so what’s next? He is eligible for a return next year when the tournament heads south to Buffalo, but that likely won’t be the last Canadian fans see of Jost.
“His development, his energy and even his enthusiasm as a person make him a player that will not only play at the World Juniors this year, but will also be a great player for Canada,” Jankowski says.
“It’d be pretty special and obviously it’s one of my goals,” Jost says of one day representing Canada at the highest levels of the game, in events like the IIHF World Championship or Olympics. “It’s something that every kid dreams about, but right now my focus is on [the World Juniors] and winning gold here first.”