Carson Bjarnason is following suit with some of the best to ever do as he is set to grace the ice for Team Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. 

From Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon to Carey Price, the prestigious U18 tournament has seen some of the best players in the NHL represent their country. The Carberry product was the only Manitoban selected to the top 40 camp and is now one of the three goalies on the roster for the event. Bjarnason talks about his initial reaction when he found out he would be wearing the Maple Leaf.

"I walked into the coaches' office and shook all their hands, and they said 'Congratulations.' It was an honour. It was a big accomplishment in the moment but once I stepped away, I realized we now have to bring home a gold medal. So, the feeling went away pretty quick but it was special. I was super thrilled."

The Brandon Wheat Kings goalie was the backup last season, and looks to transition into the starting role this upcoming season. Bjarnason believes playing against the best in his age group at this tournament will really help him prepare for that opportunity.

"Every guy has a full skill set, and you're playing with the best of the best. To be a part of that is unreal," Bjarnason explains. "It's fast-paced, and it'll definitely be good for this upcoming season as well. It'll get me in game shape for sure. It's super up-tempo, which is great."

Bjarnason notes he's never represented his country on any level before and describes what it's like to do so on a stage that has seen the likes of Drew Doughty, Mitch Marner, and Steven Stamkos.

"You don't really think about that when you're named to the team but when you take a step back and look around, you definitely see all the big names that have come through this tournament," Bjarnason continues. "It's amazing to be among them and to play with this specific group. These guys are so great off the ice as well. It's fantastic."

The goalie describes what he would've thought at this point last year if he was told representing Team Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup would be in his future.

"I'd want to believe them but I don't think that would be the true answer. I definitely didn't think I'd be here a year ago."

During the summer of last year, Bjarnason was unsure what his future in the sport would be as he was not drafted to the WHL and says he had the opportunity to focus elsewhere. However, he still tried out for the Wheat Kings as a walk-on and ultimately beat out two drafted prospects for the opportunity to be a backup in Brandon at 16-years-old.

Bjarnason reflects on the year it has been for him.

"It added fuel to the fire. I could have stopped my journey or kept going, and I decided to put in the work and follow through. I guess that brought me here."

Team Canada hasn't won gold at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup since 2018 when it took place in Edmonton, Alberta. With it going down in Red Deer this time around, Bjarnason, and the rest of Team Canada, are hoping that their home turf will bring them some gold medal luck once again.

Canada's first outing is set for today at 8 p.m.,\ and Bjarnason says he couldn't be more excited. 

"It'll be fun. Hopefully, this leads to more tournaments against other countries for me. I'm looking forward to the first game and beyond."

Bjarnason and Team Canada are in action against Switzerland tonight, with two more round-robin games to come this week. For the full Hlinka Gretzky Cup schedule click here.