Viktor Dombrovskiy had yet to play at BCHL regular season game and hadn’t even started his Grade 11 year. Yet he had earned himself a scholarship offer to one of the most prestigious post-secondary schools: Yale.
And while some junior A hockey players might have waited to see if any other schools were interested, Dombrovskiy jumped at the chance.
“It was the school that I wanted and the offer came, so I took it,” explained Dombrovskiy, who is now in his final year of high school at Langley Secondary.
The 17-year-old is also a defenceman for the Langley Rivermen.
“The overall history of the school and the whole atmosphere there,” he explained about choosing the Ivy League school.
“I felt I fit in there both academically and on the hockey team so it was just a good choice for me.”
And Dombrovskiy isn’t just smart in the classroom either as Rivermen head coach Bobby Henderson raves about the blue-liners on-ice smarts as well.
“He makes a good lead pass and knows when to pick his spots offensively,” the coach said.
“And he is pretty good at finding seams and is just a heady player.”
Last year, Dombrovskiy was one of the rare players who played in the BCHL at age 16, many times against opponents five years older.
“For him to be a regular at 16, as an under-sized guy, speaks to his ability,” Henderson said.
“I think back to his first 10 games and he was in and out of the line-up.
“More than anything, it was just confidence and the consistency of playing a full 60-minute game.”
Dombrovskiy admits that last season was all about adjusting to faster, bigger opponents.
“I got used to the players and the calibre of hockey,” he said.
And while he raised his own expectations heading into his sophomore BCHL season, Dombrovskiy said his game remains the same.
In the 2012/13 campaign, he had three goals and 10 assists in 45 games. And through the first 16 games of this season, Dombrovskiy has put up four assists.
While the numbers may not be eye-popping, his overall play did earn Dombrovskiy an invite to the training camp for the Canada West roster for the upcoming World Junior A Hockey Challenge.
The event runs Nov. 4 to Nov. 10 in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.
The training camp began on Saturday in Calgary and runs until tomorrow (Oct. 30).
The team then heads straight to Nova Scotia with the cuts returning to their respective junior A clubs.
“Definitely excited and looking forward to the great experience,” Dombrovskiy said last week, adding that earning an invitation was one of his goals for the season.
“It is a good opportunity to have and I am definitely excited for the camp and the whole experience.”
Regardless of whether he makes the team or not, Dombrovskiy is focused on his development.
He is expected to join the Yale hockey team in 2015, which means he still has this season and all of next to hone his game in Langley.
Dombrovskiy, who is 5-foot-11 and 193 pounds, has worked hard in the gym to get bigger and stronger. He has put on about 25 pounds over the past two years.
“Viktor has really worked to get stronger and wins his one-on-one battles down low now,” Henderson said.
“He has gotten a lot stronger physically over the off-season and learning what he can get away with, when can push and when he has to play a little more of a contain game.”
And Henderson knows that Dombrovskiy’s game will only continue to develop.
“He is really dedicated and driven,” the coach said.
“He is kind of an above-and-beyond kind of guy.
“He really is a dream to coach.”
For Dombrovskiy, his success so far validates his decision to go the junior A route and join the Rivermen.
He was an eighth round draft pick (156th overall) of the Swift Current Broncos in the 2011 Western Hockey League bantam draft.
The Coquitlam native played in the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League with the Vancouver NE Chiefs before joining Langley.
But while some may have been tempted to try their luck in the WHL, Dombrovskiy was always focused on the BCHL.
“I have always had college aspirations,” he said.
“I wanted to take advantage and get my schooling paid for.
“Education is a big thing — if hockey doesn’t work out, you have a college degree to back you up when you need it.”
Dombrovskiy plans on studying business or economics when he enrols at Yale.