Sports

Teenager sets lofty goals on the ice

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

T.C. Cratsenberg walks around the campus of Federal Way High School with most people having no idea he might be the best junior hockey player in the Northwest.

Cratsenberg doesn’t star on the Eagles’ football or basketball teams, doesn’t own a blue and white Federal Way High School letterman’s jacket, and his exploits on the hockey ice aren’t plastered all over the local newspapers.

That’s just the way it goes when you play the sport of hockey in the un-hockey hotbed of Washington. But the 15-year-old Federal Way High School freshman is racking up quite a hockey resume.

Cratsenberg’s latest honors on the ice include being drafted by the Western Hockey League’s Spokane Chiefs, being the only forward from Washington invited to attend the 2007 USA Hockey Select Player Development Camp in St. Cloud, Minn., and earning a coveted spot on one of the best youth teams in the country.

“It’s been pretty cool,” Cratsenberg said. “Everything seems to be fitting into place.”

Cratsenberg was well aware that there might be a chance he would be selected in the May 3 Western Hockey League (WHL) Bantam Draft, which was held in Calgary at the Stampede Park Round-Up Centre. The draft is the first step in the identification of the top-rated 1992-born prospects as WHL clubs selected players from the 15-year-old age group to add to their player protected list.

“(Spokane) called me the day before the draft and chatted with me a little bit,” he said. “They liked my all-around game, how I used my body and my attitude on and off the ice.”

Cratsenberg, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound left winger, was the Chiefs’ sixth-round pick — 114th overall.

“T.C. is an impressive player who plays with a high level of energy and enthusiasm,” according the Spokane Chiefs’ Web site. “He is a very balanced skater with a good stride and quickness. He will consistently make plays and create opportunities for not only himself but his teamamates. T.C. has good size and competes hard for the puck. He is willing to go into the corners and in front of the net. He is a team leader who wears the ‘C’ (team captain) for his team.”

Cratsenberg played this past season with the Seattle Junior Thunderbirds and led the premier select team in Washington with 67 points in 42 games, including 35 goals.

The season with the Seattle Junior Thunderbirds not only caught the attention of the Spokane Chiefs, but also the scouts with USA Hockey, the national governing body for the sport of ice hockey in the country. For the second year in a row, Cratsenberg was selected to attend the prestigious 2007 USA Hockey Select Player Development Camp in St. Cloud, Minn., from July 28 to Aug. 3.

The development camp will feature a total of 12 teams, each of which will play a total of five games in five days. Scouts and coaches from across the country will be in attendance. Cratsenberg was the only player from Washington to be invited to the elite camp from the Pacific region, which includes Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

“Last year’s camp was amazing,” Cratsenberg said. “It was a great experience.”

Last year’s experience at the national camp in Rochester, N.Y. also gave Cratsenberg a taste of what the sport is like in the hockey-rich Upper Midwest.

As a 15-year-old, Cratsenberg will not be eligible to play in the WHL until next year, when he turns 16. So in the meantime, he is heading to the center of hockey in the United States in August.

Cratsenberg earned a coveted spot on one of the premier 16-and-under select hockey teams in the country — Detroit Compuware. Cratsenberg will leave for Michigan following the USA Hockey Select Player Development Camp. He will live with a host family and transfer from Federal Way to a Detroit-area high school for his sophomore year.

“It’s going to be tough to see him go,” said Cratsenberg’s father, Larry. “In his 10 years of playing hockey, his mom and I have only missed a game twice. But Seattle isn’t a big hockey hotbed and we needed to find a place for him to play.”

Detroit Compuware will play over 80 games and has fed several players into college and professional hockey.

“They are a well-known team,” Cratsenberg said. “I wanted a place to play for next year, so I sent out an e-mail to a bunch of coaches, and the Detroit team gave me a tryout.”

It’s still up in the air what Cratsenberg will do next year as a 16-year-old. He will attend a tryout with the Spokane Chiefs, who control his rights, in August and the team will decide whether or not to sign him. Cratsenberg also has the option of declining to play for the Chiefs and continuing his career as an amateur. The University of Michigan is his number-one college choice, which is a big reason he chose to move to Detroit for the upcoming school year.

“We’ll see what happens,” Cratsenberg said. “It’s going to be a big year.”

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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