Jake Walman grew up playing in the Greater Toronto Hockey League like a lot of Canadian kids. But he's not just a Canadian hockey player.
Because Walman's mother, Mari Anne, is American, the young defenceman is a dual citizen with Canadian and U.S. passports. While he played for Canada East in the World Junior A Challenge two years ago, he chose to attend U.S. world junior camp this past summer and hoped to wear the red, white and blue at the upcoming tournament in Helsinki.
The International Ice Hockey Federation disagreed, deeming Walman ineligible to play for the U.S. because he's Canadian-born and trained. And even though the Toronto native chose the U.S., Hockey Canada is welcoming him with open arms by inviting him to its world junior selection camp.
"We liked him in the summer and we still like him," Hockey Canada vice-president of hockey operations and national teams Scott Salmond said. "We think he's going to have a real good chance to make our team and make us better if he does. To me he's Canadian. At the end of the day that's the bottom line."
Hockey Canada all along believed Walman was Canadian. Now in his second season at Providence College in Rhode Island, he would have had to play two full seasons to qualify as an American.
Walman is quite the catch, too, as the NCAA's leading scorer among defencemen with 10 goals and eight assists in 12 games. He could be part of a blue line that may feature returnee Joe Hicketts and NHL first-round picks Haydn Fleury and Travis Sanheim.
Making it will be a challenge at a competitive camp, which is perhaps why Walman opted to go to the U.S. summer camp in Lake Placid, N.Y.
"Jake had to make a decision based on the information he had and probably what he thought, as a young player, was going to give him the best opportunity to play," Salmond said.
Hockey Canada is giving him that opportunity. Walman is one of 11 defencemen invited to the mid-December camp, along with Hicketts, Fleury, Sanheim, 2014 first-rounder Roland McKeown, 2015-first-rounders Thomas Chabot and Noah Juulsen, potential 2016 top pick Jacob Chychrun, Toronto Maple Leafs second-rounder Travis Dermott, fellow St. Louis Blues prospect Vince Dunn and the only other U.S. college player at camp, Boston University's Brandon Hickey.
"He deserves to be here as one of the best 11 defencemen in the country, and there is no hard feelings," Hockey Canada director of player personnel Ryan Jankowski said. "We want the best players."
Hockey Canada had to make sure Walman could be one of those players. After the IIHF ruled him ineligible, the organization went through its own internal process to make sure he could wear the Maple Leaf at the world juniors and beyond.
"There was no issues with that," Jankowski said. "We're excited to have him. He's a heck of a defenceman."
Salmond said Walman was "thrilled" to make Canada's camp roster. A conversation Monday night smoothed out anything that might have been an issue before.
"I said: 'Hey I'm not even interested in the decision-making from before. That's water under the bridge. All I want you to know is we want you here. We don't care where you play, we don't care where you played in the summer. All we care about is that you can come here and help us win, and that's the bottom line,"' Salmond said. "And he said, 'That's all I care about too and I'm excited.' So he was great."