SEWELL, NJ – While the Rebels had their extended break during late December, there were two players that kept on playing…and did so on the world’s biggest stage.
Forwards Kris Samitis (Latvia) and Klaus Jogi (Estonia) were selected to represent their nations at their respective World Junior Championship tournaments in December and early January.
The 19-year-old forwards each described playing for their country as a “really nice feeling and an honor.”
Samitis played in four games during the World Junior Championships in Moncton/Halifax. It was also his first time in Canada. He was one of nine players in the North American Hockey League to represent their country at the WJC in Canada.
“Everyone knows who you are. The people are hockey-crazed. Everything’s about hockey in Canada,” said Samitis.
He was one of nine players in the North American Hockey League to represent their country at the WJC in Canada and one of two from the East Division (Berzins – Danbury).
Samitis’ biggest takeaway from the experience was “representing my country.” He and Jogi, despite playing different tournaments, both shared that their competition was very tough and the play was very physical.
Jogi played in Poland with Estonia’s IIHF U20 World Championship team (Division I, Group B), scoring a goal and adding two assists in the tournament.
“It’s bigger ice, so there’s more time with the puck,” Jogi stated when asked about the differences between the tournament and playing NAHL junior hockey.
Samitis added that “watching the best players in the world, there’s things they do that we want to add to our games.”
In Samitis’ eyes, one of the players that stood out the most was Filip Mesar, from the Slovakian team. Mesar, the 26th overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, finished with two goals and four assists for six points in the tournament. Mesar is currently playing for the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers.
“How he plays. How he skates. How he stick handles. Everything was really good. It just looks like he’s playing effortlessly,” said Samitis.
For Jogi, he relished the chance to see some of the best players from various countries and try to learn from them. He said it was a joy to watch players at such a high level and take things he can try to incorporate into his game.
Since returning to North America, he’s been rewarded for taking the time to watch and learn from those players.
From Jan. 10 to Jan. 19, Jogi scored three goals and added three assists in a four-game point streak for the Rebels. Currently, Jogi is sixth on the team with 18 points on nine goals and nine assists.
Samitis scored the game-winning shootout goal on Saturday for the Rebels to sweep New Jersey last weekend.
Jogi summed up his experience and emotions from the tournament.
“It was an amazing honor to represent my country. Not everyone gets to do that and I am so grateful for that opportunity.”
Samitis added, “Me too. I’ll never forget playing in those games.”