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22 July 2009 | in Ice Hockey, Winter FISU World University Games

Former WU Participant invited to NHL Camp

Kuji in action against Slovakia in Harbin


Shuhei Kuji, who was on the Japanese Team Roster at the 2009 Winter Universiade in Harbin, China, and the 2007 Winter Universiade in Torino, Italy might be knocking at the doors of the famous NHL, the National Hockey League, as he was invited at the New York Islanders' Evaluation Camp.

Kuji has never played professional ice hockey in his native country. Until now, he played college hockey with Wasata University and will finish his study in social science in 2010. He plans to join the Oji Eagles of the Asian League upon graduation.

He was one of two college players on the Japanese national team at the 2009 IIHF World Championship Division I while the rest were professionals from the Asian League. The 22-year-old had a good debut with the national team at the Division I tournament in Lithuania, last April, winning bronze and scoring two goals, one assist in five games. He also played on the national team at the 2006 and 2007 Deutschland Cup.

At the 2009 Winter Universiade in Harbin, Kuji scored two goals and gave three assists in the five games he played. Team Japan ended 5th out of 10.

Kuji recognized that he's practicing at a completely new level, and wants to learn his lesson. "I need to become a more determined player on loose pucks and around the net score," Kuji said. "You see how determined all the players are and I see that I need to increase my intensity. It was a great experience for Japanese hockey and for me to be able to come here and realize what NHL hockey culture is all about. There were so many fans, and the great interest around John Tavares and the other prospects. It really was great to see how major hockey is here. I need to continue to work on improving my game and to play hard to attract more fans to watch hockey and to increase the interest in Japanese hockey."

Can Kuji become the first Japanese skater to crack the NHL? Time will tell.

(Source: IIHF)


 Shuhei Kuji, after the WU, the NHL next?