Peeters excited to blaze a trail as first Belgian player in QMJHL
Canada is a hockey country.
So are the United States, Sweden, Finland, and Russia.
Belgium? Not so much, but maybe that will change, thanks to a 17-year-old from Antwerp who's looking to make history.
Meet the Halifax Mooseheads' newest prospect: Senna Peeters.
"You typically don't think of Belgium as being a hotbed of hockey," said Halifax general manager Cam Russell.
The Belgian forward left home in 2017 to play for Salzburg in the EBJL – an Austrian junior league.
As a 15-year-old playing in an under-18 league, Peeters led his team in scoring as he tallied 41 goals and 59 assists for 100 points in 34 regular season and playoff games. He also had a cup of coffee with Red Bull Hockey Akademie in the Czech league where he played with new Mooseheads teammates Marcel Barinka and Samuel Dube.
Then in 2018, Peeters took the big jump across the Atlantic to chase his hockey dream as he suited up for the Selects Hockey Academy, a prep team based in South Kent, Conn.
In 63 combined regular season and playoff games, Peeters scored 33 goals and 36 assists for 69 points to finish second on the team in scoring.
Players from Belgium are a rare breed.
"I'm the first real Belgian to be in this league, so I'm very proud of that," Peeters said of suiting up for a QMJHL team.
Belgium is not known to produce high-end hockey talent. Only one Belgian player -- Jan Benda -- has reached the NHL, but hockey's global footprint is changing on a yearly basis.
"Nowadays, you're seeing kids come from all over the place," Russell said. "Florida, Japan, even China."
Like all these players, Peeters has a burning desire to reach the NHL someday.
For now, making it to Halifax as the first Belgian-born and Belgian-trained player is a huge step. Three players born in Belgium have played in the QMJHL before, but they were sons of Canadians who played their minor hockey in Canada. They include Sebastian Strozynski, Metis Roelens, and Mitch Morgan.
"It motivates me more and more to keep on going and try to make it as far as possible," Peeters said. "But I'm very proud of myself and the people who helped get me here."
One of those people is his father, Gert Peeters, a long-time pro player and coach in the Belgian league who also represented the country internationally.
Off and on the ice, the younger Peeters is making a positive impression.
"He's a great kid," Russell said. "He's very focused, very mature. He wants to be a hockey player who works hard every day."
Beyond playing for the Mooseheads, Peeters is also adapting to life in a new country and culture.
"My first language is Dutch, then German, then English, and then a little bit of French, but not a lot," Peeters said.
He'll attend Grade 12 at Prince Andrew High School and he enjoys living in Dartmouth.
"I like it," Peeters said. "A lot of lakes and I don't really see that in Belgium."
As for being far from his parents, he's adjusting daily.
"I'm just going to be texting and calling them a lot," he said.
Peeters says his mom and dad plan to visit and watch him play.
The entire family is excited by this latest path in his hockey development.
"I just know that I'm here in a good place and they know it too," Peeters said. "We're just happy for each other."
While Peeters is blazing a new trail for his home country of Belgium, he hopes to follow the path of others before him, who came here as CHL Import Draft picks then were drafted in the NHL after starring for the Mooseheads.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Paul Hollingsworth.