Gore teenager Dane Dunlop is heading to Canada to try out for a spot in Canada's Ice Hockey League - the first New Zealander to win such an opportunity.

Dunlop will be one of 70-plus young hopefuls trying out for 22 places in the Dauphin Kings of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League on April 10.

"I just want to get there and do my best," Dunlop said.

"I'm a little nervous about all the fuss and media attention but I have so many people back home who have belief in me that I'm determined to give it my best shot."

The league is a forerunner to the Western Hockey League, where players can play until the age of 20 before moving into semi-pro or pro hockey ranks. Salaries for National Hockey League players range from is US$545,000 to US$10 million ($962,047.66 to ($17.65 million).

Dunlop played for Dunedin Thunder in the New Zealand Ice Hockey League last season, and athletic testing for skills both on and off the rink scored him within the top 3 per cent of ice hockey players in the world.

"We are amazed at the strength in explosive power in such a young athlete who literally has done no training in those areas other than playing sport," said Phil Handcock, from Otago University's School of Physical Education, where the tests were carried out.

"Physically he has the size and attributes of top international ice hockey players - with training and more skills coaching who knows how far he can go."

His New Zealand coach, ex-pat Canadian Jenel Bode, said the opportunity was huge.

"Ice hockey is to Canadians what rugby is to kiwis," Bode said.

"Dane is a natural athlete and his full potential has not been challenged. This is a great opportunity for him to experience success in his sport."

- NZPA