SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – Sixty-six of Canada’s best young hockey players have been selected to represent their country at the 2016 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Oct. 27-Nov. 5.
The process, which began with 111 players who took part in a seven-day development camp in late July, will be finalized next week when the 66-player roster is divided to make up the three Canadian teams – Team Canada Black, Team Canada Red, and Team Canada White – who will face the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden, and the United States in their quest for gold.
The player selections were made by Ryan Jankowski, Hockey Canada’s director of player personnel, with assistance from Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence management group lead for under-17, Dale DeGray, and regional scouts Carl Bouchard (Quebec), Barclay Branch (Ontario), Wade Klippenstein (West), Kevin Mitchell (Atlantic), and Darrell Woodley (Ontario).
“These are the 66 best players in the country who are, by-and-large, making their first appearance in international competition as part of Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence. They have been selected not only based on their current ability, but also on their potential to represent Canada at under-18 and junior competition in the coming years,” said Shawn Bullock, senior manager of hockey operations and men’s national teams for Hockey Canada. “This is a skilled group of high-performers with long-term international potential, and we look forward to working with them at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, and in the future.”
Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence officially begins with the under-17 development camp in July, and runs through the men’s high-performance camps and teams up to, and including, Canada’s National Junior Team. Of the 66 players selected to wear the Maple Leaf, only Joe Veleno (Kirkland, Que./Saint John, QMJHL) has competed at the event before; Veleno, 16, was a member of Team Canada Black at the 2015 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, and represented Canada at the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup in August.
Fifteen players (Burzan, Busby, Chisholm, Dudas, Focht, Groulx, MacDonald, McIsaac, McShane, Merkley, Nielsen, Roberts, Rodrigue, Smith, and Woo) earned a taste of international competition last February when they skated away from the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games with a silver medal. The Winter Youth Olympic Games were first introduced in 2012, and take place every four years.
Action gets underway Oct. 27 in Sault Ste. Marie
The Essar Centre and John Rhodes Community Centre will play host to the eight teams who will gut it out during six days of competition in the hopes of securing gold for their country. Team Canada Black, Team Canada White, the Czech Republic and United States will play in Group A, while Team Canada Red, Finland, Russia and Sweden will comprise Group B.
Official tournament action gets underway on Sunday, Oct. 30, when Team Canada Red takes on Finland at 12 p.m. ET, followed by Team Canada Black facing 2015 champions, Team Canada White, at 4 p.m. ET. The gold-medal game will be played at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Nov. 5, at the Essar Centre. The event is hosted by Hockey Canada in collaboration with the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) and the Ontario Hockey Federation (OHF).
Since the first World Under-17 Hockey Challenge (then known as the Quebec Esso Cup) in 1986, more than 1,600 NHL draft picks have played in the tournament, including 13 of the last 16 first-overall selections (Ilya Kovalchuk, 2001; Rick Nash, 2002; Marc-André Fleury, 2003; Alexander Ovechkin, 2004; Erik Johnson, 2006; Patrick Kane, 2007; John Tavares, 2009; Taylor Hall, 2010; Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 2011; Nathan MacKinnon, 2013; Aaron Ekblad, 2014; Connor McDavid, 2015; Auston Matthews, 2016).