The Western Hockey League, in partnership with BC Hockey, Hockey Alberta, Saskatchewan Hockey Association, Hockey Manitoba and Hockey Canada, announced today team rosters for the freshly rebranded 2017 WHL Cup, which will begin Wednesday, October 18, at the Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary, Alta. The list includes four Kelowna Rockets draft picks.
Rockets second round draft pick of the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft, Ethan Bowen, will suit up for Team B.C.. Third round choice Ethan Ernst will play for Team Saskatchewan. Fourth round pick Cole Carrier will compete for Team Alberta. Finally, Rockets 10th round choice Brody Wilson will play for Team Manitoba.
The WHL Cup, formerly known as the Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup, features the highest-rated players in the under-16 age category from the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The tournament will take place from Wednesday, October 18 through Sunday, October 22.
Of the 80 players scheduled to compete at the event, 72 were selected in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft.
The five-time champion Albertans once again boast a star-studded lineup that includes 11 first round selections from the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft. The roster includes the top two selections from the May draft, with Sherwood Park product Kaiden Guhle (first overall, Prince Albert Raiders) and Wainwright native Connor McClennon (second overall, Kootenay ICE) leading the charge. Grande Prairie native Garin Bjorklund (21st overall, Medicine Hat Tigers) was the top goaltender selected in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft and will guard the crease for Alberta.
Team British Columbia
Having last won the event in 2012, Team BC enters another strong roster, which features Surrey product Justin Sourdif (third overall, Vancouver Giants) among six first round selections from the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft. Defenceman Aiden De La Gorgendiere (fifth overall, Saskatoon Blades), a native of Langley, holds down the blueline, while Jack Finley (Kelowna / Spokane Chiefs), Ben King (Vernon / Swift Current Broncos), Tyson Phare (Maple Ridge / Prince George Cougars) and Payton Mount (Victoria / Seattle Thunderbirds) join Sourdif up front.
Coming off a bronze-medal effort last year, Team Manitoba remains in search of its first tournament title. First-rounders Seth Jarvis (Winnipeg / Portland Winterhawks) and Daemon Hunt (Brandon / Moose Jaw Warriors) will lead the way, with Prince Albert Raiders prospects Jakob Brook (Roblin) and Evan Herman (The Pas) providing additional depth at forward.
After falling in the bronze medal game last year, Team Saskatchewan will look to rebound in 2017 as it also seeks out its first title. Tri-City Americans prospect Kaden Kohle (Humboldt), Kamloops Blazers prospect Josh Pillar (Allan) and Calgary Hitmen prospect Ryder Korczak (Yorkton) lead a highly-talented group of Saskatchewan forwards.
The tournament will be a four-team round-robin format and is the first step in Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence for players.
The majority of players participating in the event will have been selected in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft or have since been listed by WHL Clubs. The WHL Cup, formerly known as the Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup, has been sponsored since 2009 by the WHL and has been made possible through financial support provided by the WHL, Hockey Manitoba, BC Hockey, Hockey Alberta, Saskatchewan Hockey Association and Hockey Canada.
This year will mark the seventh year of the event. The first ever WHL Cup was held in Blackfalds, Alta., in 2009 and featured four of the top eight players selected in the 2012 NHL Draft. In 2010, the WHL Cup was not contested due to the Canada Winter Games. In 2011, the Moose Jaw Warriors and Saskatchewan Hockey Association hosted the event at Mosaic Place in Moose Jaw, Sask. In 2012, the tournament was hosted in Calgary at Father David Bauer Arena, the home of the WHL. In 2013, the tournament was again hosted in Calgary at Father David Bauer Arena. In 2014, the WHL Cup was not contested due to the Canada Winter Games. Since 2015, the WHL Cup has been hosted in Calgary at the Markin MacPhail Centre.
Team Alberta is a five-time champion of the WHL Cup, hoisting the trophy in 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016, while Team British Columbia won the event in 2012.
(Player, WHL Club – NHL Draft/Current NHL Club – Branch Team)
Matt Dumba, Red Deer Rebels – Minnesota Wild – Team Alberta
Derek Pouliot, Portland Winterhawks – Vancouver Canucks – Team Saskatchewan
Griffin Reinhart, Edmonton Oil Kings – Vegas Golden Knights – Team BC
Morgan Reilly, Moose Jaw Warriors – Toronto Maple Leafs – Team BC
Jake Virtanen, Calgary Hitmen – Vancouver Canucks – Team BC
Jayce Hawryluk, Brandon Wheat Kings – Florida Panthers – Team Manitoba
Connor Bleackley, Red Deer Rebels – St. Louis Blues – Team Alberta
Brayden Point, Moose Jaw Warriors – Tampa Bay Lightning – Team Alberta
Ryan Gropp, Seattle Thunderbirds – New York Rangers – Team BC
Haydn Fleury, Red Deer Rebels – Carolina Hurricanes – Team Saskatchewan
Mathew Barzal, Seattle Thunderbirds – New York Islanders – Team BC
Nick Merkley, Kelowna Rockets – Arizona Coyotes – Team Alberta
Jansen Harkins, Prince George Cougars – Winnipeg Jets – Team BC
Brendan Guhle, Prince Albert Raiders – Buffalo Sabres – Team Alberta
Ethan Bear, Seattle Thunderbirds – Edmonton Oilers – Team Saskatchewan
Tyler Benson, Vancouver Giants – Edmonton Oilers – Team Alberta
Brett Howden, Moose Jaw Warriors – Tampa Bay Lightning – Team Manitoba
Sam Steel, Regina Pats – Anaheim Ducks – Team Alberta
Kale Clague, Brandon Wheat Kings – Los Angeles Kings – Team Alberta
Nolan Patrick, Brandon Wheat Kings – Philadelphia Flyers – Team Manitoba
2015 WHL Cup All-Star Team
G – Matthew Thiessen, Tri-City Americans – Altona, MB – Team Manitoba
D – Ty Smith, Spokane Chiefs – 2018 NHL Top Prospect – Team Alberta
D – Jett Woo, Moose Jaw Warriors – 2018 NHL Top Prospect – Team Manitoba
F – Carson Focht, Tri-City Americans – 2018 NHL Top Prospect – Team Saskatchewan
F – Eric Florchuk, Victoria Royals – Ft. Saskatchewan, AB – Team Alberta
F – Eli Zummack, Spokane Chiefs – 2018 NHL Top Prospect – Team BC
2016 WHL Cup All-Star Team
G – Byron Fancy (Team Alberta) – Claresholm, AB – Red Deer Rebels
D – Kaeden Korczak (Team Saskatchewan) – Yorkton, SK – Kelowna Rockets
D – Braden Schneider (Team Saskatchewan) – Prince Albert, SK – Brandon Wheat Kings
F – Logan Barlage (Team Saskatchewan) – Humboldt, SK – Swift Current Broncos
F – Peyton Krebs (Team Alberta) – Okotoks, AB – Kootenay ICE
F – Joshua Williams (Team British Columbia) – Langley, BC – Medicine Hat Tigers