Hockey Canada has invited 28 Western Hockey League players, including two Kelowna Rockets draft picks, as part of a group of 111, to attend Canada’s national under-17 development camp as the road to the 2018 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge begins.

The camp itself will take place from July 21-27 at the Markin MacPhail Centre at WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park Calgary, AB.

For the duration of the week-long camp, the players – 12 goaltenders, 36 defencemen, and 63 forwards – will be split into six teams for on- and off-ice training, fitness testing, practices, intrasquad games, and classroom sessions.

Two Rockets draft picks were invited to the camp. Kelowna’s first pick in the second round of the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft 39th overall, Ethan Bowen, was invited to camp. The Rockets second choice in the third round of the 2017 Bantam Draft 61st overall, Ethan Ernst, was also named to the list.

Bowen, 16, played the 2017-2018 regular season with the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds of the BCMML. In 27 games Bowen recorded nine goals and 25 assists for 34 points.

Ernst, 16, played the 2017-2018 regular season with the Notre Dame Hounds of the SMAAAHL. In 52 games played, Ernst notched 22 goals while adding 26 assists for 48 points. The speedy forward also added six goals and five assists in nine post season games en route to capturing the SMAAAHL title. Ernst and his club advanced to the 2018 Telus Cup where they won all seven games they played capturing a gold medal. Ernst recorded three goals and four assists for seven points in those seven games.

The breakdown by WHL players includes four goaltenders, 10 defencemen, and 14 forwards. For many of the WHL players invited to the camp, it won’t be their first time attending the Markin MacPhail Centre at WinSport. Of the 28 WHL drafted players invited to July’s camp, 26 participated in the 2017 WHL Cup, featuring eight players from British Columbia, who won gold at the event, including Rockets prospect Ethan Bowen.

From the other provinces in Western Canada, Alberta boasts the highest total with 13 players from the Wild Rose province while four came from Saskatchewan, and three more from Manitoba.

All six members of the 2017 WHL Cup All-Star Team earned invites, including Alberta defenceman Kaiden Guhle, the first overall selection in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft by the Prince Albert Raiders and Saskatchewan goaltender Bryan Thomson, a prospect of the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Other All-Stars earning invitations were defenceman Daemon Hunt (Brandon, Man. / Moose Jaw Warriors), forward Justin Sourdif (Surrey, B.C. / Vancouver Giants), forward Kyle Crnkovic (Chestermere, Alta. / Saskatoon Blades), and forward Connor McClennon (Wainwright, Alta. / Kootenay ICE).

A quartet of Alberta players invited to the camp also led the 2017 WHL Cup in scoring. Crnkovic led all players with 12 points (3G-9A) while McClennon finished with 10 points (6G-4A). The highest-scoring defenceman from the tournament, Guhle recorded nine points (5G-4A) and forward Jake Neighbours (Airdrie, Alta. / Edmonton Oil Kings) rounded out the top four for scoring with seven points (1G-6A). Overall, 18 of the 28 WHL players invited were selected in the first round of the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft.

Dylan Garand (Victoria, B.C. / Kamloops Blazers) is the lone goaltender to have already made his WHL debut. Additionally, 18 of the skaters invited to the camp have already made their WHL debuts.

Brad McEwen, head scout for Hockey Canada, was responsible for all player selections, with assistance from regional scouts Carl Bouchard (Quebec), Barclay Branch (Ontario), Vancouver Giants general manager Barclay Parneta (West), Darren Sutherland (Atlantic), and Darrell Woodley (Ontario), as well as member representatives.

“The national under-17 development camp provides a unique opportunity for players to learn about what it takes to be part of Team Canada alongside the best young talent in the country,” said Shawn Bullock, Hockey Canada’s senior manager of hockey operations and men’s national teams. “The players are here with the ultimate goal of wearing the Team Canada jersey in international competition, and we are supporting them in that goal by providing the on- and off-ice experiences they need to develop and grow as high-performance athletes.”

Following the development camp, players will continue to be evaluated through the early season before 66 are named to one of three Canadian national teams – Team Canada Black, Team Canada Red, and Team Canada White – who will compete at the 2018 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge scheduled for Nov. 3-10 in Saint John and Quispamsis, N.B.

This year, all 111 players have been drafted by Canadian Hockey League teams, including 54 from the Ontario Hockey League, 29 from the Western Hockey League, and 28 from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.