CALGARY, Alta. – Hockey Canada announced Wednesday the three head coaches and six assistant coaches who will lead the three Canadian teams at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
This year’s tournament is the first to feature three national teams (Black, Red and White). From 1986 to 2014, Canada was represented by five regional teams: Atlantic, Ontario, Pacific, Quebec and West.
Jean-François Houle (Quebec City, Que.), head coach of the QMJHL’s Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, Sheldon Keefe (Brampton, Ont.), head coach of the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, and Dan Lambert (St. Malo, Man.), an assistant coach with the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets, will be the Canadian head coaches.
Gilles Bouchard (Normandin, Que./Rouyn-Noranda, QMJHL), Josh Dixon (Oakville, Ont./Regina, WHL), Misha Donskov (London, Ont./Ottawa, OHL), Serge Lajoie (St. Albert, Alta./NAIT, ACAC), Kelly Nobes (West Hill, Ont./McGill University, CIS) and Marco Pietroniro (Montreal, Que./Val-d’Or, QMJHL) will serve as assistant coaches.
Jean-François Houle, 39, has spent three seasons with Blainville-Boisbriand, leading it to the fifth-best record in the QMJHL during the 2013-14 campaign. Prior to joining the Armada, Houle spent two seasons (2009-11) as head coach of the QMJHL’s Lewiston MAINEiacs, and was an assistant coach with Clarkson University for parts of seven seasons (2003-09). Selected by Montreal in the fourth round of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft (99th overall), Houle played four seasons (1993-97) with Clarkson and five seasons (1997-2002) of professional hockey with New Orleans (ECHL), Fredericton (AHL), Tallahassee (ECHL) and Cincinnati (AHL).
Sheldon Keefe, 33, just completed his first full season as head coach with Sault Ste. Marie after being hired in December 2012. Prior to joining the Greyhounds, Keefe spent six seasons as owner, general manager and head coach of the CCHL’s Pembroke Lumber Kings, leading the team to victory at the RBC Cup, Canada’s National Junior A Championship, in 2011. He was an assistant coach with Canada East at the 2012 World Junior A Challenge, and was head coach of Team East for the 2011 CJHL Prospects Game. Selected by Tampa Bay in the second round of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft (47th overall), Keefe played 125 NHL games with the Lightning, and also spent time in the AHL and IHL. He played two seasons in the OHL with the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors and Barrie Colts, winning the OHL championship with the Colts in 2000 and earning a spot on the Memorial Cup All-Star Team and CHL First All-Star Team.
Dan Lambert, 44, has been an assistant coach in Kelowna for the last five seasons. Selected by Quebec in the sixth round of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft (106th overall), Lambert played 29 NHL games with the Nordiques as part of a 19-year professional career that also included stops in Halifax (AHL), Fort Wayne (IHL), Moncton (IHL), HIFK Helsinki (Finland), San Diego (IHL), Los Angeles (IHL), Long Beach (IHL), Cologne (Germany), Krefeld (Germany), Hamburg (Germany) and Hannover (Germany). He played four seasons (1986-90) with the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos, winning the Memorial Cup in 1989, and was named Memorial Cup MVP.
As part of the new structure, the first national under-17 development camp will be held July 27 to Aug. 5 at the Markin MacPhail Centre at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary, with 108 players attending. From the camp, 66 players will be selected to represent Canada at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, which is scheduled for Oct. 31 to Nov. 8 in a yet-to-be-determined location.
Ryan Jankowski, Hockey Canada's head scout of men's national teams, will lead player selection for the camp, along with regional scouts Donald Audette (Quebec), Brad McEwen (West), Kevin Mitchell (Atlantic) and Darryl Woodley (Ontario).
Camp invites and coaching assignments for the three Canadian teams will be announced in the coming months.
The 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge will bring together the top players in the world born in 1998 or later. The under-17 program is the first step in Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence. Many players who compete at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge go on to represent Canada with the National Men’s Under-18 Team, National Junior Team and National Men’s Team.
Since the first under-17 tournament (then known as the Quebec Esso Cup) in 1986, more than 1,200 NHL draft picks have played in the tournament, including 10 of the last 13 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).