If August’s gold medal-winning National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team is any indication, hockey fans in Timmins are in for a treat when the puck drops at the 2010 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
When Canada brought home the gold from the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament for the fifth time in six years, it did so with the help of 22 players who saw action at the 2009 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Port Alberni, B.C.
The gold medal game alone featured 15 of the 22 who were selected for the national team – 10 from gold medalist Ontario and five more from silver medalist Pacific. In fact, nine of the top 10 players selected in the 2008 OHL Priority Selection, including first-overall selection John McFarland (Sudbury) and fourth pick Erik Gudbranson (Kingston), both of whom represented Canada at the 2009 IIHF World Under-18 Championship as underage players.
This year’s U17 tournament should provide even more excitement for the host province as Ontario looks to become the first team ever to win three-consecutive gold medals while looking to win gold on home soil for the second time in three years – it took home the top prize from London, Ont., in 2008.
Speaking of the London event, its alumni were front and centre at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft in Montreal, where five of the top 10 picks, and 14 first-rounders overall, were on the ice at the John Labatt Centre. One more, top pick John Tavares, played at the U17 tournament in 2006, starring as a 14-year-old.
WORLD U17 HOCKEY CHALLENGE ALUMNI – 2009 TOP 10 NHL PICKS
1st overall – John Tavares, New York Islanders (2006 – Regina; Ontario)
3rd overall – Matt Duchene, Colorado Avalanche (2008 – London; Ontario)
4th overall – Evander Kane, Atlanta Thrashers (2008 – London; Pacific)
5th overall – Brayden Schenn, Los Angeles Kings (2008 – London; West)
8th overall – Scott Glennie, Dallas Stars (2008 – London; West)
9th overall – Jared Cowen, Ottawa Senators (2008 – London; West)
So who could be on the ice for the host province when the action begins at The Mac? 2009 OHL top pick Daniel Catenacci has as good a chance as any player, as do Alan Quine, Ryan Murphy, Boone Jenner and Justin Sefton, who followed Catenacci as picks two through five.
As for local flavor, Timmins products Erik Robichaud and Justin Kord were among the players invited to Ontario’s final selection camp, looking to follow in the footsteps of Mark Katic, who was the last Timmins-area player to take part in the event. After his 2006 U17 experience Katic was selected in the third round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Islanders, and kicked off his professional career this season with the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport.