The first step in Hockey Canada's Program of Excellence, the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge includes three Canadian teams and five international entries in a tournament that showcases of the future stars of the game. Since the first U17 tournament in 1986, Canada has been joined by 10 different countries: Czech Republic, Czechoslovakia, Finland, Germany, Norway, Russia, Slovakia, Soviet Union, Sweden and the United States.
From 1986 to 2014, Canada was represented by five regional teams – Atlantic, Ontario, Pacific, Quebec and West – with Ontario winning a record-setting eight gold medals. Beginning in 2014, Hockey Canada went to a national team format – Canada Black, Canada Red and Canada White – allowing players from across the country to play together immediately as they enter the POE.
The World Under-17 Hockey Challenge has long been a starting point for professional careers, with more than 1,600 NHL draft picks having played in the tournament. That number includes 18 players selected first overall – Pierre Turgeon, Mats Sundin, Alexandre Daigle, Bryan Berard, Joe Thornton, Vincent Lecavalier, Ilya Kovalchuk, Rick Nash, Marc-André Fleury, Alexander Ovechkin, Eric Johnson, Patrick Kane, John Tavares, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Aaron Ekblad, Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews.