Kelowna Rockets players Nick Merkley and Dillon Dube have both been invited to tryout for team Canada in the upcoming World Juniors.
In less than 30 days, the puck will officially drop on the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship, and Merkley and Dube are now one step closer to being part of this Canadian holiday tradition as members of Canada’s National Junior Team.
Hockey Canada unveiled the list of invitees who will report to Canada’s National Junior Team Sport Chek Selection Camp in Blainville, Que., Dec. 10-14, during coinciding news conferences in Montreal and Toronto on Tuesday. The cities will co-host the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship when it returns to Canadian ice next month.
Merkley was invited to the camp for the second year in a row. Last year he wasn’t able to crack the tournament squad, but this year he’s hoping to change that.
“It’s a big honor, I’m just excited to get there and get things going. I’m looking to do more than I did last year and hopefully I can make that team this time,” said Merkley. “I think the biggest thing for me is just focusing on the next game, not thinking too far ahead about making the team and just being in the moment.”
Rockets veteran forward Dillon Dube was also named to the selection camp roster, something he’s looking at as a special challenge.
“It’s crazy. Right now it hasn’t really sunk in yet. It’s an honor to get there,” Dube said. “It’s still a tryout so I think there’s still lots to be done and hopefully I’ll be able to prove myself in that short amount of time and I can get a chance to play.”
The selection camp roster includes a total of 19 forwards, 10 defencemen, and three goaltenders. The evaluation process was led by Ryan Jankowski, Hockey Canada’s director of player personnel, and Joël Bouchard of the organization’s Program of Excellence management group, with input from coaches and general managers from across the Canadian Hockey League (CHL).
“Congratulations to the 32 players named today to the National Junior Team selection camp roster,” said Scott Salmond, vice-president of hockey operations and men’s national teams, Hockey Canada. “With the number of talented players across Canada, it is a difficult process to get to this point. We are confident that the 22 players who emerge from this camp will wear the Team Canada jersey with pride, and give Canada the best opportunity to play for gold on January 5th.”
Five players return from the Canada’s National Junior Team that competed at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship in Helsinki, Finland: Mathew Barzal (Coquitlam, B.C./Seattle, WHL), Thomas Chabot (Sainte-Marie-de-Beauce, Que./Saint John, QMJHL), Julien Gauthier (Pointe-aux-Trembles, Que./Val-d’Or, QMJHL), Mitchell Stephens (Peterborough, Ont./Saginaw, OHL), and Dylan Strome (Mississauga, Ont./Erie, OHL).
“There have been a number of difficult decisions to make just to get us to this point, and I expect these players will continue to impress us and make the next round of decisions tough as well, which speaks to the talent Canada continues to produce on the ice,” said Jankowski. “We’re eager to get the players and our coaching and support staff together and get started.”
The selection camp will be held at the home of the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, the Centre d’Excellence Sports Rousseau, and features three games: two against the USport All-Stars on Dec. 12 and 13, and a final game against the Czech Republic on Dec. 14.
Following the four-day camp, 22 players will be selected to represent Canada and don the Maple Leaf on home ice for the first time since 2015 when Canada won gold in front of a sold-out crowd of over 19,000 fans at the Air Canada Centre. This year, gold will be won in Montreal.
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