Hockey Canada has invited 26 Western Hockey League (WHL) players, as part of a group of 112, to attend Canada’s National Under-17 development camp as the road to the 2019 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge begins.
Goaltender Drew Sim of Tees, Alta. was selected to attend the camp which took place from July 19 to July 26 at the Markin MacPhail Centre at WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park.
“It was a blast,” began Sim. “I had a good team. Bunch of west guys in my group so it wasn’t just sitting around. I had some guys I could talk to before it got started.”
During the week-long camp, the players – 12 goaltenders, 36 defencemen and 64 forwards – will be split into six teams for on and off-ice training, fitness testing, intrasquad games and classroom studies.
Day one consisted of meetings and coach and staff introductions followed by practices and meals as well as the lengthy list of activities described.
A highlight was playing against a host of new players with different styles.
“Getting to meet a new set of hockey players that I haven’t played against for the past couple of years was great like meeting the guys from Quebec and Ontario was kind of cool,” said Sim.
The breakdown of WHL players includes three goaltenders, eight defencemen, and 15 forwards; nine of which were from Alberta.
The process of narrowing down these players began last June and the Canada Winter Games held in Red Deer in January, 2019.
The list of WHL players invited includes 17 who have already made their WHL debuts, led by Edmonton Oil Kings forward Dylan Guenther, the first-overall selection in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft.
This camp is the first chance these athletes have at possibly making Team Canada.
“The national under-17 development camp is the first step these athletes take in their Team Canada career,” said Shawn Bullock, director of men’s national teams in a release issued by Hockey Canada.
“Ultimately, these players will learn what it takes to wear the Maple Leaf in international competition. We are here to support their development by providing the on-ice and off-ice experiences they need to achieve the dream of representing their country.”
Brad McEwen of Whitewood, Sask., head scout for the Program of Excellence, and POE management group representative Martin Mondou of Grand-Mére, Quebec built the roster with assistance from six regional scouts.
Shaun Sutter, Assistant General Manager and Director of Player Personnel for the Red Deer Rebels, and Jason Smart, a scout with the Vancouver Giants, served as the two regional scouts from Western Canada.
Following the camp, players are being monitored through the early weeks of the 2019-2020 season before 66 are named to one of three Canadian teams including Team Canada Black, Team Canada Red and Team Canada White.
These teams will be competing at the 2019 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, scheduled for Nov. 2-9 in Medicine Hat, Alta., and Swift Current, Sask.
Sim was infatuated with the sport from a young age.
“I went out and tried it and fell in love with it. I couldn’t really skate or even move that much but I just fell in love with the game.”
He hopes to join the WHL as early as next year with the goal to eventually go pro and play for his country more than once.