October 16, 2017
The former U16 Western Canada Cup, now renamed the WHL Cup, gets underway this week at the Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary, beginning Wednesday.
Now in its sixth iteration, the tournament features the top bantam prospects from Canada’s four western provinces battling for the honor of their home provinces.
BC Hockey, Hockey Alberta, Saskatchewan Hockey Association, and Hockey Manitoba select provincial teams to compete in the contest, under the auspices of Hockey Canada’s High Performance Program. This year, 72 of the 80 players chosen were drafted into the Western Hockey League last spring, in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft.
TEAM BC Roster:
|#||Pos||Last Name||First Name||
|Ht||Wt||2017-2018 Team||Hometown||WHL Draft, Round/Pick|
|1||G||Garand||Dylan||6/7/02||6’0″||161||Delta HA||Victoria||Kamloops 3-58|
|2||D||Brandwood||Ethan||5/9/02||6’0″||157||South Island||Victoria||Kamloops 7-146|
|4||D||De La Grogendiere||Aidan||2/22/02||6’0″||169||Yale HA||Langley||Saskatoon 1-5|
|6||D||Iorio||Vincent||11/14/02||6’1″||176||Shattuck-St. Mary’s||Coquitlam||Brandon 2-27|
|7||D||Watson||Ryan||5/11/02||5’10”||149||Delta HA||Delta||Medicine Hat 3-65|
|8||F||Bowen||Ethan||5/14/02||6’0″||157||Fraser Valley||Chilliwack||Kelowna 2-39|
|10||F||Horstmann||Tyler||1/7/02||5’10”||149||Greater Vancouver||Richmond||Edmonton 4-70|
|11||F||King||Ben||5/15/02||6’0″||161||Okanagan||Vernon||Swift Current 1-13|
|12||F||Little||John||11/10/02||5’11”||171||Shawnigan Lake||Parksville||Vancouver 3-60|
|14||F||MacDonald||Cameron||3/8/02||5’7″||159||Valley West||Surrey||Brandon 5-96|
|15||F||Marlow||Wyatt||3/7/02||5’7″||150||Okaganan HA||Cranbrook||Swift Current 10-211|
|16||F||Mount||Payton||1/19/02||5’10”||174||Delta HA||Victoria||Seattle 1-19|
|17||F||Phare||Tyson||3/20/02||5’11”||180||Yale HA||Maple Ridge||Prince George 1-18|
|18||F||Shepard||Cole||2/1/02||5’8″||142||Delta HA||West Vancouver||Vancouver 2-33|
|19||F||Sourdif||Justin||3/24/02||5’9″||158||Valley West||Surrey||Vancouver 1-3|
Wednesday, October 18
3 p.m. MT – Team Manitoba at Team BC
6:30 p.m. MT – Team Saskatchewan at Team Alberta
Thursday, October 19
3 p.m. MT – Team Saskatchewan at Team Manitoba
6:30 p.m. MT – Team Alberta at Team BC
Friday, October 20
3 p.m. MT – Team BC at Team Saskatchewan
6:30 p.m. MT – Team Manitoba at Team Alberta
Saturday, October 21
1 p.m. MT – Semifinal #1
4:30 p.m. MT – Semifinal #2
*top seed from round robin will select preference for semifinal time slot
Sunday, October 22
9:30 a.m. MT – Bronze medal game
1:30 p.m. MT – Gold medal game
Preview by Robert Murray
With Alberta, their neighbours to the east, winning the previous two editions of the tournament in 2013 and 2015, BC headed into the 2016 competition with high hopes of dethroning the two-time champions and recapturing the title they last won in 2012.
(The contest is not held every year, due to conflicts with Canada Games tournaments).
Last year, Josh Williams, Massimo Rizzo and Ethan Leyh led BC on an offensive tear throughout the tournament and took Alberta to overtime in the gold medal game.
But their hopes were dashed when Spokane Chiefs’ prospect Carter Chorney scored to complete the three-peat for the Wild Rose province.
Those dashed hopes have fuelled B.C.’s desire to win even more this year.
Head coach Steve O’Rourke, who joined WHL Prince George Cougars as an associate coach in January, 2016, is hoping this year’s team will end Alberta’s winning streak.
“What you learn over the years is these opportunities don’t come around very often,” noted O’Rourke. “You get one chance at a program of excellence maybe at this level.
“Then if you do really well, you get the next chance, but each time these things [happen] you have to enjoy them.”
O’Rourke is well-versed in the quick nature of these tournaments.
He played at the 1991 Canada Winter Games and his son Ethan, who plays for the Cougars, suited up at the 2015 edition of that tournament as well.
Now, Steve is ready to guide 20 players through a similar process and helping them grow for the future at the same time.
“So often, the program is just about selecting players, really not giving much back to them,” added O’Rourke. “There’s a totally different approach now – of teaching them.”
With the help of a full coaching staff, the players are getting an experience they’ll use in the future and the skills to win this week.
One of those players looking to lead British Columbia to the top is defenceman Ryan Watson, a third-round selection of the Medicine Hat Tigers in last spring’s 2017 WHL Bantam Draft.
“I’m just looking to showcase my skill to whoever is watching and my coaches to trust me in the role that I’m going to be given.”
With the hard part of figuring out where he’d land on draft day over, Watson has gotten back to the on-ice side of things, playing with the Delta Hockey Academy in the CSSHL. He’s made it to the championship round with his teams in previous seasons, coming up short of the ultimate goal both times.
So to Watson, there’s extra motivation to win and claim a victory at the highest level he’s played in to date. It’ll help that he’ll be competing alongside a bunch of his teammates at the tournament, including forward Payton Mount and goaltender Dylan Garland. DHA teammate Krz Plummer will line up against him with Alberta this coming week.
“It was surreal,” Watson said regarding being selected to the tournament and being able to be in competition with some teammates. “I’ve never been selected to be on a team to play for my province.
“All the boys are going to have to come together and play the role that they’re given.”
The province’s roster will also feature some of their top-tier talent selected from the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft, including third-overall pick Justin Sourdif (Vancouver Giants) and fifth-overall selection Aidan De La Gorgendiere (Saskatoon Blades).
With only 20 rosters spots available to fill, B.C. was obviously unable to take even half of the 62 players selected from that province in last spring’s draft. O’Rourke said it wasn’t about just getting top 20 selections from the draft, but the 20 best players that would mesh and grow throughout the course of the five-day tournament.
“This is about coming here as a team of 20,” O’Rourke noted. “If you’re on the power play, you’re supporting the guys on the penalty kill. Everyone’s going to have a key piece to trying to win this championship.
“If we can’t select 20 guys that can play on the ice in all situations, we’ve probably got the wrong 20 guys.”
The tournament will last five games at most, but the experience will carry with them a lifetime, something Rourke was fully anticipating.
“These are the types of situations you want to be in, whether it’s [the World] U-17 [Challenge] next time, wherever these guys are going to play and be able to perform.”
British Columbia will open their conquest for a second gold medal at the WHL Cup Wednesday when they host Manitoba Wednesday, October 18 at the Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary, Alta.
For more information on the WHL Cup, visit prospects.whl.ca
(Player, WHL Club – NHL Draft/Current NHL Club – Branch Team)
Matt Dumba, Red Deer Rebels – Minnesota Wild – Team Alberta
Derek Pouliot, Portland Winterhawks – Vancouver Canucks – Team Saskatchewan
Griffin Reinhart, Edmonton Oil Kings – Vegas Golden Knights – Team BC
Morgan Reilly, Moose Jaw Warriors – Toronto Maple Leafs – Team BC
Jake Virtanen, Calgary Hitmen – Vancouver Canucks – Team BC
Jayce Hawryluk, Brandon Wheat Kings – Florida Panthers – Team Manitoba
Connor Bleackley, Red Deer Rebels – St. Louis Blues – Team Alberta
Brayden Point, Moose Jaw Warriors – Tampa Bay Lightning – Team Alberta
Ryan Gropp, Seattle Thunderbirds – New York Rangers – Team BC
Haydn Fleury, Red Deer Rebels – Carolina Hurricanes – Team Saskatchewan
Mathew Barzal, Seattle Thunderbirds – New York Islanders – Team BC
Nick Merkley, Kelowna Rockets – Arizona Coyotes – Team Alberta
Jansen Harkins, Prince George Cougars – Winnipeg Jets – Team BC
Brendan Guhle, Prince Albert Raiders – Buffalo Sabres – Team Alberta
Ethan Bear, Seattle Thunderbirds – Edmonton Oilers – Team Saskatchewan
Tyler Benson, Vancouver Giants – Edmonton Oilers – Team Alberta
Brett Howden, Moose Jaw Warriors – Tampa Bay Lightning – Team Manitoba
Sam Steel, Regina Pats – Anaheim Ducks – Team Alberta
Kale Clague, Brandon Wheat Kings – Los Angeles Kings – Team Alberta
Nolan Patrick, Brandon Wheat Kings – Philadelphia Flyers – Team Manitoba