Following a pair of victories over the U Sports All-Stars, Hockey Canada brass has announced its first set of releases from National Junior Team Selection Camp, drawing closer to finalizing Canada’s entry into the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship.
Released from National Junior Team Selection Camp were four players, including a trio of Western Hockey League representatives – Brett Howden (Moose Jaw Warriors), Nick Merkley (Kelowna Rockets) and Austin Wagner (Regina Pats). Also released was defenceman Victor Mete of the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights.
With the roster reduction, Canada now carries 27 players, including eight WHL representatives. Remaining at National Junior Team Selection Camp from the WHL are goaltenders Carter Hart (Everett Silvertips) and Connor Ingram (Kamloops Blazers); defencemen Jake Bean (Calgary Hitmen), Kale Clague (Brandon Wheat Kings) and Noah Juulsen (Everett Silvertips); and forwards Mathew Barzal (Seattle Thunderbirds), Dillon Dube (Kelowna Rockets) and Sam Steel (Regina Pats).
In total, the selection camp roster still features three goaltenders, nine defencemen and 15 forwards. CLICK HERE for the complete roster as of Dec. 13.
Selection camp closes Wednesday, at which point another five players will be released to get the team down to the maximum of 22.
A total of 12 WHL players had originally been named to the selection camp roster, though Brandon Wheat Kings centre Nolan Patrick was unable to attend due to injury.
Howden, a first round pick (27th) of the Tampa Bay Lightning at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, returns to the Warriors, where he has produced 26 points (14G-12A) in 17 games this season.
For the second consecutive year, Merkley finds himself on the outside looking in. He was also a late release from the 2016 Canadian roster. A first round pick (30th) of the Arizona Coyotes at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Merkley returns to the Rockets where he has 21 points (8G-13A) in 24 games.
Wagner, a fourth round pick (99th) of the Los Angeles Kings at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, will provide a boost to the Pats, having collected 27 points (14G-13A) in 23 games this season.
Canada will play one final outing against the Czech Republic on Wednesday, Dec. 14 (5 p.m. MT), at the Centre d’Excellence Sports Rousseau in Boisbriand, Que., to close out selection camp action.
The 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship will be contested beginning Dec. 26 in Montreal and Toronto.