Kent, Wash. – The Western Hockey League in partnership with NHL Seattle and Visit Kent announced today the schedule for the inaugural WHL U.S. Challenge Cup — a premier tournament for Bantam AAA hockey teams in the Western United States, which will be held in Kent, Washington February 20-23, 2020.
The inaugural edition of the tournament will feature 12 of the top-ranked Bantam teams from the Western United States and Canada.
A full schedule of the 18 round-robin games for the WHL U.S. Challenge Cup is available here. Beginning Friday, February 21, each team will play a three-game round-robin schedule, with games hosted at the accesso ShoWare Center – home of the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds – and the Kent Valley Ice Centre.
Teams will be ranked from first to 12th, setting the stage for final placement games on Sunday, February 23. The championship game at the inaugural WHL U.S. Challenge Cup will be held Sunday, February 23 (1 p.m. PT) at the accesso ShoWare Center.
As part of the WHL U.S. Challenge Cup experience, participating teams will be given a first-hand look at the WHL player experience as they attend a WHL regular season contest between the Thunderbirds and visiting Portland Winterhawks on Saturday night.
Dallas Stars Elite ‘05
Having already provided the foundation for several notable players to succeed in the WHL’s U.S. Division, the Dallas Stars Elite ’05 will look to showcase the next generation of talent. WHL Alumni Cole Martin, who won a WHL Championship in 2015 with the Kelowna Rockets, currently coaches within the Dallas Stars Elite system.
Key Alumni: Seth Jones (NHL, Columbus Blue Jackets), Caleb Jones (NHL, Edmonton Oilers), Cross Hanas (WHL, Portland Winterhawks), Wyatte Wylie (WHL, Everett Silvertips)
Delta Hockey Academy Green
As one of the premier programs in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL), the Delta Hockey Academy are eager to showcase their next wave of talent. This year, the Delta Hockey Academy program boasts a .937 winning percentage in the CSSHL Bantam Prep Division.
Key Alumni: Brendan Gallagher (NHL, Montreal Canadiens), Tristan Jarry (NHL, Pittsburgh Penguins), Ty Smith (WHL, Spokane Chiefs)
Greater Vancouver Canadians
Competing for their first season in the British Columbia Major Bantam AAA League (BCMBL), the Greater Vancouver Canadians rank second with an 18-2-0-0 record. Head coach Adam Nugent-Hopkins is the older brother of former Red Deer Rebel and current Edmonton Oiler forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Key Alumni: Glenn Gawdin (AHL, Stockton Heat), Dante Hannoun (ECHL, Atlanta Gladiators), Nic Petan (NHL, Toronto Maple Leafs)
Los Angeles Junior Kings
The Los Angeles Junior Kings have strong ties to past, present, and future in the WHL. Led by former Saskatoon Blade Jack Bowkus as head coach, the team’s coaching staff also includes WHL Alumni Nicholas Vachon, Ray Macais, and Chase Souto. A pair of Junior Kings were selected at the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft.
Key Alumni: Kailer Yamamoto (NHL, Edmonton Oilers), Eric Comrie (NHL, Winnipeg Jets), Dustin Wolf (WHL, Everett Silvertips)
Coached by former Seattle Thunderbirds defenceman Jason Beckett, the Okanagan Rockets will bring a competitive roster to the inaugural edition of the WHL U.S. Challenge Cup. The Rockets currently sit first in the BCMBL with an 18-0-1-1 record and had three players selected at the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft.
Key Alumni: Eli Zummack (WHL, Spokane Chiefs), Jack Finley (WHL, Spokane Chiefs), Liam Hughes (WHL, Winnipeg ICE)
Phoenix Junior Coyotes
Competing in the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League, the Phoenix Junior Coyotes rank in the top half of the league with a 6-4-1-1 record through 12 games. A pair of Arizona players were selected at the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft, including Colton Langkow, the son of WHL Alumni Daymond Langkow.
Key Alumni: Mark Kastelic (WHL, Calgary Hitmen), Jeremy Masella (WHL, Prince Albert Raiders), Daylan Kuefler (WHL, Kamloops Blazers)
San Diego Saints
Established in 2002, the San Diego Saints will be one of three teams from California at the tournament. WHL Alumni Jonathan Parker is a coach within the Saints’ system. Parker played for the Seattle Thunderbirds and Prince Albert Raiders between 2008 and 2011 before moving into the professional hockey world.
Key Alumni: Jonathan Parker (AHL, Rochester Americans)
San Jose Junior Sharks
On the heels of three players being selected at the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft, the San Jose Junior Sharks will look to showcase the talents of this year’s roster. WHL Alumni and former NHL players Curtis Brown and Mike Rathje currently play leading roles in the overall development of the program.
Key Alumni: Brendan Jensen (WHL, Vancouver Giants), Michael Mylchreest (WHL, Prince George Cougars)
Seattle Junior 14U Admirals
The hometown team at the tournament, the Seattle Junior 14U Admirals are determined to represent well. The team features players from all over the Greater Seattle Area and will be looking to build upon the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft, which saw a pair of players from Washington state selected.
Key Alumni: Hunter Campbell (WHL, Everett Silvertips), Mekai Sanders (WHL, Seattle Thunderbirds)
Team Alaska 14U
With the U.S. Division having fostered the further growth of Alaska’s best hockey talents, Team Alaska 14U will showcase their entire roster at the inaugural WHL U.S. Challenge Cup. Four players from the northern-most state were selected at the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft. Anchorage product and WHL Alumni Erik Felde is an assistant coach with the team.
Key Alumni: Scott Gomez (NHL, New Jersey Devils), Brandon Dubinsky (NHL, Columbus Blue Jackets), Nate Thompson (NHL, Montreal Canadiens)
West Van Warriors
Founded in 2015, the West Van Warriors currently lead the CSSHL’s Bantam Prep division with a 20-3-1 record. The Warriors claimed victory at the Bauer Bantam Elite Invitational Tournament in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland in October 2019. At the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft, the program saw three players selected.
Top WHL Prospect: Connor Bedard (CSSHL, West Van Academy Prep)
Boasting 11 selections from the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft, Yale Hockey Academy has a strong history of success. They’ve maintained that reputation this season with victories at Calgary’s Rocky Mountain Classic and St. Albert’s John Reid Memorial Tournament.
Key Alumni: Shea Theodore (NHL, Vegas Golden Knights), Jake Virtanen (NHL, Vancouver Canucks), Bowen Byram (WHL, Vancouver Giants), Dylan Cozens (WHL, Lethbridge Hurricanes)
The 2020 WHL U.S. Challenge Cup will present an opportunity to showcase the next generation of American-born stars while also fostering grassroots-level growth in the game in the Pacific Northwest. Many of the Clubs competing at the 2020 WHL U.S. Challenge Cup have produced WHL and NHL stars, including the likes of Seth Jones (Dallas Stars Elite / Portland Winterhawks), Scott Gomez (Team Alaska / Tri-City Americans), and Kailer Yamamoto (Los Angeles Jr. Kings / Spokane Chiefs).
About the Western Hockey League
Regarded as the world’s finest development league for junior hockey players, the Western Hockey League (WHL) head office is based in Calgary, Alberta. The WHL consists of 22 member Clubs with 17 located in Western Canada and five in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. A member of the Canadian Hockey League, the WHL has been a leading supplier of talent for the National Hockey League for over 50 years. The WHL is also the leading provider of hockey scholarships with over 350 graduates each year receiving WHL Scholarships to pursue a post-secondary education of their choice. Each season, WHL players also form the nucleus of Canada’s National Junior Hockey Team.