We’ve all got to start somewhere.
Regardless of the pursuit, the path to greatness typically begins with a key moment or pivotal event. For over three decades, one of those events for young hockey players around the globe has been the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. This year’s event takes place November 3-10 in Saint John and Quispamsis, New Brunswick. As it has for the entire history of the tournament, the QMJHL and its players will be looking to leave a lasting impression on all in attendance as these games make their way into one of the league’s member areas.
Cats and Dogs
The QMJHL is typically well represented at the World Under-17’s and this year is no exception as 13 players prepare to suit up for Canada. Co-leading this pack are the hometown Saint John Sea Dogs, who are represented by four players. Defencemen William Villeneuve, Charlie DesRoches and Jérémie Poirier along with forward Josh Lawrence will trade Sea Dog blue for the red, white and black of the three national teams. Equally represented are the Shawinigan Cataractes, who send a quartet of their forwards in Mavrik Bourque, Charles Beaudoin, Xavier Bourgault and William Veillette to the tournament.
Additionally, Lawrence, a native of Fredericton, is one of two New Brunswick-born players that will earn the opportunity to compete for gold in his home province. Also in the mix is Charlottetown Islanders defenceman Lukas Cormier, who hails from Sainte-Marie-de-Kent.
The remaining QMJHL players suiting up for the event are forwards Elliot Desnoyers (Moncton Wildcats), William Dufour (Rouyn-Noranda Huskies), Théo Rochette (Chicoutimi Saguenéens) and Pier-Olivier Roy (Gatineau Olympiques). Also selected for the tournament but unable to play are forwards Patrick Guay (Sherbrooke Phoenix) and Hendrix Lapierre (Chicoutimi Saguenéens).
Prospecting for Gold
While the players hit the ice in the hunt for a gold medal, countless scouts will watch intently from the stands, on the lookout for the future stars of the professional ranks. Indeed, the World Under-17’s has showcased a wealth of talented prospects since its inception. No less than 40 past and present QMJHL players who have participated in the event have gone on to become first round selections in the NHL Entry Draft, including first overall picks Pierre Turgeon (1987), Alexandre Daigle (1993), Vincent Lecavalier (1998), Marc-André Fleury (2003) and Nathan MacKinnon (2013).
Reaching for the Top
Though Canada has always been represented by multiple teams at this event, either by region or random distribution of talent, it has been three years since a squad from this country claimed the tournament’s top prize. In 2015, Team Canada White took home gold in Dawson Creek and Fort St. John, BC.
QMJHL representation on that club included forward Louis-Filip Coté (Rouyn-Noranda Huskies / Quebec Remparts), defencemen Jérémy Groleau (Chicoutimi Saguenéens) and Yan Aucoin (Baie-Comeau Drakkar), as well as goaltender Matthew Welsh (Charlottetown Islanders).
Although a rare feat, Canada has swept the podium twice at the event, claiming all three medals in 2004 (Gold – Ontario, Silver – Pacific, Bronze – Quebec) and 2005 (Gold – West, Silver – Pacific, Bronze – Atlantic).
This year’s defending champions are the United States, who defeated Team Canada Red for gold at the 2017 tournament, which was also held in Dawson Creek and Fort St. John, BC.
Behind the Bench and in the Room
The World Under-17 Hockey Challenge isn’t just a showcase event for players. Coaches, team personnel and off-ice officials all earn their opportunity to represent one of Canada’s national squads while also playing a vital role in the success of the tournament at large.
The QMJHL is once again well represented in this sector of the game. Team Canada Black features Assistant Coach Sylvain Favreau (Halifax Mooseheads) and Equipment Manager Simon Payette (Val d’Or Foreurs). Team Canada Red will be led behind the bench by Louis Robitaille (Victoriaville Tigres), Maxime Vaillancourt (Blainville-Boisbriand Armada) will serve as the team’s Goaltending Consultant and Robert MacKenzie (Cape Breton Screaming Eagles) fills the role of Team Doctor. Over on Team Canada White, Daniel Renaud (Shawinigan Cataractes) takes on Assistant Coaching duties while Andrew Oddy (Drummondville Voltigeurs) serves as the team’s Athletic Therapist.
As Saint John and Quispamsis get set to host the World, all eyes will be on the dynamic talent that takes to the ice, representing not only the future of the QMJHL, but some of the brightest young stars the game in general has to offer!