Kelowna Rockets forward Nick Merkley is one of 10 WHL players invited to participate in Canada’s National Junior Team Sport Chek Selection Camp, being held Dec. 10-14 in Toronto.
Just weeks away from the official puck drop of Canada’s opening game of the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship, Hockey Canada revealed the names of the 30 players invited to camp.
Merkley’s parents grew up in Rossland and his grandparents Ivan and Bev Bell and Dorothy Merkley still reside in Greater Trail. The 18-year-old Calgary native was selected 30th overall in the NHL 2016 entry draft by the Phoenix Coyotes, and led the Rockets in scoring last season with 90 points. Along with Merkley, Kelowna teammate Rourke Chartier was also invited.
The roster includes two goaltenders, 11 defencemen, and 17 forwards. Ryan Jankowski, director of player personnel for Hockey Canada, and Tim Speltz, member of the Program of Excellence management group, were responsible for all player selection, with input from coaches and general managers from across the Canadian Hockey League.
Three players from the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship-winning team are included on the roster: Lawson Crouse from the OHL, Kamloops native Joe Hicketts from the Victoria Royals of the WHL, and Brayden Point from the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL.
“We’re looking to assemble the best possible team to represent the country in Helsinki at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship,” said Scott Salmond, vice-president of hockey operations and national teams for Hockey Canada. ”With the talent we have attending camp, it’s going to come down to some difficult decisions for us in selecting the players who make the final team.”
The selection camp will be held at the MasterCard Centre in Etobicoke, Ont., and will feature two games against a team of players from Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) on Dec. 12 and 13.
In total, 22 players will be selected to represent Canada at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship, Dec. 26, 2015 to Jan. 5, 2016 in Helsinki, Finland.
Canada won gold at the IIHF World Junior Championship on home ice in January. The team has not won in Europe since 2008 – the fourth of five consecutive gold medals for Canada’s National Junior Team from 2005-09.
“We have some returning players from last year’s gold medal-winning team, and a lot of international experience with the group as a whole,” said Jankowski, who also noted the management team remains in contact with NHL clubs regarding eligible players who may be made available to join the team before Canada finalizes its roster on Dec. 20.
“We’re looking forward to getting everyone together in Toronto next week and getting started.”
Canada opens the tournament against the United States on Saturday, Dec. 26 at 11 a.m. PT.