U15 Canadian tournament kicks off this weekend
For most of North America, the U16 (Canada) or 15O (U.S.) season is a crucial one, as it serves as players’ final campaign before their respective junior league drafts.
Out west, however, things heat up a year earlier.
With the WHL conducting its Prospects Draft a year earlier than its OHL, QMJHL and USHL peers, that means the spotlight gets turned onto the Canadian U15 birth year – this time being the 2008 class.
One of the first major events for the 2008 birth-year is the Graham Tuer U15 Challenge, which has been hosted by Hockey Regina for more than 40 years. The tournament is named in honor of the late Graham Tuer, a minor and junior hockey volunteer, administrator, general manager and scout for more than 50 years; his resume included numerous WHL teams and NHL Central Scouting.
Last season, the Prairie Storm won the Challenge, and four players from the roster were selected in the WHL Prospects Draft in May. Two of those players were first-round selections in center Luke Moroz (Prince Albert) and defenseman Isaac Poll (Saskatoon), to give you an idea of what kind of star power you will see this weekend in Regina.
There are 32 teams competing in this year’s Graham Tuer, which gets underway Thursday morning. They are split into eight pools of four, with elimination games beginning on Saturday. The tournament concludes Sunday, with the championship game slated to start at 3:45 p.m.
It’s all taking place at the Co-operators Centre in Regina, which is a massive six-sheet facility with a main arena that has seating for 1,300 people.
Northern Alberta Xtreme team to beat
The favorite heading into this year’s event is Northern Alberta Xtreme – the CSSHL program is ranked No. 2 in all of Canada and No. 6 in the world. With a perfect 8-0 start to the season, they hold a 99.25 rating in MyHockeyRankings and an impressive 61-11 goal differential thus far.
The Xtreme will be challenged by the Warman Wildcats, Yellowhead Chiefs and Yorkton Terriers in Pool C, and there will be plenty of other worthy foes if they advance into the tournament postseason.
While Northern Alberta may be the only team in the field that has cracked the World Hockey Hub’s early-season rankings, there are plenty of other clubs looking to surge up the standings with a big weekend at the Graham Tuer.
The Okotoks Oilers are No. 11 in MyHockeyRankings for western Canada with a 4-1-1 record on the year. Meanwhile, OHA Edmonton is one spot behind at No. 12, while clearly being battle-tested early on. They’re 7-8-0 on the season, but they have a 94.10 rating on MHR.
Another team already making a case for some recognition? The Brandon Wheat Kings are an undefeated 9-0 to start the season, and they’re at No. 16 in the MHR rankings.
The list of participating teams is full of notable names, like the SSAC Lions, the Humboldt Broncos, the Regina Pat Blues, Edge U15 and Swift Current Broncos.
We’re excited to see how the early-season showcase at the Graham Tuer helps some teams separate themselves from the pack, as we watch the ’08 birth-year closely for their WHL Draft season.