Top ‘07s from across the country compete for national championship
All-star youth hockey teams from 13 Canadian provinces and territories will compete in the 29th edition of the Canada Winter Games. A national event that has taken place every other year since 1967 features some of the best young athletes Canada has to offer.
The 2023 Canada Winter Games will be hosted in Prince Edward Island, where more than 3,600 athletes will compete in 20 different sports. Hockey is set to begin on Sunday, with the championship game concluding on February 25th.
Thirteen provinces and territories were divided into three pools; two pools of four teams and one pool of five teams. Manitoba, New Brunswick, Quebec and Saskatchewan make up Pool A. Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Ontario will compete in Pool B. The final group, Pool C, consists of Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, host Prince Edward Island and Yukon Territories.
Can Quebec Repeat As Canada Winter Games Champions?
There was no tournament in 2021, likely due to circumstances around COVID-19 at the time. So you’ve got to go back to 2019, where Quebec defeated Ontario for national supremacy. That tournament featured the best 2003-born youth hockey players in the country, and more than 50 that went on to be drafted into the NHL.
Now, the ‘07s enter the spotlight, and names like Caleb Desnoyers, Philippe Veilleux and Shawn Carrier will look to repeat as champions for Quebec. All three are playing U18 hockey this season, and Desnoyers has scored 23 goals and 53 points in 42 games for Saint-Hyacinthe Gaulois. Veilleux and Carrier are near point-per-game forwards for College Charles-Lemoyne and Trois-Rivieres respectively.
Top prospects to look out for in Pool A
Saskatchewan may present the biggest obstacle in their way for pool play.
All but two players on Saskatchewan’s roster were selected last April in the 2022 WHL Draft. Top-5 picks Cole Reschny and Reese Hamilton will be a terrific tandem, and quite frankly, one of the best duos at the Canada Winter Games. Reschny and Hamilton are teammates on the U18 Saskatoon Blazers, where they’ve combined to score 96 points this season. Saskatoon is in first place in the Saskatchewan Major AAA Hockey League (SMAAHL) and sends seven players, including Reschny, Hamilton and Lee Shurgot from its club to represent the province at the Canada Winter Games.
Manitoba and New Brunswick round out the four-team field in Pool A. Every player on Manitoba’s roster was selected in last spring’s WHL Draft, headlined by the No. 5 and No. 6 overall picks, Cole Temple and Peyton Kettles. At 6-foot-5, Kettles is literally the biggest athlete on the ice at the Canada Winter Games. The big-bodied defenseman has two goals and 16 points in 22 games for RINK Hockey Winnipeg this season.
The province has never finished higher than sixth in the Canada Winter Games, but Noah Collette and Liam Kilfoil will look to reach new heights with New Brunswick. Colette is a top prospect in the upcoming 2023 QMJHL Draft. Kilfoil, on the other hand, has played the last two seasons in the United States. Most notably, Kilfoil scored 59 goals and 154 points in 75 games for Mount St. Charles last season.
PREDICTION FOR POOL PLAY:
- New Brunswick
Ontario is the odds-on favorite at Canada Winter Games
No province has won gold in the Canada Winter Games more than Ontario. It has played in the championship game seven of the last 13 tournaments, and won gold twice in the last four.
They come loaded with highly-touted prospects like Ryan Roobroeck, William Moore, Matt Schaefer and Brady Martin. Roobroeck plays for the No. 4-ranked London Jr. Knights and Moore skates on the top-ranked Toronto Marlboros. Roobroeck has scored 58 goals and 90 points in 32 games in the ALLIANCE Hockey League.
Additionally, both Ontario goaltenders have had strong seasons. Jaeden Nelson is teammates with Moore on the No. 1 Marlies squad, while Jack Ivankovic has ben the guy for No. 10 Mississauga Senators.
Sink or swim in Pool B full of top-end talent
With Alberta and British Columbia also in the mix, Pool B feels like the toughest of the three groups.
All but one player on Alberta’s roster was selected in the 2022 WHL Draft. Second overall pick Jackson Smith, Braeden Cootes and Nathan Behm are among ones to watch. Both Cootes and Behm are among the top 20 in scoring in the Alberta Elite Hockey League (AEHL) this season. Smith is also a standout defenseman for U18 Edge School. He’ll be joined by fellow teammates Hayden Harsanyi and Cash Koch at the Canada Winter Games.
British Columbia is a similar story. Its squad is headlined by standouts from the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL). Forwards Hudson Kibblewhite, Chase Harrington, Jakob Oreskovic and defenseman Will Sharpe are among the leading scorers in the league back home for their respective teams. Not to mention Vancouver Giants first-round pick Cameron Schmidt at forward as well.
Nova Scotia wraps up Pool B, and it will have its hands full. A trio of 2023 QMJHL Draft prospects will look to keep pace with a competitive field. Cole Chandler, Owen Conrad and Lane Sim are all considered top talents in Eastern Canada. Chandler, most notably, has amass 50 points for Steele Subaru this season.
PREDICTION FOR POOL PLAY:
- British Columbia
- Nova Scotia
Can a team from Pool C make a splash at the Canada Winter Games?
Only two teams from Pool C advance to the playoff rounds. Both will compete in a play-in matchup against the No. 4 seed from both Pool A and B.
Yukon Territories has one big reason why it could survive pool play and make a playoff push. It’s 5-foot-11 forward Gavin McKenna, who was the first overall pick in the 2022 WHL Draft last spring. He is an exceptional talent, and maybe one of the best prospects at the Canada Winter Games. McKenna played 11 games in the WHL this season and tallied eight assists during that stretch. He spent the rest of the ‘22-23 season with U18 South Alberta Hockey Academy, where McKenna is the team’s leading scorer with 73 points in 25 games.
Host Prince Edward Island hasn’t finished higher than fourth in the tournament, and that was back in 1979. In the last five Canada Winter Games, PEI has finished ninth three times and 10th twice. Jackson Batchilder and Carson MacKenzie will look to benefit from some home cooking from the host province. They also have a trio of underagers in 2008-born Carson Murnaghan, Derek Andrews and Ayden Mackay-Gallant. Mackay-Gallant, most notably, has scored 43 goals and 74 points in 30 games this season for U15 Prince County Warriors.
PREDICTION FOR POOL PLAY:
- Northwest Territories
- Prince Edward Island
- Newfoundland and Labrador
- Yukon Territories
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