CALGARY — Brayden Yager, a potential first-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, was among the 23 players selected to represent Canada at the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
The tournament, which features some of the top under-18 players, will be played July 31-Aug. 6 in Red Deer, Alberta.
“It’s like a springboard,” Yager said. “It’s best-on-best here for your age group. It’s a great opportunity for us to get a little head start into the season. It’s going to be fast-paced. If we can do well here, it’ll lead into a good season for all of us.”
Yager, a 5-foot-11, 193-pound center for Moose Jaw of the Western Hockey League, had 59 points (34 goals, 25 assists) in 63 regular-season games and seven points (three goals, four assists) in 10 playoff games. He was named both the Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy winner as the WHL Rookie of the Year and the top rookie in the Canadian Hockey League, which is comprised of the WHL, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Ontario Hockey League.
“He is a top prospect for the 2023 NHL Draft,” said Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting since 2011. “He has NHL speed and quickness combined with a rocket of a shot, which makes him a scoring threat and difference maker whenever he steps onto the ice. A very smart and highly skilled center, he plays bigger than his size and competes with his skills and assets to be an impact player.”
Since 2008, Canada has finished first at the tournament 10 times, the last in 2018 when it served as host in Red Deer and Edmonton, Alberta. The Czech Republic won in 2016 and Russia won in 2019 and 2021. The tournament was not held in 2020 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
“After a very competitive camp, we are excited to announce the 23 players who have earned a spot on Team Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup,” Hockey Canada director of player personnel Alan Millar said following the five-day selection camp. “The skill and intensity showed by all 42 players at camp made our decisions difficult, but we know our players and staff will embrace the opportunity to wear the maple leaf as we look to compete for a gold medal on home ice.”
Tweet from @HockeyCanada: Meet the captains! 👋🇨🇦 C: Cameron Allen (@Storm_City)A: Zach Benson (@WHLWpgICE)A: Jordan Tourigny (@Cataractes_Shaw)A: Brayden Yager (@MJWARRIORS) #HlinkaGretzkyCup pic.twitter.com/LUX944CuSS
Joining Yager are fellow first-round candidates forward Riley Heidt of Prince George (WHL), forward Calum Ritchie of Oshawa (OHL), and Colby Barlow of Owen Sound (OHL).
Forwards Tanner Howe of Regina (WHL) and Matthew Wood of Victoria of the British Columbia Hockey league were also named to the team. Each represented Canada at the 2022 IIHF World Under-18 Championship in April.
“It’s definitely a massive head-start,” Barlow said. “You’re playing real hockey games and against great hockey players. It’s the best in the world right now for our age. We’re all going into the tournament playing against each other. It’s definitely a massive, massive kickoff for the season. It’s definitely a massive head-start, and good showing for yourself early, early on in the season.”
CANADA HLINKA ROSTER
GOALIES: Carson Bjarnason, Brandon, WHL (2023 draft eligible); Jackson Unger, Moose Jaw, WHL (2023 draft eligible); Scott Ratzlaff, Seattle, WHL (2023 draft eligible).
DEFENSEMEN: Cameron Allen, Guelph, OHL (2023 draft eligible); Oliver Bonk, London, OHL (2023 draft eligible); Dylan MacKinnon, Halifax, QMJHL (2023 draft eligible); Tanner Molendyk, Saskatoon, WHL (2023 draft eligible); Caden Price, Kelowna (2023 draft eligible); Jordan Tourigny, Shawinigan, QMJHL, (2023 draft eligible); Saige Weinstein, Spokane, WHL, (2023 draft eligible).
FORWARDS: Denver Barkey, London, OHL, (2023 draft eligible); Colby Barlow, Owen Sound, OHL, (2023 draft eligible); Zachary Benson, Winnipeg, WHL, (2023 draft eligible); Matthew Cataford, Halifax, QMJHL, (2023 draft eligible); Andrew Cristall, Kelowna, WHL, (2023 draft eligible); Ethan Gauthier, Sherbrooke, QMJHL, (2023 draft eligible); Riley Heidt, Prince George, WHL (2023 draft eligible); Tanner Howe, Regina, WHL, (2024 draft eligible); Kalan Lind, Red Deer, WHL, (2023 draft eligible); Carson Rehkopf, Kitchener, OHL, (2023 draft eligible); Calum Ritchie, Oshawa, OHL, (2023 draft eligible); Matthew Wood, Victoria, BCHL, (2023 draft eligible); Brayden Yager, Moose Jaw, WHL, (2023 draft eligible).