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All eyes on Truro for World Junior A Challenge

Cale Makar was named an all-star at the 2015 and 2016 World Junior A Challenge tournaments as a member of Canada West. Last June, Makar went to the Colorado Avalanche with the fourth-overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. HOCKEY CANADA PHOTO
Cale Makar was named an all-star at the 2015 and 2016 World Junior A Challenge tournaments as a member of Canada West. Last June, Makar went to the Colorado Avalanche with the fourth-overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. HOCKEY CANADA PHOTO

TRURO, N.S. – Some of the top 2018 NHL draft-eligible junior A hockey players in the world will be evaluated by pro scouts next month when an international tournament hits the ice surface at the Rath Eastlink Community Centre.

The World Junior A Challenge will be played Dec. 10 to 16 in Truro and features six teams, including two Canadian squads representing East and West.

The event will give NHL scouts an opportunity to assess talent in a top-flight tournament where players will be competing with and against their peers.

“Every (NHL) team, plus Central Scouting, is represented,” Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting, told the Truro Daily News this week. “And a lot of teams will do the same thing, where they’ll platoon guys in, so they may have a couple of guys at the beginning and a couple of guys at the end. Some of the guys that are stationed locally would maybe be there for the entire week, but normally the teams would come in to see each team play a minimum of two times.”

Marr said there are no real secrets in the hockey world when it comes to identifying prospects, and a tournament such as the world junior A challenge serves as an evaluation marker.

“There’s no hidden players, it’s just a matter of evaluating them and going to watch them play,” he said. “Draft-eligible players play in every amateur league and whenever you get opportunities, especially in these international tournaments, you’re going to attract the scouts because it brings all the players together at one site, one venue and minimizes travel.”

The tournament has a great history of players who have been drafted by NHL teams. Most recently, defenceman Cale Makar, who played for Canada West at the 2015 and 2016 tournaments, was the fourth-overall pick by the Colorado Avalanche at last June’s draft.

Klim Kostin, who captained Russia to a bronze medal in Bonnyville, Alta., last year, joined Makar in the first round, going to the St. Louis Blues with the 31st overall pick, while Ian Mitchell, who patrolled the Canada West blueline alongside Makar, was a second-round selection of the Chicago Blackhawks.

In all, 16 world junior A alumni were taken in the 2017 NHL draft, bringing the total number to 276 alumni drafted since the first World Junior A Challenge in Saskatchewan in 2006.

Marr said the tournament also allows scouts to begin a book on players, particularly under-aged invites, many of whom will pursue NCAA careers before entering pro hockey.

“The tournament is a valuable scouting tool but it goes beyond the draft class,” he said.

One player to watch, says Marr, is Jack McBain, a centre for the Toronto Jr. Canadiens of the Ontario Junior Hockey League. McBain, who has committed to Boston College, will be playing in his second straight World Junior A Challenge for Canada East after winning silver last year in Bonnyville. He is touted as an early pick in the 2018 NHL draft.

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Tournament schedule

(All games at the RECC)

Sunday, Dec. 10

Canada West vs. Czech Republic, 3:30 p.m.

Russia vs. Canada East, 7:30 p.m.

Monday, Dec. 11

Czech Republic vs. United States, 3:30 p.m.

Canada East vs. Switzerland, 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 12

Switzerland vs. Russia, 3:30 p.m.

United States vs. Canada West, 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 13

Quarterfinal #1, 3:30 p.m.

Quarterfinal #2, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, Dec. 14

Semifinal #1, 3:30 p.m.

Semifinal #2, 7:30 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 15

Fifth-place game, 3:30 p.m.

Bronze-medal game, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 16

Gold-medal game, 3 p.m.

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Notable World Junior A Challenge alumni

(current teams in parenthesis)

Nikolaj Ehlers (Winnipeg Jets)

Evgeny Kuznetsov (Washington Capitals)

David Pastrnak (Boston Bruins)

Jaden Schwartz (St. Louis Blues)

Nail Yakupov (Colorado Avalanche)

Vladimir Tarasenko (St. Louis Blues)

Kyle Turris (Nashville Predators)

Nick Schmaltz (Chicago Blackhawks)

Alexander Wennberg (Columbus Blue Jackets)

Andrei Vasilevski (Tampa Bay Lightning)

 

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