With a lot of Canadian hockey focus on the 2016 World Juniors in Finland, the country will be hosting the 2015 World Junior A Challenge in Whitby and Cobourg, Ontario. A smaller tournament in the world of junior hockey, the Hockey Canada-led event is a week long tournament where the nation showcases their top Junior A talent against the likes of the United States, Russia, Czech Republic and Switzerland.
Canada West is typically the stronger team, with BCHL stars headlining the tournament year after year. But Canada East has a fair amount of talent, and with each city getting their respective Canadian team to watch, there’s a chance the two teams could end up meeting up in the medal round later in the week. To get you started, here are five players that made their respective teams that you need to follow when the tournament begins on December 13th.
5. Dennis Cholowski, D (West): The lone NHL Central Scouting B-rated prospect from the CJHL, Chilliwack Chiefs defenseman Dennis Cholowski is quickly making a name for himself in his sophomore BCHL campaign. An early 1998-born blueliner, Cholowski is a great skater that isn’t afraid to pinch in offensively, something he does very effectively. A year ago, the then-16-year-old defender made the decision to commit to St. Cloud State University in the NCAA, a huge accomplishment for a defenseman still years away from actually making the transition. Cholowski already sees time on the powerplay, and after growing five inches since his first BCHL game back in 2013, size could become another asset of his once he learns to use it. With some strong defenseman gracing Canada’s West blue line at the WJAC, Cholowski will likely be one of the most dominant forces on a team that features potential top ten NHL draft pick Dante Fabbro.
4. Lucas Batt, F (East): At 19-years-old, Batt has moved around a lot Eastern Canada, with him landing with the Carleton Place Canadians for the 2015-2016 season. The CCHL Player of the Month in October, Batt has been very successful in the early stages of the season, posting 54 points in 32 games prior to getting chosen to the selection camp. A former second-round draft pick by the QMJHL’s Victoriaville Tigres, Batt has already represented Canada in two separate tournaments, first at the 2012 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge and again at last year’s World Junior A Challenge while playing with the MJAHL’s Amherst Ramblers. A hard-nosed forward with the ability to hit you hard, Batt will look to improve upon his three-point performance in the five games he played at last year’s tournament while hopefully helping Canada East compete for a chance at a medal, despite being considered to be the weaker of the two Canadian teams.
3. Matt Cairns, D (East): Cairns has been an interesting player to follow over the past few seasons, especially after deciding to not join the Peterbourgh Petes after the OHL team drafted him back in 2014. A former OHL Cup champion with the Toronto Marlboros, Cairns made the jump to junior A with the Toronto Patriots last season, winning the league championship while consistently earning praise from scouts every single night. After the Patriots decided to go with a full rebuild after winning their second straight OJHL title, Cairns found himself with the mighty Georgetown Raiders, easily one of the better teams in the league. A big-bodied, big-minute blue line cruncher, Cairns made the decision to commit to the NCAA’s Cornell University for 2017 after finishing out his junior A career. The two-way defender has the ability to quarter-back a power-play and put up solid offensive numbers, so look for Cairns to play a significant role for a hungry Canada East squad.
2. Tyson Jost, F (West): Only two players in all of Canadian Junior A hockey have “A” ratings from November’s NHL CSS rankings, with Jost and his Penticton Vees teammate Dante Fabbro holding the honours. Jost is no newbie to the international stage, scoring three goals at the summer Ivan Hlinka tournament in an event that saw Canada grab their eighth straight title. A captain with the Vees, Jost has been off to a fantastic season so far in the BCHL, recording 38 points in just 19 games by the time he was announced to the camp roster to put him 10 points ahead of 20-year-old forward Sheldon Rempal for first in league scoring. Jost will likely find himself in the top 20 of the NHL Draft this year, and with Hlinka, the World Junior A Challenge and the possibility of playing in both the BCHL championships and World Under-18’s before June, you could really see Jost continue to prove himself to be a speedy, talented forward that’s destined for NHL success.
1. Dante Fabbro, D (West): Another tournament, another list for Fabbro to land as #1. Fabbro, considered to be a potential top ten pick in the upcoming NHL Draft, was a member of Team Canada at the Ivan Hlinka tournament during the summer, playing well in four games for the eventual tournament champions. A member of the BCHL All-Rookie Team with the champions from Penticton last year, Fabbro also represented Canada at both the Under-17’s and World Junior A Challenge in 2014-2015, impressing scouts in both performances. Fabbro, a former eighth overall pick by the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds, decided to hold out to find the best possible move for his career, committing to the NCAA’s Boston University for 2016. With this being Fabbro’s last crack at the tournament, look for the New Westminster, BC native to put on a solid performance to potentially lead his Canadian West team over the always strong Americans in the end.
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