Canada has invited 32 players to next week's world junior hockey selection camp, including Canadian Hockey League top goal-scorer Tyler Steenbergen and fellow forward Jordan Kyrou, who leads the Ontario Hockey League in assists and points.
Eighteen forwards, 10 defencemen and four goaltenders will take the ice Dec. 12-15 at the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines, Ont., before Hockey Canada trims the roster to 22 players ahead of this year's tournament to be held in Buffalo from Dec. 25 to Jan. 5.
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Part of that process includes games against a team of all-stars from U Sports on Dec. 13 and 14 and then an exhibition game against Denmark on Dec. 15.
Canada opens the under-20 tournament Dec. 26 against Finland at 4 p.m. ET. Games will be played at KeyBank Center, home of the NHL's Sabres and the nearby HarborCenter.
"With a talent pool as deep as we have in this country, we believe the 22 players eventually selected from camp will give us the best chance at bringing home a gold medal," Shawn Bullock, Hockey Canada's senior manager of hockey operations and men's national teams, said in a statement.
Canada will compete in Group A against the defending champion United States, Denmark, Slovakia and the Finns. Group B is comprised of Sweden, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Belarus and Russia, which defeated the Swedes for bronze last January.
Canada's preliminary round schedule
- Dec. 26 vs. Finland: 4 p.m. at KeyBank Center
- Dec. 27 vs. Slovakia: 7 p.m. at KeyBank Center
- Dec. 29 vs U.S.: 3 p.m. at New Era Field (outdoor game)
- Dec. 30 vs Denmark: 8 p.m. at KeyBank Center
The list of camp invites includes goaltender Carter Hart, defencemen Jake Bean, Kale Clague and Dante Fabbro and forwards Dillon Dube, Michael McLeod and Taylor Raddysh, all of whom represented Canada at last year's tourney.
Defencemen Cal Foote (Tampa Bay) and Cale Makar (Colorado) and forwards Cody Glass (Vegas), Nick Suzuki (Vegas) and Robert Thomas (St. Louis) are among the 11 NHL first-round draft picks.
Montreal Canadiens blue-liner Victor Mete, Columbus Blue Jackets centre Pierre-Luc Dubois and Philadelphia Flyers centre Nolan Patrick remain junior eligible but weren't named to Canada's camp roster Wednesday. However, those NHL teams have until Dec. 19 to decide whether to loan them to the world junior squad.
Canada lost the final to the United States 5-4 on a Troy Terry shootout goal at the Bell Centre. The Canadians twice held a pair of two-goal leads, including a 4-2 advantage with 16 minutes left in regulation. It was the third world junior title in the past eight years for the Americans, who announced a selection camp roster of 28 on Tuesday.
The U.S. and Canada have met four times in the championship game, with Canada prevailing in 1997 before three straight victories by the Americans, including 2004 and 2010.
Canada and the U.S. will play the first outdoor game in world junior history at 3 p.m. on Dec. 29 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, N.Y., home of the National Football League's Buffalo Bills.
Dominique Ducharme returns for a third consecutive year to the Canadian bench and second straight as head coach. Bench boss of the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, he was assistant coach in 2016.
Tim Hunter returns as an assistant while former NHL forward Trevor Letowski replaces former Erie Otters bench boss Kris Knoblauch. Hunter, a former NHL tough guy, is in his third season as coach of the Western Hockey League's Moose Jaw Warriors. Letowski served on Ducharme's world junior staff two years ago. The former Vancouver Canuck guided the OHL's Windsor Spitfires to a Memorial Cup championship last spring.
Canada has won 16 gold medals since the tournament officially began in 1977, but only one over the last eight tournaments.
The quarter-finals will be held Jan. 2 and the semifinals two days later. Medal games will be contested at KeyBank Center, with the bronze contest at 4 p.m. and the battle for gold at 8 p.m.
Canada's selection camp roster
- Michael DiPietro, Windsor (OHL)
- Carter Hart, Everett (WHL)
- Samuel Harvey, Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL)
- Colton Point, Colgate (NCAA)
- Jake Bean, Calgary (WHL)
- Dennis Cholowski, Prince George (WHL)
- Kale Clague, Brandon (WHL)
- Dante Fabbro, Boston University (NCAA)
- Mario Ferraro, Massachusetts (NCAA)
- Cal Foote, Kelowna (WHL)
- Josh Muhara, Regina (WHL)
- Cale Makar, Massachusetts (NCAA)
- Logan Stanley, Kitchener (OHL)
- Conor Timmins, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
- Jonathan Ang, Peterborough (OHL)
- Drake Batherson, Cape Breton (QMJHL)
- Max Comtois, Victoriaville (QMJHL)
- Dillon Dube, Kelowna (WHL)
- Alex Formenton, London (OHL)
- Cody Glass, Portland (WHL)
- Brett Howden, Moose Jaw (WHL)
- Tanner Kaspick, Brandon (WHL)
- Boris Ratchouk, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
- Jordan Kyrou, Sarnia (OHL)
- Kole Lind, Kelowna, (WHL)
- Michael McLeod, Mississauga (OHL)
- Taylor Raddysh, Erie (OHL)
- Sam Steel, Regina (WHL)
- Tyler Steenbergen, Swift Current (WHL)
- Nick Suzuki, Owen Sound (OHL)
- Robert Thomas, London (OHL)