Hockey Canada has confirmed its three-team, 66-player roster that will represent the nation at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. And while the Canadian Hockey League — specifically the Ontario Hockey League — dominates the rosters of the three teams, the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League is also represented.
Goalie Joe Vrbetic, a soon to be 16 year old goalie with the NOJHL’s Powassan Voodoos and a second round pick of the North Bay Battalion at the 2018 OHL draft, is one of six net-minders who will represent Canada on the world stage.
The under-17 world challenge is slated for Nov. 3-10 and will be held in the neighbouring New Brunswick towns of Saint John and Quispamsis.
Team Canada Black, Team Canada Red and Team Canada White will compete against the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden and the United States in a quest for gold, silver and bronze medals.
The 6-foot-4 Vrbetic, who has been a standout between the pipes for Powassan in the early going of the 2018-2019 season as the youngest player in the 12 team NOJHL, is looking ahead to the world tournament with obvious delight.
“I am very honoured to have been selected to represent Canada at the U-17 World Challenge in New Brunswick,” relayed Vrbetic.
“I am looking forward to playing with all the other players who have been selected and can’t wait to get things started,” the highly-touted youngster added.
Meanwhile, Powassan head coach Max Gavin gave his thoughts on Vrbetic earning the opportunity to represent Canada on the world hockey platform.
“First of all, we are all very proud of Joe for being selected to Team Canada,” stated Gavin.
“It is a special opportunity and we couldn’t think of a more deserving kid and are extremely happy for him and his family. The Voodoos would also like to thank the North Bay Battalion and (the staff of) Stan Butler, Adam Dennis and Scott Wray for allowing us to be a part of not only Joe’s but all of the Battalion prospects development.”
NOJHL commissioner Rob Mazzuca is thrilled to have the league represented at an event that is top heavy with players from the major junior OHL, Western Hockey League and Quebec Major Jr. Hockey League.
“The NOJHL would like to congratulate Joe Vrbetic on his well-deserved spot to participate in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge,” Mazzuca began.
“His selection is yet another testament to the exposure the NOJHL continues to receive at multiple levels across the junior hockey ranks,” added Mazzuca.
Meanwhile, the aforementioned OHL will be represented by 27 players at next month’s world challenge. They are as follows.
Goalie: Will Cranley (Ottawa 67’s.)
Defensemen: Michael Bianconi (Flint Firebirds), Jamie Drysdale (Erie Otters), Lleyton Moore (Niagara IceDogs), Jake Murray (Kingston Frontenacs), Ryan O’Rourke (Soo Greyhounds), Michael Renwick (Hamilton Bulldogs), Donovan Sebrango (Kitchener Rangers), Nolan Seed (Owen Sound Attack), Zack Terry (Guelph Storm) and Jack Thompson (Sudbury Wolves.)
Forwards: Cameron Butler (Peterborough Petes), Quinton Byfield (Sudbury Wolves), Will Cuylle (Windsor Spitfires), Luke Evangelista (London Knights), Jean-Luc Foudy (Windsor Spitfires), James Hardie (Mississauga Steelheads), Matthew Maggio (Ottawa 67’s), Logan Morrison (Hamilton Bulldogs), Cole Perfetti (Saginaw Spirit), Jacob Perreault (Sarnia Sting), Riley Piercey (Barrie Colts), Dylan Robinson (Oshawa Generals), Cameron Tolnai (Ottawa 67’s), Tyler Tullio (Oshawa Generals), Reid Valade (Kitchener Rangers) and Evan Vierling (Flint Firebirds.)
Of a background note, in July, more than 100 players were invited to participate in Canada’s national under-17 development camp and introduced to the Hockey Canada Program of Excellence.
The players chosen to represent Canada at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge were subsequently selected by Brad McEwen, who is the head scout for Hockey Canada, with assistance a number of regional scouts including Ontario-based Barclay Branch and Darrell Woodley.
“Any time you bring together the best young players in the country there are bound to be difficult decisions when selecting players and we feel the 66 young men we chose exemplify the core values of the Program of Excellence,” said McEwen.
“We believe that these players possess a willingness to learn and grow as they progress through our program and represent Canada, and give us the best chance to compete for a gold medal this November,” added McEwen.
As for television coverage, The Sports Network will air semi-final, bronze and gold medal games.
PHOTO: Powassan Voodoos goalie Joe Vrbetic, in NOJHL action against the Soo Thunderbirds. (Photo by Chris Dawson.)