|North Bay Battalion|
|Owen Sound Attack|
|Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds|
|Acadie-Bathurst Titan||Baie-Comeau Drakkar|
|Blainville-Boisbriand Armada||Cape Breton Screaming Eagles|
|Charlottetown Islanders||Chicoutimi Sagueneens|
|Drummondville Voltigeurs||Gatineau Olympiques|
|Halifax Mooseheads||Moncton Wildcats|
|Quebec Remparts||Rimouski Oceanic|
|Rouyn-Noranda Huskies||Saint John Sea Dogs|
|Shawinigan Cataractes||Sherbrooke Phoenix|
|Val-d'Or Foreurs||Victoriaville Tigres|
Calgary, AB – The 2012 Western Canada Under-16 Challenge Cup is approaching as the top 1997-born players from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. prepare to battle for Western Canadian supremacy.
The Western Canada U-16 Challenge Cup will be held in Calgary, AB, at Father David Bauer arena from November 1st – 4th (For ticket and scheduling information, CLICK HERE) It’s the third edition of the event, which was held in Blackfalds, AB, in 2009 and in Moose Jaw, SK, in 2011.
WHL.ca will take a look at each of the four entries in the tournament over the weeks leading up to the event.
Here’s a look at TEAM MANITOBA
Team Manitoba’s 20-man roster for the 2012 Western Canada Under-16 Challenge Cup featured 16 players who were selected in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft, including two first-round picks, one second-round selection and four third-round picks, and another player who was listed following the draft.
Though their roster boasts a couple of potential game-breaking players, Team Manitoba’s strength lies in their depth. The runners-up in the 2011 tournament, Manitoba’s success will be determined through a collective effort this year.
“We feel we have a balanced roster,” said Manitoba head coach Dan Eliasson, who is also the head coach of the Winnipeg Thrashers of the Manitoba Midget AAA League. “I don’t think you will see any one or two players take the ball and run.
“We don’t have a lot of flash, but I think we have a group of players who are going to be hard-working and can grind out those 2-1 wins,” he added.
On the back end, Manitoba boasts good size and a good blend of defencemen who bring different elements to the table. Led by Thomas Lenchyshyn, who was a first-round pick of the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft, Manitoba also has quality puck-movers who can contribute to the offense.
“Our back end is pretty big, and most of the guys are hovering around the six-foot mark and around the 170-pound range,” said Eliasson. “We have two really strong threats on the back end, from an offensive perspective, and four guys who can play sort of a shutdown role.
“Thomas Lenchyshyn, who was one of the top Bantam drafts out of Manitoba, and Ryan Gardiner (Moose Jaw, 3rd round, 52nd overall) are guys who bring that offensive flair on the back end, they are strong puck rushers who can put the puck in the net, and know when to jump into the play and when to hold back,” he said.
Up front, the goal for Manitoba is to get goals from many different sources. However, as much as they will preach a score-by-committee game plan, Manitoba does have key forwards who are expected to play big roles in the attack.
Keegan Kolesar, a first-round pick of the Seattle Thunderbirds, has the size and strength to be a dominant force for Manitoba, while Tri-City Americans’ third-round Bantam Draft pick Braden Purtill will also factor heavily in the attack. Perhaps the biggest offensive threat among the Manitoba forwards is Winnipeg Thrashers’ rookie Colt Conrad, who was a third-round pick of the Lethbridge Hurricanes and currently sits among the Manitoba Midget AAA League’s scoring leaders.
“In terms of key guys, I think you look to guys like Colt Conrad and Braden Purtill to be our leaders, offensively,” said Eliasson. “We will look to a strong supporting cast up front to help out.”
In goal, Manitoba will go with Tyson Verhelst, a third-round pick of the Spokane Chiefs, and Mario Petit, who was listed by the Everett Silvertips. Verhelst, says Eliasson, is a guy who has poise and patience beyond his years.
“We watched Tyson last year in his Bantam year, and he looked and acted like a 16 or 17-year-old goaltender,” said Eliasson. “He’s very mature, he’s calm and he doesn’t panic…he’s a strong puckhandler who makes the right plays and doesn’t get rattled when the pressure is on.
“Mario is also a very mature goaltender for his age…he battles hard but has a methodical way about him,” he said.
TEAM MANITOBA NOTES: Forward Colt Conrad and defencemen Mitchell Dyck and Lawson McDonald were members of the Pembina Valley Hawks team that won Bronze at the 2012 Western Canadian Bantam AAA Championship…Conrad scored six goals in the 2012 Western Canadian Bantam AAA Championship, tying him for the tournament lead...The Lethbridge Hurricanes and Calgary Hitmen each have two prospects playing for Team Manitoba…Team Manitoba finished in second place in the 2009 and 2011 editions of the tournament, losing the Gold medal game to Alberta in both years…Notable veterans of Team Manitoba in the Under-16 Challenge Cup include Calgary Hitmen goaltender Chris Driedger (2009), Spokane Chiefs defenceman Reid Gow (2009), Portland Winterhawks forward Brendan Leipsic, and current WHL rookies Jordan Thomson of the Kamloops Blazers (2011), Jayce Hawryluk of the Brandon Wheat Kings (2011), Reid Zalitach of the Vancouver Giants (2011) and Adam Brooks of the Regina Pats (2011)…Brandon Wheat Kings’ star defenceman and top NHL draft prospect Ryan Pulock played for Manitoba in 2009 as a forward.