The World Junior Hockey Championship is often referred to as a 19-year old tournament.
Cracking a roster a year or two early is not impossible. It’s just very difficult.
Following two games against the U Sports All-Stars, Team Canada’s management made their first cuts as they move toward a final roster and three pre-tournament games beginning on December 19th against Finland.
Victor Mete of the London Knights was in the first group of released players. He played in both games against the U Sports All-Stars and even opened the scoring in the second one, but at 18 and with a year of eligibility left, Mete’s best chance might come in 2017-18.
Mete was the only Ontario Hockey League defenceman to receive an invitation. Five of the nine defenders left in camp are from the QMJHL. Three are from the WHL. The ninth left at camp is Dante Fabbro who is at Boston University. Mete actually spent time paired with Jeremy Lauzon of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, the team the Knights defeated in overtime at the 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup.
Mete is averaging nearly a point per game with the Knights this year and is eighth in scoring among OHL defencemen. He is known for his skating, but has developed a reputation around the OHL as an outstanding pass and shot blocker in his own end. The Montreal Canadiens selected the Woodbridge, Ontario native in the 4th round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
The other players released on Tuesday afternoon were all from the Western Hockey League. Nick Merkley of the Kelowna Rockets and Austin Wagner of Regina are both 19 years old. Brett Howden of the Moose Jaw Warriors is in the same position as Mete and is eligible to return next season.
Three other members of the London Knights are getting set to begin their selection camps. Finland’s Janne Kuokkanen and Olli Juolevi will head to Sherbrooke this week. Tyler Parsons is off to Buffalo to try to land a spot in Team USA’s crease.
Team Canada’s first game at the tournament will be December 26th against Russia at the Air Canada Centre. Team USA faces Latvia earlier in the day, also in Toronto. Finland is the defending champion and is in the other Group. They will begin their gold medal defense on the 26th in Montreal against the Czech Republic.
Photo Credit: (Denis Pajot/Getty Images)