Goaltender Connor Ingram and right-winger Deven Sideroff of the Kamloops Blazers have taken the first step towards playing for Canada in the 2017 World Junior Championship.
They are two of 41 players invited by Hockey Canada to take part in the national junior team’s summer development
camp in Toronto, from July 30 through Aug. 2.
The team then will move to Plymouth, Mich., for a series of games that will include teams from Finland, Sweden and the U.S., from Aug. 3 through Aug. 6.
Canada’s summer camp roster features four goaltenders, 14 defencemen and 23 forwards.
From Imperial, Sask., Ingram, who turned 19 on March 31, put himself among junior hockey’s elite goaltenders with a tremendous 2015-16 season. He went 34-15-9 with a 2.61 GAA and .922 save percentage in 61 regular-season appearances. He started all seven games of a first-round playoff series loss to the Kelowna Rockets, going 3-4, 2.12, .938.
Earlier this month, Ingram, who is preparing for his third season in Kamloops, took part in Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence goaltending camp in Calgary. He is eligible for the NHL draft that is to be held Friday and Saturday in Buffalo.
Interestingly, the other three goaltenders invited to the camp — Evan Cormier of the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit, Carter Hart of the Everett Silvertips and Zach Sawchenko of the Moose Jaw Warriors — also are eligible for this weekend’s NHL draft.
Sideroff, from Summerland, B.C., was a third-round selection by the Anaheim Ducks in the NHL’s 2015 draft. Last season, his second with the Blazers, he had 59 points, including 19 goals, in 63 games. However, he really wasn’t himself for the first few weeks after returning from Anaheim’s camp with mononucleosis.
Sideroff has international experience, having played for Canada at the U-18 world championship in Switzerland in 2015 and for Team WHL in the 2015 Canada-Russia series.
After the camp, the players will be monitored through regular-season games and the Canada-Russia series before the roster is set for a selection camp in December. A 22-man roster will be selected out of that camp to represent Canada at the 2017 WJC that is to be played in Montreal and Toronto, from Dec. 26 through Jan. 5.
All told, Hockey Canada has invited 196 players to three camps, the other two being the U-18 selection camp and the U-17 development camp. A 22-player roster will be selected from the U-18 camp to play in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament in Czech Republic and Slovakia.
The Blazers will have two prospects, forward Jackson Shepard and defenceman Luke Zazula, among the 111 players at the U-17 camp in Calgary, July 26 through Aug. 1.
Shepard, from West Vancouver, was pointless in two games with the Blazers last season. The 5-foot-8, 155-pounder had 42 points, 13 of them goals, in 37 games with the major midget Vancouver Northwest Giants.
Shepard was selected by the Blazers in the second round of the WHL’s 2015 bantam draft.
From Langley, the 5-foot-8, 150-pound Zazula had one assist in three games with the Blazers last season. He played for the Delta Hockey Academy entry in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League, putting up 26 points, including six goals, in 29 games. The Blazers selected him in the fourth round of the 2015 bantam draft.
Shepard and Zazula are 16 years of age, so are eligible to play full-time with the Blazers in 2016-17.
Also included on the U-17 camp roster are two players from Kamloops.
Defenceman Seth Bafaro played last season for the Okanagan Hockey Academy team that played in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League, while forward Ryan Chyzowski was with the major midget Thompson Blazers.
Bafaro was selected by the Tri-City Americans in the third round of the 2015 bantam draft. He was pointless in three games with the Americans last season. He had 17 points, four of them goals, in 35 games at OHA.
Chyzowski, a first-round pick by the Medicine Hat Tigers in the 2015 draft, had 22 points, including 14 goals, in 31 games with the Blazers. He was pointless in six games with the Tigers.
The Blazers, you will recall, finished the 2015-16 season with a seven-game first-round playoff series against the Kelowna Rockets.
The rivalry will continue in the exhibition season as the teams play three times in a week.
The Blazers will play five exhibition games, opening against the visiting Victoria Cougars on Sept. 2.
Kamloops then will play host to the Rockets on Sept. 4, travel to Kelowna on Sept. 9 and meet the Rockets here again on Sept. 10.
The Blazers will conclude their exhibition schedule against the host Prince George Cougars on Sept. 16.
The WHL has yet to release its regular-season schedule, but the Blazers are likely to play their first game on Sept. 23.
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