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Canada starts U-18 selection camp for Hlinka Cup

by Aaron Vickers /

CALGARY -- With Canada's national men's summer under-18 team selection camp underway Friday, coach Stan Butler and his staff are looking to build a roster that will head to Bratislava, Slovakia and Breclav, Czech Republic from August 10-15 in search of an eighth straight gold medal finish at the 2015 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup.

"The biggest thing for us right now is to make sure as a group that we pick the right players," Butler said from WinSport's Markin MacPhail Centre at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary. "It's a short-term competition and we don't have a lot of time for evaluation but once we make the evaluation, we don't have a lot of time for teaching either. Hopefully you pick the right guys and give them what they need to do and you hope the skill takes them the rest of the way."

Canada has had seven straight gold medal finishes in the tournament, won 10 of the past 11, and won 17 of the past 19 since 1996. The United States won gold in 2003 and Sweden in 2007.

"It's a big tournament for us," said Ryan Jankowski, Canada's director of player personnel. "Only [at] this tournament and the Winter Olympic Games are we able to put our best players on the ice for one Canadian team. The World Juniors, we have the NHL. The World Championship, we have the NHL. That's the exciting part. With our team, it's our absolute best against the World's best and we like the fact we've had a lot of success there."

Canada's hopefuls know what's on the line.

"Obviously there's a little pressure there," said Jake Bean, a defenseman for the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League listed on NHL Central Scouting's Futures List for North America and Europe last month. "I grew up watching Hockey Canada and the Canadian way over the last couple of years have been drilled into our minds. I think when we go there, if I'm lucky enough to make the team, we have a good sense of what's on the line and there will be no lack of motivation."

Tyson Jost, also named to Central Scouting's Futures List, knows full well what the Ivan Hlinka Memorial represents, too.

"Everybody kind of knows how much success they've had at the tournament," said Jost, a forward for the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League. "If I do have the honor of representing that team, I want to keep that run going. There's nothing more that I want than a gold medal."

The Memorial of Ivan Hlinka not only signifies the start of the 2015-16 season for the draft eligible players, it also begins the evaluation process for players eligible for the 2016 NHL Draft, held June 24-25, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.

"Even right now you can tell there's that presence in the air that it's your draft year," Jost said. "People are talking about it. It's something you've got to put behind you and focus on the present and not on the future. It's a long time away and it is a draft day so it'll come and go. You've got to focus on the now and not the future."

It's where Jankowski wants the mindset of the 1998-born group, whose tryout coincides with development camps for under-17 and National Junior Team as part of Hockey Canada's Summer Showcase.

"This is a selection camp," he said. "We're picking a team. The players know that. They're here to perform. Our Under-17 is a development camp. Our World Junior is an evaluation camp. This is a selection camp. We're picking a team to go represent Canada in a week and we have to take the best players who are ready now. They know. It's a pretty strong message from us when we call and invite them that they're trying out to play in a championship.

"Forty-two players and we're ready to go."

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