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Regina Pats phenom Connor Bedard named to Canadian junior men's hockey team at 16

CALGARY — Canada's junior men's hockey team runs the gamut from seasoned pros to a 16-year-old.

CALGARY — Canada's junior men's hockey team runs the gamut from seasoned pros to a 16-year-old.

Cole Perfetti, with over 50 professional games under his belt, and Connor Bedard, who becomes the seventh player to be named to the Canadian team at age 16, were among 25 players named Sunday to the 2022 roster.

Three goaltenders, eight defencemen and 14 forwards born between 2002 and 2005 comprise the host team for the world under-20 men's hockey championship co-hosted by Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta., from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5.

Canada opens the tournament on Boxing Day against the Czech Republic at Edmonton's Rogers Place.

"It's going to be a competitive team, we're going to try to play fast, we're going to be a team with a lot of energy, we're going to be a team that initiates and plays with a lot of discipline," Canadian head coach Dave Cameron said.

Bedard, a North Vancouver, B.C. product who plays for the WHL's Regina Pats, joins Wayne Gretzky (1978), Eric Lindros (1990), Jason Spezza and Jay Bouwmeester (2000), Sidney Crosby (2004) and Connor McDavid (2014) in playing for Canada's junior team at age 16.

"It's pretty crazy to hear myself with those guys," Bedard said. "Dreaming of playing in this tournament, getting the opportunity at the age I'm at is pretty special."

Forward Shane Wright, who was released from selection camp a year ago at 16, earned a spot on the team this time.

Dylan Garand, Brett Brochu and Sebastian Cossa were the only goaltenders invited to selection camp, which ensured their positions on the team.

Joining Perfetti, Wright and Bedard up front are Xavier Bourgault, Mavrik Bourque, Will Cuylle, Elliot Desnoyers, Ridly Greig, Dylan Guenther, Kent Johnson, Mason McTavish, Jake Neighbours, Justin Sourdif and Logan Stankoven.

Kaiden Guhle, Carson Lambos, Olen Zellweger, Ronan Seeley, Donovan Sebrango, Owen Power, Ryan O'Rourke and Lukas Cormier were the defencemen chosen.

Garand, Guhle and Perfetti return from the team that fell 2-0 to the United States in the 2021 world junior final in Edmonton.

"Canada's always got a skilled team and a lot of good people," Guhle said. "The expectation is a gold medal."

The 2021 tournament was held without fans in Edmonton because of the pandemic. There will be spectators in Rogers Place for the 2022 event.

"You ask the returning guys, Cole and Kaiden, it's definitely not the same without fans," Garand said.

"Whenever you can play in a tournament of this magnitude on home ice with home fans and a sold-out NHL arena, it's pretty exciting to think about. I think it's going to help our team."

Perfetti, Sebrango and O'Rourke bring a total of 160 games of American Hockey League experience.

The Ontario Hockey League didn't operate in 2020-21 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Perfetti and Sebrango returned to their AHL clubs this season.

Perfetti and Power won men's world championship gold with Canada in Riga, Latvia, in June.

Cameron is the head coach of the Canadian team again 11 years after overseeing a squad that earned a silver medal in Buffalo. Canada lost 5-3 to Russia in that final.

Thirty-five players were summoned to selection camp in Calgary, but Sudbury Wolves defenceman Jack Thomson's invitation was withdrawn because of COVID-19 protocols.

University of Michigan's Johnson also didn't report to camp Thursday because of COVID-19 issues, but was among the 14 forwards named to the 2022 edition.

While no current NHL player joined Canada's roster, Hockey Canada senior vice-president of national teams Scott Salmond has said that door remains open until Wednesday.

Canada plays Switzerland and Sweden in exhibition games Dec. 19-20 respectively in Red Deer followed by another pre-tournament game Dec. 22 against Russia.

Defenceman Vincent Iorio and forwards Zach Dean, William Dufour, Luke Evangelista, Jack Finley, Joshua Roy, Hendrix Lapierre and Ryan Tverberg were released Sunday. Defenceman Daemon Hunt was unable to continue due to injury.

"I don't remember there being this many guys in previous camps that I was part of that had this many guys in the mix, which says something about Canadian hockey and the amount of depth we have here," Cameron said Sunday before players were released.

"It makes our job a little bit more difficult, but those are the tough decisions you like. The more competition you have, the better it brings out of people."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 12, 2021.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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