Top Olympic Under-17 players on display at Capital City Challenge


When life gives you lemons, you throw makeshift hockey tournaments. Or so the saying goes.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, Hockey Canada has chosen to stop the U-17 World Challenge for a second consecutive year. But instead of stopping the nation’s top freshman prospects from missing out, Hockey Canada has launched a new event – the Capital City Challenge. Canada once again sent three randomized teams, but also invited its national women’s team made up of Olympic hopefuls to train against high-level competition.

Canada Noir ultimately won the tournament with an overtime goal from Calum Ritchie against Canada Red. It was fitting, since he was one of the most notable of this event, but the final match turned out to be a remarkable end to a fun event. Canada Red finished second, while Canada White beat the National Women’s Team in the championship game to finish the field.

The tournament gave many of the top prospects in the 2023 and 2024 NHL Draft a chance to prove themselves on a big stage, as the National Women’s Team continued to give coaches data on who to pick. for the Beijing Olympic team in 2022.

Here’s a look at 10 of Ottawa’s top performers over the past week:

Zach Benson, F (Black)
Benson was the tournament’s leading scorer with 12 points, but none of them was as important as his tying goal with just 0.4 seconds left in the Championship game. He managed a seven-point effort in the last game of the round robin which skewed his overall numbers, but overall he was one of the most dangerous players from start to finish. . The Winnipeg Ice forward is off to an incredible start to the season with 22 points in 15 games and shouldn’t have to wait long to hear his name called in the 2023 NHL Draft.

Marie-Philip Poulin, F (NWT)
Well, duh. Poulin is always one of the elite players no matter what event she participates in. Poulin was the NWT’s leading scorer with two goals and four points and also had a few moments to make defensemen look completely out of place. We will still count on Captain Canada to lead her country to the Olympic Games and with her game through all these exhibition competitions, she seems ready to take up the challenge.

Ethan Gauthier, F (White)
Gauthier received some kudos from his teammates for his efforts as a playmaker, highlighted with eight assists and nine points in five games. The Sherbrooke Phoenix forward had a good start to the season in Sherbrooke, but it looked like his best skills really showed off with Canada – not surprisingly, as he was the first overall pick. in the most recent QMJHL draft. He has a knack for finding his teammates in traffic and has the speed to do serious damage. He comes from a good hockey lineage: his father, Denis, has played over 500 NHL games, his brother, Kaylen, plays for Drummondville and his cousin, Julien, currently plays for the New York Rangers.

Calum Ritchie, F (Black)
The golden goalscorer. Ritchie had a great tournament for Canada Black and was rewarded with the game-winning goal in overtime after Benson tied the game with less than a second to go. The Oshawa Generals forward had 19 points in 16 games before leaving for Ottawa, to finish second with 11 points in five games last week. Ritchie was supposed to be a star for a stacked Oakville Rangers team last year, but instead focused on setting up an important record for the start of the NHL Draft in 2023 – that performance Is usefull.

Matthew Wood, F (red)
Wood was one of the few players not to play in the CHL before this tournament, the 16-year-old having signed to the University of Connecticut from the NCAA for 2023-24. And, wow, is he awesome. With 26 points in 12 games in his first full season in the BCHL, Wood is just six points ahead of the league in points despite being seven games short. He brought that solid game to Canada Red, scoring four goals and three assists for seven points in five games. Wood didn’t win the medal he came for, but he’s already one of the most fascinating players to watch in the age group.

Andrew Cristall, F (White)
It seemed like every time Cristall brought the puck down on the ice, he was making something work. He had a breakaway goal to open the tournament and always seemed to be buzzing around the net in an attempt to create an attack. The Kelowna Rockets forward is extremely gifted – highlighted by a lacrosse goal earlier in the WHL season – and he took his hot junior run and turned it into a nice outing of six. points in Ottawa. The little forward is an impressive goalscorer and will continue to wreak havoc once he returns to the Rockets.

Brayden Yager, F (Red)
With four goals, Yager has always been one of his team’s most dangerous puck owners, but that’s no surprise. After collecting 18 points in 24 games as a minor a year ago in the WHL, Yager has the same number of points in just 18 games with Moose Jaw this season. The skilful, fast-skating forward scored four goals, including the go-ahead with a few minutes left in the final. He and Riley Heidt showed impressive chemistry early in the tournament, but were separated to increase scoring opportunities. It worked, but Canada Red ultimately won a silver medal.

Ann-Renee Desbiens, G (NWT)
She didn’t come away with a win, but with several performances of over 40 saves, Desbiens was the most noticed goaltender at this event. The 25-year-old goaltender had a perfect record at the recent World Championship en route to gold and looked solid against stiff competition in Ottawa over the past week. Desbiens is ready to show what she can do in Beijing now.

Tanner Molendyk, D (black)
It is sometimes difficult for defenders to stand out during high-point events like this where the points are high. But Molendyk has always been reliable for Canada Black, Molendyk set up the overtime winner that sent Black to the final and generally had no problem passing the puck to one of the major offensive threats in the game. team. He had five assists in as many games and used his speed to effectively shatter the scoring chances on the other end. A great performance from the defenseman of the Saskatoon Blades.

Mathieu Cataford, F (White)
Cataford had a strong but unspectacular start to the QMJHL campaign before leaving for Ottawa. That’s okay, he’s a rookie, but his game in the Capital City Challenge was anything but average. Cataford scored three goals and seven points for the Whites and was generally one of the hardest players on the ice on most outings. He was helpful on the power play, didn’t miss many of his high-risk scoring opportunities, and was aggressive when needed. All in all, a lot to love about his week in Ottawa.

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