A trio of BC Hockey League graduates are set to battle for a place on Canada's World Junior Championship entry.
Forwards Jamie Benn and Riley Nash and defenceman Patrick Wiercioch have been named to the 38-man roster for the National Junior Selection Camp, which will take place from December 11th-15th in Ottawa.
Benn, a former Victoria Grizzlies forward, is tearing it up offensively for the Western Hockey League's Kelowna Rockets. Through 24 games, Benn leads all WHL scorers with 23 goals and sits fourth amongst point-getters with 41. A Dallas Stars draft pick, Benn appears poised to take on an offensive role for Canada.
Cornell University forward Riley Nash, who was selected by the Edmonton Oilers in the first round of the 2007 NHL Draft, will be vying for a checking role on Team Canada. A tenacious speedster, the former Salmon Arm Silverback sits second on the Big Red in scoring with five points through eight games.
Wiercioch, who is enjoying a standout freshman season at the University of Denver, rounds out the field of BCHL grads. The Ottawa Senators draft pick and Burnaby Express alum has been a point-a-game player early in his college career and could vie for a spot on Canada's power-play.
Two other Junior A products — Ontario natives Cody Goloubef and Brendan Smith — are graduates of the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League.
Benn and the four NCAA-based players named to the roster represent a departure from the traditional route players have taken to make Team Canada. None of the five were participants on Canada's National Under-18 team, instead proving that late bloomers are having considerable success grabbing the attention of National Team brass.
Meanwhile, there may still be a fourth BCHL grad in the mix for Canada. The Phoenix Coyotes have until December 11th, when the camp begins, to determine whether to release Kyle Turris for the tournament. Turris shined in his first go-around at the event, leading Canada in scoring with four goals and four assists in seven games.
The 2009 World Junior Hockey Championships begin December 26th in Ottawa.