The WHL Cup replaced the Western Canada Under-16 Challenge Cup starting in 2017. The event features the highest rated players in the Under 16 age category representing the four Western Provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. The four team round robin tournament format is the first step in the Hockey Canada Program of Excellence and assists the four Western Provincial Hockey Associations in evaluating these top prospects in this age group for future high performance programs. The event is held the first weekend in November.
Western Canada U-16 Challenge Cup[edit | edit source]
The Western Canada U-16 Challenge Cup is made possible through financial support provided by the WHL in partnership with Hockey Canada. The majority of the players participating in the event were selected in the WHL Bantam Draft, and many of these top young prospects will play major roles on WHL Clubs in the seasons ahead.
The first ever Western Canada U-16 Challenge Cup was held in Blackfalds, Alberta in 2009 and featured four of the top eight players selected in the 2012 NHL Draft; Matt Dumba (Red Deer Rebels), Derek Pouliot (Portland Winterhawks), Griffin Reinhart (Edmonton Oil Kings) and Morgan Reilly (Moose Jaw Warriors).
The WHL, along with the Moose Jaw Warriors and Saskatchewan Hockey Association, hosted the 2011 event at Mosaic Place in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. The event featured many future stars who recently completed their rookie season in the WHL including 2011 WHL Bantam Draft first round picks; Jake Virtanen (1st overall, Calgary Hitmen), Brycen Martin (2nd overall, Swift Current Broncos), Ryan Pilon (3rd overall, Lethbridge Hurricanes), Jordan Thomson (4th overall, Kamloops Blazers) and Reid Duke (5th overall, Lethbridge Hurricanes).
In 2012, the tournament was hosted in Calgary at Father David Bauer Arena, the home of the WHL. Team BC captured their first title, led by 2012 WHL Bantam Draft 1st overall pick Mathew Barzal (Seattle Thunderbirds). The event featured many other future WHL Bantam Draft picks including Zachary Sawchenko (Moose Jaw Warriors), Nick Merkley (Kelowna Rockets), Braylon Shmyr (Brandon Wheat Kings), Chaz Reddekopp (Victoria Royals), and Ethan Bear (Seattle Thunderbirds).
In 2013, the tournament was hosted in Calgary at the Father David Bauer arena, the home of the WHL. Team Alberta captured the gold, led by 2013 WHL Bantam Draft 1st overall pick Tyler Benson (Vancouver Giants). The event featured many other WHL Bantam Draft first round picks including Kale Clague (Brandon Wheat Kings), Dante Fabbro (Seattle Thunderbirds), Nolan Patrick (Brandon Wheat Kings), Sam Steel (Regina Pats), and Tyson Jost (Everett Silvertips).
In 2014, the Western Canada U-16 Challenge Cup was not contested due to the Canada Winter Games.