Team Canada's three entries at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge will be led by Jean-François Houle of the QMJHL's Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, Sheldon Keefe of the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and Dan Lambert of the Kelowna Rockets.
This year's tournament is the first to feature three national teams. From 1986 to 2014, Canada was represented by five regional teams: Atlantic, Ontario, Pacific, Quebec and West.
Gilles Bouchard (Rouyn-Noranda, QMJHL), Josh Dixon (Regina, WHL), Misha Donskov (Ottawa, OHL), Serge Lajoie (NAIT, ACAC), Kelly Nobes (McGill University, CIS) and Marco Pietroniro (Val-d'Or, QMJHL) will serve as assistant coaches.
Houle, 39, has spent three seasons with Blainville-Boisbriand, leading it to the fifth-best record in the QMJHL during the 2013-14 campaign. Prior to joining the Armada, Houle spent two seasons (2009-11) as head coach of the QMJHL's Lewiston MAINEiacs, and was an assistant coach with Clarkson University for parts of seven seasons (2003-09). Selected by Montreal in the fourth round of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft (99th overall), Houle played four seasons (1993-97) with Clarkson and five seasons (1997-2002) of professional hockey with New Orleans (ECHL), Fredericton (AHL), Tallahassee (ECHL) and Cincinnati (AHL).
Keefe, 33, just completed his first full season as head coach with Sault Ste. Marie after being hired in December 2012. Prior to joining the Greyhounds, Keefe spent six seasons as owner, general manager and head coach of the CCHL's Pembroke Lumber Kings, leading the team to victory at the RBC Cup, Canada's National Junior A Championship, in 2011. He was an assistant coach with Canada East at the 2012 World Junior A Challenge, and was head coach of Team East for the 2011 CJHL Prospects Game. Selected by Tampa Bay in the second round of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft (47th overall), Keefe played 125 NHL games with the Lightning, and also spent time in the AHL and IHL. He played two seasons in the OHL with the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors and Barrie Colts, winning the OHL championship with the Colts in 2000 and earning a spot on the Memorial Cup All-Star Team and CHL First All-Star Team.
Lambert, 44, has been an assistant coach in Kelowna for the last five seasons. Selected by Quebec in the sixth round of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft (106th overall), Lambert played 29 NHL games with the Nordiques as part of a 19-year professional career that also included stops in Halifax (AHL), Fort Wayne (IHL), Moncton (IHL), HIFK Helsinki (Finland), San Diego (IHL), Los Angeles (IHL), Long Beach (IHL), Cologne (Germany), Krefeld (Germany), Hamburg (Germany) and Hannover (Germany). He played four seasons (1986-90) with the WHL's Swift Current Broncos, winning the Memorial Cup in 1989, and was named Memorial Cup MVP.
As part of the new structure, the first national under-17 development camp will be held July 27 to Aug. 5 at the Markin MacPhail Centre at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary, with 108 players attending. From the camp, 66 players will be selected to represent Canada at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, which is scheduled for Oct. 31 to Nov. 8 in a yet-to-be-determined location.