The Canadian U20 national team received some good news on Thursday night as 19-year-old forwards Brett Connolly and Devante Smith-Pelly were granted permission by their NHL teams to play in the upcoming IIHF World Junior Championship.
Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman told the media that Connolly will be released to represent Canada on home ice in Calgary and Edmonton.
“It’s important for these young guys to play in these big events in pressure games. They make you better,” Yzerman told the St. Petersburg Times. “We still want him here, but what’s best for Brett Connolly in the long run is best for us all. I’m confident this is the right thing for him.”
Connolly has played 27 games in his rookie season for the Lightning. He scored four goals, four assists for eight points (seventh in team scoring) and averaged 12:35 in ice time.
He was on last year’s Canadian team that won silver in the U20 World Championship in Buffalo and he also represented Canada in two U18 World Championships (2009, 2010).
The Anaheim Ducks announced on Thursday that Devante Smith-Pelly will be released for the World Juniors as well.
Smith-Pelly has appeared in 26 contests with Anaheim this season, scoring 3-2=5 points with and a -10 rating and averaging 10:51 in ice time. At 19 years, three months and 23 days, Smith-Pelly was the third-youngest Duck to appear in an NHL contest on 7th October.
“This is a great opportunity for Devante to continue his development,” said Anaheim Executive Vice President/General Manager Bob Murray. “Being a candidate for Team Canada in such a prestigious tournament is a great honour. He’s improving each day as an NHL player and we hope he can continue his progress after playing for his country. We fully expect him to play a prominent role in the upcoming tournament for Canada.”
Smith-Pelly has never represented Canada in an IIHF event before.
Hockey Canada opens its selection camp in Calgary on Saturday and the roster will be cut following the end of the camp on 14th December. The 41 players from CHL and college teams were already announced on 28th November.
Canada can register 23 players (3 goalkeepers, 20 skaters) for the World Junior Championship.