Merkley wears 'A' for Team WHL

The Western Hockey League, in association with the Canadian Hockey League, announced today the leadership group for the 2016 CIBC Canada Russia Series, which begins November 7 in Prince George.

Everett Silvertips defenceman Noah Juulsen will serve as captain for Team WHL while Kelowna Rockets forward Nick Merkley and Tri-City Americans defenceman Parker Wotherspoon will serve as alternate captains for Team WHL.

Drafted in the first round, 30th overall, of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by the Arizona Coyotes, the 19-year-old Merkley serves as an alternate captain for the Rockets and has tallied four assists in nine games to start the 2016-17 campaign. A product of Calgary, Alta., Merkley previously skated in two games for Team WHL during the 2015 event. He also represented Team Canada at the 2014 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup, managing four assists and a plus-9 rating in five games as Canada won gold. In 191 career WHL regular season games, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound forward has notched 200 points (62G, 139A).

Drafted in the first round, 26th overall, of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by the Montreal Canadiens, the 19-year-old Juulsen serves as captain of the Silvertips and has amassed 10 points (4G, 6A) through nine games to start the 2016-17 WHL season. A product of Abbotsford, B.C., Juulsen previously skated for Team WHL during the 2015 edition of the event, managing one goal and a plus-3 rating in two games. In 200 career WHL regular season games, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound defenceman has collected 100 points (22G, 78A).

Drafted in the fourth round, 112th overall, of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Islanders, the 19-year-old Wotherspoon serves as an alternate captain of the Americans and has served up 14 points (4G, 10A) in 12 games to start the 2016-17 WHL season. This will be his first appearance at the CIBC Canada Russia Series. A product of Surrey, B.C., Wotherspoon previously represented Team Canada at the 2015 IIHF U18 World Championship, managing five points (1G, 4A) in seven contests. In 222 career WHL regular season games, the 6-foot, 171-pound defenceman has amassed 130 points (26G, 104A).

Team WHL will face Team Russia in Game 1 of the 2016 CIBC Canada Russia Series in Prince George, B.C., on Monday, November 7, before continuing on to Edmonton, Alta., for Game 2 on Tuesday, November 8. The Ontario Hockey League will host Games 3 and 4, while the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League will welcome the festivities surrounding Games 5 and 6. 

The six-game series features regional league teams of Canadian National Junior Team candidates competing against the Russian National Junior Team. For the third straight season, the event will open with two games in the WHL.

Since the event first began in 2003, CHL teams have played to an overall record of 54-18-6 against Team Russia.  The competitiveness of the rivalry has grown in recent years with four of the last six series decided in the final game.  Russia earned their first series victory in 2010 and have since alternated annual series victories with the CHL who earned the 2015 title by a 12-3 margin in points.

The event is an integral part of the identification process for Team Canada prior to the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship.  Canada was represented at this season’s World Junior in Finland by 21 CHL players who competed in this series in 2015, while 13 members of Team Russia’s series entry also competed in Helsinki earning a second straight silver medal.

The 2016 CIBC Canada Russia series is supported by CHL associate sponsors Cooper Tire, autoTRADER.ca and Sherwin-Williams.  All games will be broadcast nationally on Sportsnet and TVA Sports.

2016 CHL Canada Russia Series Schedule:

Game 1 – Monday November 7 at Prince George, BC

Game 2 – Tuesday November 8 at Edmonton, AB

Game 3 – Thursday November 10 at North Bay, ON

Game 4 – Monday November 14 at Hamilton, ON

Game 5 – Tuesday November 15 at Chicoutimi, QC

Game 6 – Thursday November 17 at Baie-Comeau, QC