Red Deer’s Keith McInnis fights off a stick check from a Team Manitoba player at the 2021 WHL Cup. Alberta knocked off Manitoba 6-2 to open the tournament. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/WHL)

Red Deer’s Keith McInnis fights off a stick check from a Team Manitoba player at the 2021 WHL Cup. Alberta knocked off Manitoba 6-2 to open the tournament. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/WHL)

WHL Cup underway in Red Deer

Central Albertans leading the way for Team Alberta

As the WHL Cup kicked off in Red Deer this week, talent from across Western Canada is set to showcase their ability to scouts and WHL brass alike.

The top under-16 players from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, B.C. and Alberta are in town for the five-day tournament in an effort to improve their stock for the 2021 WHL Prospects Draft, which is set to take place in December.

The draft typically takes place in the spring, but with most minor hockey seasons being wiped out last year, the WHL opted to move the draft later in the year.

For Team Alberta, that means a chance for homegrown talent to put their best foot forward in front of friends and family.

Alberta captain Caleb Hadland of Sylvan Lake, who had a goal in Alberta’s 6-2 victory over Manitoba said it’ll be great to play in front of friends and family again.

The 15-year-old played two seasons for the Red Deer Rebels U15AAA group, before joining Yale Hockey Academy U18 Prep based out of B.C this year.

“Growing up, you were watching all these guys grow up and play for Team Alberta. So it’s really a dream come true. For it to be at home, I get a big fan base here and it’ll be a great experience,” Hadland said in an interview with Hockey Alberta.

Red Deer’s Keith McInnis, who plays with Hadland at Yale Prep and is an assistant captain for Alberta, is also thrilled to be playing at home again.

The six-foot, 161-pound defenceman is in his second season at Yale Hockey Academy but played one year for the Rebels U15 AAA in 2019-20.

“Growing up, seeing all the kids go through it– playing bantam hockey and always looking up to the kids that have gone through this program,” McInnis said in an interview with Hockey Alberta.

“It means a lot to actually be on this team and represent Alberta, to have it back home, it truly means a lot. A lot of fans, family that I haven’t seen for four months, so it’ll be really nice.”

Coy Phigin, of Alix also plays at Yale with the two other Central Alberta. The 15-year-old said it’s just special anytime you can put on that team Alberta jersey.

“It’s always great to represent Alberta, anywhere in any sport,” Pighin said.

“I feel like my family and friends from around Alix are going to be out to watch, it’s a good thing.”

Alberta is set to take on defending champions Team Saskatchewan Thursday.

Alberta will finish round robin play Friday afternoon at 12:30 p.m. at the Centrium against B.C. The semi-finals are Saturday at 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. (Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre), with the gold medal game set for Sunday at the Peavey Mart Centrium at 1 p.m.

B.C. knocked off Saskatchewan 8-1 to open the tournament Wednesday.