Rourke Chartier is back.
That’s not only good news for the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets, but for the 19-year-old centre who has designs on making Canada’s national junior team roster.
Chartier and fellow Rockets forward Nick Merkley have been invited to Hockey Canada’s final selection camp set for next week, Dec. 10 to 14, in Etobicoke, Ont.
Chartier, who has been sidelined since Oct. 6 with an upper body injury, will be in the lineup Wednesday night when the Rockets host the Kootenay Ice.
Rockets GM Bruce Hamilton doesn’t think Chartier’s chances of making the Canadian roster will be adversely affected by his extended layoff.
“He’s been skating with us for a while, he’s going to play this week, and he’s going to get some game experience in the exhibition games (Canada) has during the camp,” Hamilton said of Chartier, who missed 19 games. “It shouldn’t take him long to get up to speed and I know (coach) Dave Lowry likes him, so I think he has a real good shot.”
Chartier, who was a late cut from the Canadian junior camp a year ago, has played in just seven games with the Rockets this season, recording three goals and one assist.
As for Merkley, the Calgary native hopes to buck the general trend of past Canadian teams by making the roster as an 18-year-old.
“He’s going to have to play a role that he’s probably he’s not used to,” Hamilton said of Merkley. “He’s played real physical and that could work in his favour.”
Twenty-two players will make Canada’s final roster for the IIHF world junior championship, beginning Dec. 26 in Helsinki, Finland.
Rocket Shots…The Rockets will host the Ice tonight in the only meeting between the teams this season. Kelowna (19-6-1-0) leads the Western Conference, while the Ice (6-19-2-0) is last in the Eastern Conference…The Rockets are coming off a split in Victoria, winning 3-1 Friday, then losing to the Royals 5-1 on Saturday night.