Young Stars Tournament Preview

There will be live hockey in about five hours time featuring several guys who are dark-horse candidates to make the Canucks main roster out of training camp. Hockey in some form is back – and this evening the Canucks hosted "Young Stars Tournament" will kick-off.

Two Canucks "young stars" games will be televised on Rogers Sportsnet – including tonight’s tilt against Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and the Edmonton Oilers prospects. The games will also be live-streamed at Though the long, sad summer isn’t over yet – and despite the fact that most reasonable people don’t get all that excited about a Oilers-Canucks prospects game – hockey is gearing up, and that’s a good thing. Here is a preview of the Canucks young-stars tourney roster, their opponents, the schedule, and what to look for.

The  Roster

The Canucks bring 27 players to the tourney this week. The players are all rookies, and represent a collection of try-out players looking for an invite, and higher end prospects hoping to build some momentum heading into training camp. We should be careful not to place too much stock into whatever happens in the tournament – but it is true that sometimes a strong performance in the Prospect’s Tourney translates into regular season success in the AHL (see Lack, Eddie) or NHL (see Eberle, Jordan). Here’s a list of the players the Canucks are bringing to the tournament.




Lines, and other information:

If we trust Jim Jamieson – and I’m inclined to do so – Craig MacTavish practiced and will likely deploy in the European style, with 4 complete five man units. It looks like Niagara Ice Dogs teammates Alex Friesen and Darren Archibald will line up with 1st round pick Nicklas Jensen. That line will skate with Yann Sauve and Sebastian Erixon manning the points. Based on the experience of Sauve and Erixon, and Friesen’s history of destroying Oilers prospects – I’d expect this unit to spend the bulk of their time matched up against Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

The probable "scoring unit" consists of Moose teammates Jordan Schroeder and Bill Sweatt, skating alongside Anton Rodin. That forward group will skate with offensive defenseman Kevin Connauton, and this year’s 5th round pick Frankie Corrado in tow. Stephen Anthony looks like he’ll be skating on one of the bottom six units with Alexandre Grenier and Nathan Longpre. Prab Rai, Michael Curtis and Jonathan Lessard make-up the other checking unit. Hannay-Polasek and Duininick-Zanetti are the other two defensive pairings.

The Competition

The Young Stars tournament will see the Canucks prospects play the "young-stars" from four other teams: the Oilers, the Flames, the Jets and the Sharks. The Canucks are usually ranked among the worst teams in terms of prospect depth, and when ESPN published their "organizational rankings" earlier this summer – they were similarly bearish about the Sharks and Flames pipeline. The Jets faired slightly better, and their team this year includes top-10 pick Mark Scheifele. The Oilers – who should win most of the games they play in Penticton – are the only organization in the tournament whose prospects depth is considered "top-end" (must be all that losing they do). Their team has a number of guys who should see at least some time in the NHL this season, including: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Here’s a closer look at the individual teams, and what their fans are expecting:

The Flames

Patrick Steinberg of the Fan960 is in Penticton covering the tournament. In his preview of the Flames Prospects v. Sharks prospects game at FlamesNation, he seems to think the Flames Young-Stars entry could be surprisingly strong:

The common narrative over the past few seasons has been how bare the cupboards are for the Calgary Flames. It’s true, there are very few blue chip, high end prospects in the system right now. That said, as I believe this tournament will flesh out, there are some bonafide NHLers in the system. Over the past couple seasons, names like Reinhart, Holland, Howse and Brodie have emerged as players to be excited for; combine Baertschi with that group.

The Oilers 

Lowtide over at OilersNation cautions that, though this years Oilers entry is pretty recognizable – with names like: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Anton Lander, David Musil, Tyler Pitlick, Colten Teubert and Martin Marincin – they’ll have a difficult time living up to what last years Young-Stars team accomplished:

Last year’s rookie camp boasted several young men who would see NHL action during the season: Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi, Teemu Hartikainen, Chris VandeVelde, Jeff Petry and Alex Plante. This year’s group doesn’t have that kind of firepower but is an extremely interesting group.

 The Jets

The Jets roster doesn’t have a lot of recognizable names outside of Mark Scheifele, so he and his linemates will be watched pretty closely this tournament. In this interview he gave to the Winnipeg Free Press – he sounds pretty excited to get to it. He’ll skate with Swedish Forward Carl Klingberg, and Jason Gregoire.

The Sharks

Over at FeartheFin, Mr. Plank will be attending some of the tournament live. He lists the Sharks prospects he’ll be watching the most closely:

Notable prospects participating in this year’s event will be Taylor Doherty (D), William Wrenn (D), Freddie Hamilton (F), Michael Sgarbossa (F), Konrad Abelthauser (D), Marek Viedensky (F), Harri Sateri (G), and Thomas Heemskerk (G).

The Schedule

The Canucks – who are hosting the tournament – will play each invitee one time each. They play their two division rivals on consecutive nights (the Oilers tonight, the Flames tomorrow), then take Tuesday off before going onto play the Sharks prospects on Wednesday, and the Jets young-stars team on Thursday. The Oilers, Jets, Sharks and Flames play three games each over the course of the week. 

What to Look For

Here are five things I’ll be interested in watching tonight, and through the rest of the week:

1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Sure he’s an Oilers prospect – but he’s also a BC native, so I’ve still got a regional homer interest in his performance. Frankly, I’m hoping that RNH is the best player on the ice tonight, and that he puts on something of a show.

2. Last offseason Gillis did well to unearth a couple of undrafted free-agents who went on to play quite well for both the Moose and the Canucks. I’ll be interested to see if GMMG has managed to do it again. The two players I’m unreasonably hyped about watching are Darren Archibald and Sebastian Erixon – both are coming off good seasons (in the OHL and SEL respectively), and look like potential late-bloomers who could be contributors down the line. Hopefully they impress tonight.

3. 6,3 czech native David Honzik is expected to play the entire game in goal tonight for the Canucks young-stars entry. He was the Canucks second pick in the 2011 draft, and oozes potential. He’s big, athletic and raw – and could be a lot of fun of watch.

4. The Chicago Wolves top-pairing? Kevin Connauton, the former Vancouver Giant, has proven that he can QB the power-play and put up points at every level. In the lead up to camp, Connauton sounds confident, driven and aggressive, so lets hope he looks that way on the ice as well. Yann Sauve, who played four years with the Saint-John Seadogs, will be looking to build upon last season’s improvement. Both should be late cuts from the main-camp, and could well be the top pairing on the Chicago Wolves this season. 

5. Rodin’s shoulder. Rodin has had a pretty superficial shoulder injury that has nagged him, likely as a result of his refusal to rest it. He says the problem has mostly cleared up, but he would say that, considering his unwillingness to take time off to heal in the past. Lets hope he’s telling the truth, because shoulder injuries are painful as hell and because lots of smart people are really high on Rodin’s skill-level.

  • Mantastic

    the oilers losing has little to do with the amount of high end prospects we have. look at detriot and chicago, both won cups in the last 5 years and both have way more prospects then the canucks who have been marginally doing well, compared to them, within the same time period. it really comes down to drafting and not trading first rounders and high end prospects for 2nd rate d-men or 2nd rounders for 3rd and 4th round picks.

  • “the oilers losing has little to do with the amount of high end prospects we have” – yeah Taylor Hall, MSP and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins were late round steals!

    And Chicago’s prospect wealth is directly related to the wealth of top picks they accumulated over their lost decade. When those prospects out-priced themselves they were dealt for a bounty of picks and the cycle continues.

    Vancouver has been competitive for a decade (only missed the playoffs twice since 01), and that definitely plays a role in the teams organizational depth. The Red Wings are just really, really good at drafting + scouting, they’re a separate issue.

    • Mantastic

      remove hall, mps ,rnh or any other 1st round picks and we would still have way more prospects then the canucks. there are teams who finish with high draft picks as well and still have terrible prospects. it’s our 2nd round picks which dominating the canucks 1st rounders into the ground. so drafting plays a much bigger roll then drafting high. i.e. look at the CGY and SJ. hodgson was drafted 10th, same as MPS, scroeder was drafted 22nd same as eberle, hmmm i wonder if drafting well has anything to do about good prospects

  • It certainly does, but the dynamics of being a team “in contention” means your a buyer at the deadline (Canucks routinely trade 2nd and 3rd round picks), and pick later in the draft (which impacts your chances of getting quality prospects enormously).

    A team in rebuilding mode on the other hand, has more picks overall, higher picks and is always selling at the deadline and adding to their stable. Oilers have been “rebuilding” for 3-4 years, Canucks have been trying to win it all for 2-3 years – I really think it’s as simple as that.