Young Stars Classic All-Stars

24th overall pick Hunter Shinkaruk shined at the prospects tournament.
Image via Ward Perrin.

One of the most interesting parts of the annual Young Stars tournament is seeing the talents of these young prospects relative to each other. With different systems in place, different ways of organizing lines, and even different levels of intensity about the tournament between franchises, wins and goals mean less than the process in evaluating player success. As one of the Nations Network scouts at the tournament, I thought I’d give my standouts, but in the hockey honoured tradition of naming All-Star teams. 

It’s a small sample size, so these aren’t necessarily the best prospects, but instead the prospects who had the best showing in the tournament. Still, I bet we see the majority of these names in NHL sweaters within a few years. 

1st All Star Team

Sean Monahan

Thinks hockey on a very high level. Only credited with two points, but was a dominating offensive force in game one against the Oilers and showed exceptional hockey awareness in adjusting to new defensive schemes in subsequent games. Uses team mates well and creates offence in new ways seemingly every shift. Did all the little things well and managed the game with his position as the best centres do.

Nic Petan

His first game against San Jose was the best single-game performance of the tournament among skaters, but he was a force throughout. Controlled play in both ends, with and without the puck. Outrageously quick hands, elite anticipation for this level, and a scorer’s instinct. Backs off defenders with his skating and puck control. Distributes expertly from the middle lane to break traps. His two-way play was impeccable and his puck-support exceptional. A coach’s dream at an extremely young age.

Hunter Shinkaruk

Led Canucks’ forwards in scoring and looked dangerous with the puck the moment in touched his stick. Too fast for defencemen to handle in transition. Deceptive change of pace step low in the offensive end lets him avoid contact. Creates chaos for defenders. Shockingly physical with a nasty edge to his game and a mouth that just never stops. Got under the skin of every defender he faced and exploited their lapses in focus like a grade-A pest.

Brandon Davidson

Though his boxcars are not All-Star worthy, Davidson was a stand-out defender for the under-skilled Oilers. Strong puck movement, great sense for how to develop offence, and impressive blue line work were his most visible contributions. In fact, an excellent defender at both ends, with a mature awareness of passing lanes and stick placement, control of the play with angles, and tight gaps. Excellent skater, though a notch below the elite skaters in the tournament.

Brenden Kichton

Two goals in his first game, added two more assists and was +4 in the tournament while powering the Jets high-octane offence. Good-for-the-NHL level blue line control, excellent speed and control in his skating, and the puck skills to put drool on your chin. Lacks power in transition skating so can’t battle while pivoting and uses looser gaps than ideal. Wasn’t afraid to take contact to make plays, though, and trusted his reads to play a hesitation-free game.

Joni Ortio

A show-stopping performance against the Canucks with 39 saves on 40 shots. A large step ahead of the other goalies at the tournament. His athletics were impressive with two stolen goals on Kipper-esque drives and he tracked the play well, but it was his rebound control that set him apart. Didn’t put a puck into danger during the game and even intentionally cleared the puck once by directing a hard shot around the glass.

2nd All Star Team

Markus Granlund

Powerful off the half-boards, strong in the cycle, and hard to beat on the end boards. Led the Flames in scoring and shots on. A dangerous powerplay player for the fact that he can create offence from anywhere in the zone and rotates well. Plays the simplified game of a pro player with the killer instinct to score with every play. Lacks the quickness of an NHL forward, but played the part well otherwise.

Bo Horvat

Sometimes hard to tell where his impact began and Shinkaruk’s ended, but his chemistry with the quick winger came from excellent anticipation for both offence and defence. Cycled well. Quick release on his shot. Very high hockey IQ. He and Shinkaruk added complexity to their reps in practice and looked a cut above.

Adam Lowry

One of the few truly powerful skaters at the tournament with a compact, efficient stride, Lowry drove his giant 6’5" frame up and down the ice to great effect and with remarkable mobility. Full 200ft game, controlling the centre of the ice with his size and positioning. Pro-level strength already. Good anticipation and created offence from his two-way play, giving up little and driving the play the right way. A corsi-monster at this level.

John Ramage

Very effective transition game with smooth escapes, hard outlet passes, and puck support up ice. Uses good edge control and quick transition skating to keep play in front of him and maintain tight gaps. Made the position look easy in his second game against Vancouver and ended the tournament with 3 points in 3 games.

Josh Morrissey

Looked way too calm to be 18, and ‘smooth’ skater doesn’t begin to describe his elite level technical control. Deliberate with the puck and often a step ahead of the play. Covered for Trouba often, who was pressing a little too hard in this tournament, and threw a gross hit on Jackson Houck that got him tossed from a game. Otherwise might have had more than just three points.

Joacim Eriksson

A couple weak goals against the Flames in which he lost the angle, but otherwise played a collected and controlled game. Efficient movements made for few gaps despite not having the size of some of the netminders in the tournament. Seven goals against on 102 shots in a tournament not known for its defence.


Honourable Mentions

  • Marco Roy: If he had played game one like he did game 3, he would have made the first team. Dynamic and creative attacker, strong-two way play. A cerebral player with puck skills to match.
  • Michael Ferland: Showed excellent vertical offence and protected the puck well. Good speed and physical. Cycled well. Hard shot, though not able to disguise his release. Lacked variety in his offence I think due to slow feet in changing direction (the power forward train tracks), but managed a point in every game and created room for his linemates.
  • Niklas Jensen: Looks like a professional-level player with elite speed, a love for contact, and a quick release shot. Owns his wing in transition by backing off defenders, which also opens up lanes across the top. Somehow the puck just wouldn’t go in for him, but looked like one of the dozen or so players who could make the jump this year.
  • Cole Cassels: Started the tournament looking like an energy forward on a checking line and slowly moved up the roster with three points in four games. Always seemed to be attacking the net. Wanted to keep the tempo high, putting opponents off balance, but showing little ability to adjust his game to circumstance.
  • Matthew Nieto: I didn’t cover the Sharks, but Nieto stood out in every game. Great range, mature two-way game. Generated a lot of offence and made veteran plays all over the ice.
  • Keegan Kanzig: Really surprised at this tournament with high-end hockey sense and good range. His size is unreal but his skating forces him to keep large gaps so he rarely gets his hands on people. Threw the kind of hits that make you glad you’re not a hockey player. Strong transition passing and supported the play up-ice.
  • Kyle Bigos: Another stand-out for the Sharks and a former Oiler prospect. Really big and physical in his defending. But the impressive part was his transition game. Kept tight gaps, used his stick well, and made choices for opposing forwards with his focus and positioning. Transitioned up quickly and precisely. Above average mobility, but not near NHL level. Was exposed by Shinkaruk in particular.
  • Juho Olkinuora: Even forgetting his great hit along the sideboards against Nieto, Olkinuora showed exceptional confidence. Tracked the play well, controlled rebounds. Very good with the puck. Didn’t communicate with this defence well.

Young Stars Coverage

You can check out our detailed game reports at the links below.

  • Peachy

    Kevin, any chance you cover the Canucks’ systems for us on occasion this year?

    I would love to see collaborations that included both systems analysis and data analysis to assess how the Canucks are doing, and what effects system changes have on performance.