Young Stars Tournament: Canucks Preview

The Nations Network is sending this Jets blogger to the 2014 Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, BC. I’ll be judging your team and bringing you live scouting reports. Check out last year’s wrap-up piece here.

The Young Stars Tournament is here again! I’ll be there all weekend to scout, blog, and dry out my insides with Okanagan Events Centre popcorn. You can follow me on twitter (@kevinmccart) for live insights, or check out the Nations Network of blogs for game and player reviews. 

Inside we’ll reflect a bit on last year’s tournament and take a look at the Canucks’ Young Stars roster. Have a player, story or system you’re excited about? Let me know in the comments!

A New Focus

The Canucks’ house-cleaning this summer adds a wrinkle to their Young Stars tournament. A year ago, a host of large bodied, vertical style wingers were brought into the camp, including Kyle Hope, Zach Hall, Cain Franson, and Alex Mallet. These players, along with Phillipe Maillet, Ludwig Blomstrand and others, had some expectations and were given ice time to match. The Canucks had the fastest and possibly largest forward group a year ago, but enter this season’s tournament with a few very highly ranked prospects and a lot of question marks. In fact, it’s a bit of a bare-bones roster thanks to injury and illness.

With shoulder injuries still hampering new draftee Jake Virtanen and Kyle Petit, and mono keeping both Jared McCann and Cole Cassels off the ice, the Canucks only have 12 healthy forwards, 9 defencemen, and 2 goalies. It’s the smallest roster of the tournament. Moreover, ten of the 23 players in camp are invites.

Each young man is playing for a new set of bosses and each one has something to prove. 

This Year

Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk were the stars of last year’s squad but return to Penticton after each having strange seasons. They ad libbed in drills together to add complexity, pushed the play (and in Shinkaruk’s case, the pace) and were the Canucks’ best forwards in every situation. Both have questions hanging over them about bringing consistent offence at the next levels of hockey, and will get plenty of ice time to answer. 

Nik Jensen showed incredible speed and physicality a year ago, and graduated to play with the Sedins this past season. With the addition of Vrbata at the NHL level, it’s not clear where Jensen might fit in the organization and a return to the OK Events Centre is probably not what he had in mind. He needs to be visible in a positive way at both ends of the rink as he could disappear without the puck in 2013. 

Fellow NHL graduate Frank Corrado is also back, along with Jordan Subban, Anton Cederholm, Evan McEneny, Miles Liberati, and Jermie Blain (who didn’t see game action last year). This time they’re in front of two invitee goalies from the WHL.

Brendan Gaunce also returns after playing poorly on the fourth line last year. He’s turning pro this year, but one has to imagine he’s already testing the patience of the organization. A new set of eyes on him could be all the doctor ordered to get him back on track as a two-way scoring centre with size – the white whale of NHL franchises these days. 

A few exciting additions to this team:

Dane Fox: The organization’s new Free Agent addition, Fox is a ’93 birthday who exploded from a point per game in his draft +1 season to a 64 goal, 107 point season for the Erie Otters last year. He turns pro this year and no one is quite sure what the team has. He should see an offensive push and we’ll see how he delivers.

Curtis Valk: An undersized, pure-skill invite who had 92 points in 72 games with Medicine Hat last year. It’s his second 90+ point season in the WHL, but he’s likely playing for an AHL contract. Could be a tournament head-turner.

Josh Thrower: Local boy, brother of Dalton, and undrafted invite with just 6 points last season. Still, he’s just 18 and already 200lbs. He’ll definitely hit some bodies this weekend – the question is what kind of effect it has on the game. 

For the full roster and game schedule, go here (PDF warning).

If you have any scouting requests or things you’d like me to watch for, fire away in the comments!

    • andyg

      While it would be nice to see our prospects kicking the asses of every other team, the best outcome of a tourney like this is to get a better appreciation of your own propspects’ capabilities under various conditions. In this case, the lack of bodies means the tourney roster will be given more minutes, but potentially playing thru fatigue. It will be a good test to see who can handle the increased workload and still maintain sound fundamentals and play at a high level against equally-skilled opponents. Much can be learned, even if the Canucks propsects lose every game.

  • andyg

    Agree with BC Envy, wins/losses here are immaterial.

    This tournament is to see how the prospects handle themselves against similar skill level players, where the playing field and level of competition is a lot more equal.