8 things we learned from the Canucks’ prospects at the Young Stars Classic
By Noah Strang2 months ago
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Another edition of the Young Stars Classic is coming to a close as the Vancouver Canucks were victorious in their final game of the event against the Edmonton Oilers on Monday night.
The Canucks went 2-0-1 over the three games, defeating the Calgary Flames 7-1 and the Edmonton Oilers 5-2 but losing to the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 in a shootout. Overall, the mini-tournament in Penticton was a great chance for some of the young players in the organization to get some game experience before the 2023-24 season.
While it’s hard to draw many conclusions from three games of an exhibition tournament, there were some lessons that we learned in Penticton. Here are eight of the biggest takeaways from the 2023 Young Stars Classic.
The Canucks brought the best team by far
If you watched any of the games, you would have pretty quickly noticed that the Canucks had the best team. While I thought that the Jets’ high-end young talent might be able to beat the Canucks (which they did), Vancouver was still in control for the large majority of that game.
The Canucks were older, more experienced, and much deeper than the other three teams playing in this tournament. That resulted in a good showing from almost everyone on the roster as the team dominated for the majority of the tournament, never trailing and only registering the one shootout loss.
Aidan McDonough should be a staple on the Abbostford power play and is good organizational depth
Aidan McDonough scored three goals across three games, showing off his tremendous shot in the process. All three of his goals came on the power play and followed a similar formula as he beat the goalie cleanly with a powerful wrist shot.
McDonough was one of the most experienced players in this tournament as well as one of the few with an NHL goal to his name. He rightfully dominated and looked a level ahead of the competition, recording the most goals of any player across all four teams.
McDonough will start the season in Abbotsford and get the chance to work his way up the lineup. The transition to the grind of professional hockey is never easy but fans should be excited to follow the winger’s play in the AHL this season, especially on the power play.
Akito Hirose is too good for a tournament like this
If you had to pick the best player for the tournament, it would be either McDonough or Akito Hirose. Hirose — who burst onto the scene late last season with some very solid NHL performances — continues to make a good impression whenever he touches the ice.
This will be a big week for Hirose as he heads to NHL training camp. He’s fighting players like Christian Wolanin and Noah Juulsen for that sixth defenceman spot with the big club. If he can use his exceptional play in this tournament to jumpstart his camp performance later this week, there is a very real possibility that he will earn the right to start the season in the NHL.
Hirose had five points across the three games, leading the tournament in scoring as a defenceman. That type of production was really encouraging and bodes well for the rest of this season.
Plasek and Zlodeyev were pleasant additions to the roster
Karel Plasek and Dmitry Zlodeyev were two surprising names on the Young Stars tournament roster. They were not expected to be a part of the Canucks team yet each ended up playing two games in the event.
Zlodeyev was originally expected to play this season overseas, but his situation for next season is currently up in the air after his contract was terminated. It now seems likely that he will be offered a professional contract to play in either the ECHL or AHL in the Canucks organization. Plasek has dealt with some bad injury lucky during his young career that has severely hampered his ability to get on the ice.
Both had their flashes throughout the tournament as they played on a line together and combined for a few nice passing plays.
Plasek also had a nice assist on the Danila Kilmovich goal against the Edmonton Oilers, setting up an easy tap in.
Overall, the two forwards had solid tournaments where they made some strong plays. However, you might’ve hoped for some more counting stats considering how many goals the Canucks put up.
Arshdeep Bains is improving at a rapid rate
The last few years of Arshdeep Bains’ hockey career have been characterized by progression. No matter if it was going from 0.91 points-per-game in the 2020-21 WHL season to 1.64 points-per-game in the following year or how easy he made the jump to the AHL look, Bains has continued to take his game to new levels.
Bains was one of the more experienced players on the team this past weekend, wearing a letter and acting as a leader. On the ice, he did everything that you want to see out of your best players, getting involved in the dirty areas of the ice and standing up for teammates.
There are still some questions about Bains’ foot speed but when it comes to work rate and hockey IQ, there are few prospects across the entire Canucks’ organization that can match up.
The Canucks’ goaltending department has a type
The Canucks brought three goalies — Ty Young, Nikita Tolopilo, and Jonathan Lemieux — to the Young Stars tournament and just by looking at them, you can tell the goalie department has a type. A lot of the goalies inside the organization have a similar build where they’re tall and lanky.
“Length, to me, is a really valuable commodity in those critical moments,” Canucks goalie coach Ian Clark told CanucksArmy in a past interview.
However, just being long isn’t enough. As Clark further revealed, the goalies need to possess certain traits that help them use that length in a manner that translates to game situations.
“You can have a very tall goalie that is very uncompetitive and therefore, they’re not long. You can have a shorter goalie, that is extremely competitive, that has more length. You can have a goaltender that’s very tall but has poor flexibility for example and they lack length because the length must also be flush to the ice,” Clark explained. “When a goalie is extending their leg if they don’t have the flexibility to keep their knee flush to the ice and really seal everything down, really that length has no value.”
When the Canucks drafted Ty Young in the 5th round of the 2022 NHL Draft, many people questioned them taking a goalie with a sub .900 save percentage and a goals-against-average of 3.50 at the WHL level. However, it’s clear that Clark and the Canucks are much more concerned with traits and that it has served them well as the Canucks goaltending was solid over the course of this mini-tournament.
Kirill Kudryavtsev was an excellent seventh-round pick
Kirill Kudryavtsev is quickly proving himself to be one of the best Canucks’ late-round draft picks in recent years. The 19-year-old defenceman had 50 points in 67 OHL games last season and showed off some of those passing skills during the Young Stars tournament.
Kudryavtsev is someone to keep an eye on over the coming year. He will return to the OHL and get the chance to be a team leader as he approaches his twentieth birthday in February.
The biggest takeaway of all…the Canucks prospect pool is much improved
Above all else, this year’s edition of the Young Stars Classic showed off how improved the Canucks’ prospect pool is.
A lot of credit needs to go to Patrik Allvin and the management team for some of the acquisitions that they’ve made. Players like Akito Hirose, Cole McWard, Filip Johansson, and Arshdeep Bains have all been savvy pickups that have added a lot of depth to the organization.
While the team might still be light on high-end prospects that project as top-of-the-lineup NHL players, there is a level of depth that has been lacking in recent history. The Abbotsford Canucks should have plenty of young, hungry players looking to prove themselves and there will be lots of competition for the bottom of the roster spots at the NHL level.
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