Power rankings, X-Factors, and players to watch for each team at the 2023 Young Stars Classic
Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
By Noah Strang6 days ago
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The Young Stars tournament kicks off on Friday, September 15th in Penticton, BC. If you’re in the area, you’ll be able to see some of tomorrow’s stars take the ice and compete against each other. Four teams are participating in this mini-tournament including the Canucks, the Edmonton Oilers, the Calgary Flames, and the Winnipeg Jets.
While there is no formal winner for this tournament, the players’ competitive nature and the fact that they’re fighting for spots within the organization means that the games are usually entertaining. Despite there being no trophy, you can be sure that fans and those participating in the tournament alike will be very aware of which teams perform the best throughout their three games.
It’s hard to evaluate teams filled with players that have never skated together before, but we will try our best. Here is the pre-tournament power rankings for the Young Stars event, including a player to watch and x-factor for each team.
4. Edmonton Oilers
The Edmonton Oilers are definitely bringing the worst roster to Penticton. While they’ll probably now win all of their games because I wrote this, the roster lacks big-name players (or at least as big as you can get with this tournament) to get excited about.
The Oilers are bringing three goalies and all of them are born in 2005. This lack of experience in net could be the downfall for a team that is already young at other key positions, including on defence. Life will not be easy for whichever goalie the Oilers choose.
Player to watch: Beau Akey
Beau Akey is the most heralded defenceman on the Oilers’ Young Stars camp roster. He was drafted in the second round of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft and is an offensively-gifted right-handed shot. While he’s still very young, this tournament is where Akey will be making his first impression in Oilers’ colours.
X-factor: Xavier Bourgault
The Oilers best prospect attending the tournament is Xavier Bourgault. The centre scored at almost a half-point-per-game pace last season playing in the AHL. He will have some quality wingers to work with depending, with either Carter Savoie or Matvie Petrov being top options for the coaching staff.
3. Calgary Flames
The Calgary Flames released their Young Stars tournament roster and there was one omission that some people were hoping to see. Goalie Dustin Wolf will not be playing in the tournament but there are still some exciting names that Flames’ fans will be paying close attention to.
The top prospects on this team are Matthew Cornato and Samuel Honzek. Both of these guys are former first-round picks and elite forward prospects that any organization would love to have.
Player to watch: Adam Klapka
It’s not hard to find Klapka when he’s on the ice. The 6’7″ winger has a massive frame. Figuring out how to use it most effectively will be the key to him reaching his potential.He scored 13 goals and had 25 points in 60 AHL games last year.
X-factor: Matthew Cornato
Cornato has played the previous two seasons for Harvard University, scoring exactly 36 points in 34 games both times. He got the chance to make his NHL-debut at the end of last season and will play more professional hockey this year. Cornato is a strong goal-scorer that will be looking to show off his impressive shot this week.
2. Vancouver Canucks
While the Canucks do not have a ton of high draft picks on their Young Stars roster, they do have plenty of players with previous professional hockey experience. This includes skaters like Akito Hirose, Cole McWard, and Aidan McDonough, who all played in the NHL at the end of last season.
There are also quite a few players that played in last year’s edition of this tournament including Arshdeep Bains and Danila Klimovich. What the Canucks roster lacks in first-round draft picks it more than makes up for with older talent that is preparing for a full season of professional hockey.
Player to watch: Danila Klimovich
Danila Klimovich took a big step last season, scoring 17 goals and 29 points in 62 games despite being one of the youngest players on the Abbotsford Canucks. He participated in the Young Stars tournament last year and will definitely be given a big role as a leader of the team this week.
X-factor: Aidan McDonough
Not only has McDonough played a handful of NHL games, he’s also already recorded his first NHL goal. It was a bit of a surprise to see him on the roster but now that he is confirmed to be playing, he will be expected to lead the Canucks offensive attack, especially when it comes to the power play where he was so deadly during his successful NCAA career.
1. Winnipeg Jets
The Winnipeg Jets bring a number of recent high-draft picks to Penticton in their Young Stars roster. While the roster may lack some of the experience that the Canucks have, the high-end potential of a few key players makes up for it.
The three names that you will hear about most are Coby Barlow, Chaz Lucius, and Brad Lambert. These are all former first-round picks who will be playing forward for the Jets this weekend. If they can continue to produce against older competition the way they have at every level thus far, the Jets will be the top team in this tournament.
Player to watch: Brad Lambert
It’s been a very eventful hockey career for Brad Lambert thus far. Despite not even being 20 years-old, the forward has been pegged as everything from the next NHL superstar to a huge bust and everything in between. After falling to the end of the first-round in 2022, Lambert had an excellent showing in the WHL, scoring 17 goals and 38 points in 26 games. He wasn’t quite as successful in the AHL but is once again still just a teenager.
X-factor: Thomas Milic
The Jets are bringing just two goalies to Penticton and one of them is Thomas Milic. While it remains to be seen how they will split up the time in net, the BC-born Milic is one of the best young goalies in the world. He posted a 27-3-2 record for the Seattle Thunderbirds last year with a .928 save percentage and a 2.08 goals-against-average.
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