The 2011 Young Stars Tournament hosted by the Vancouver Canucks begins Sunday from the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton, British Columbia.
The Canucks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, San Jose Sharks, and Winnipeg Jets have brought their prospects to the Okanagan Valley for five days of games showcasing what fans are hoping will be future NHL stars.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the marquee name at the event, just months removed from being taken with the No. 1 pick at the 2011 Entry Draft in Minnesota. For the second year in a row, the Oilers have brought the NHL's top pick to Penticton, as Taylor Hall's first pro moments were witnessed just a year ago in this same event.
Wins aren't the primary focus of the coaching staffs in attendance. The event has proven to be an effective tool in player evaluation before the veterans arrive on the scene for training camp. Playing time will be spread around, and most teams will use three different goalies over the course of the event that sees each team play three contests with the exception of the Canucks, who play four times.
The Winnipeg Jets arrive on the scene as the new kids on the block, replacing the Anaheim Ducks who were at last September's inaugural event. Four Canadian teams participating means fans from across Western Canada will be making the trek to the renowned vacation hot-spot that is Penticton. Speculation is that the Jets could showcase their jerseys for the first time on-ice. The Jets' first game is Monday evening when they face the Sharks prospects at 7:30 p.m. PST.
The South Okanagan Events Centre is the home of the Penticton Vees (BCHL, Jr. A) and seats 5,200 fans for hockey events. The Young Stars Tournament was immensely popular last season, with nearly all games played before capacity crowds. Also affixed to the 3-year-old, state-of-the-art facility is a second sheet of ice which logistically allows five teams to get morning skates and games in with ease.
The Flames and Sharks kick off the event at 4 p.m. PST Sunday, with the host Canucks and Oilers facing off at 7:30 p.m. PST.