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Canucks Young Stars preview

No. 5 draft pick Olli Juolevi will make his debut

by Tyson Giuriato @TysonGiuriato / Canucks Prospects Writer

It begins.

Some of the top prospects in the Canucks' organization will be in beautiful Penticton later this week as the 2016 Young Stars Classic gets underway on Friday.

The tournament not only gives the organization a good look at what they have in the system, but allows fans to get a glimpse of some future Canucks players competing against top prospects from three other organizations. Last year, six players that laced up the skates with the Canucks in Penticton saw action with the big club during the regular season, including Ben Hutton and Jake Virtanen.

This year, the team welcomes a trio of first time participants out of the NCAA, as well as 2016 first round pick, Olli Juolevi.

Five things you should know about the 2016 Canucks Young Stars roster:

Demko's arrival: NCAA rules permit players from competing at the Young Stars Classic while still in school (which is way you won't see Brock Boeser), so Canucks fans have had to wait a few seasons to see their blue-chip goaltending prospect, Thatcher Demko. The 20-year-old turned pro after stellar junior season at Boston College, which saw him win the Mike Richter Award as the top goalie in college hockey and also be named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, opening the door for him to participate in Penticton and show Canucks fans why he is so highly touted.

Homecoming of sorts: The Canucks dipped into the NCAA free agent pool earlier this year when they signed defenceman Troy Stecher out of North Dakota and goaltender Michael Garteig from Quinnipiac. Both will be in action in Penticton and both have spent some time calling the South Okanagan Events Centre home, including one season as teammates. Stecher played three seasons with the BCHL's Penticton Vees, while Stecher started 45 games for the Vees in 2011-12. Both players were key contributors in Penticton's 2012 national championship season.

Ready for a rebound: This time last year, the excitement around Cole Cassels was sky high. He was coming off a Memorial Cup winning season with the Oshawa Generals that saw him post 81 points (30-51-81) and 100 penalty minutes in just 54 games, plus another 35 points (11-24-35) in 25 post-season games. Unfortunately, his first year in the AHL didn't go as well as expected. He scored just two goals and seven points in 67 games. Now fully healthy and with a full off-season of training, Cassels is primed for a bounce back season and that will start with his play in Penticton.

The new guys: Led by first round pick Olli Juolevi, the Canucks will have five of their six draft picks from June in the lineup. The lone exception being Will Lockwood, who is off to the University of Michigan. Defenceman Cole Candella and forwards Jakob Stukel, Rodrigo Abols (who played last season as an invite) and Brett McKenzie round out the 2016 draft picks in the lineup.

Returnees: A total of 11 players that suited up at the 2015 Young Stars Classic return this time around: Rodrigo Abols, Cole Cassels, Joe Labate and Dmitry Zhukenov return up front, while defencemen Guillaume Brisebois, Evan McEneny, Carl Neill, Tate Olson, Ashton Sautner, Mackenze Stewart and Jordan Subban return to a crowded 11-player blue-line.

Extra Notes:

-There are 28 players in total on the roster: Three goaltenders, 11 defencemen and 14 forwards.

-Rodrigo Abols and Joe Labate share the title as tallest on the Canucks' roster, each standing at a respectable 6-foot-4.

-At 215-pounds, Evan McEneny and Mackenze Stewart each weigh-in as the heaviest on the roster.

-Goaltender Michael Garteig checks in as the oldest player on the roster at 24-years-old (Nov. 5, 1991), while at 18-years-old (May 5, 1998), Olli Juolevi competes as the youngest player on the roster.

-Eight players on the Young Stars roster saw action with the Utica Comets last season: Cole Cassels (67 games), Jordan Subban (67 games), Joe Labate (66 games), Ashton Sautner (50 games), Curtis Valk (12 games) and Evan McEneny (2 games).

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