Every year the top prospects from Western Canada’s NHL squads unite in beautiful Penticton, BC, eager to catch the eyes of their respective teams in hopes of landing a spot at the next phase of training camp.
The tournament has seen some big names come through over the years with the likes of Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Eddie Lack, Mark Scheifele and Chris Tanev to name a few. The 2015 edition looks to be perhaps the best yet.
As far as the host team goes, this year’s Canucks Young Stars roster may be the most exciting the franchise has ever seen. After missing last year’s tournament, 2014 first-rounder’s Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann will both be ready to go, while they will be joined by long-time prospects, but first year eligible players, Ben Hutton and Joseph Labate. Rounding out the roster are top prospects Cole Cassels, Brendan Gaunce, Hunter Shinkaruk, and Jordan Subban.
Breaking down the Canucks roster
-Two goaltenders, eight defenceman and 14 forwards make up the Canucks roster.
-Six players are on the roster as free-agent invites, including both goaltenders and forward Mike Zalewski, who is on an AHL contract with the Utica Comets.
-Zalewski is the only player on the roster to have seen action in the NHL, appearing in two games with the Canucks during the 2013-14 season.
-Free-agent goaltender Clay Witt (24-years-old) is the oldest player on the roster.
-Guillaume Brisebois, the Canucks third round pick in 2015, is the youngest player on the roster, having just turned 18 on July 21.
-Four players saw action with the Utica Comets last season: Brendan Gaunce and Hunter Shinkaruk were full-time roster players, while Ben Hutton and Joseph Labate joined the team at the end of the season upon completion of their NCAA seasons.
Breaking down the opposition
The Flames will ice a lineup that includes three players that have seen action in the NHL, along with 11 players that suited up in the AHL last season. They will be bringing their entire 2015 Draft Class to Penticton, which includes Rasmus Andersson and Oliver Kylington, a pair of defenceman taken in the second round. Highlighting the roster is 19-year-old Sam Bennett, a first-rounder in 2014 that saw action in 11 post-season games with the Flames last year. Morgan Klimchuk will be making his third appearance at the Young Stars Classic. The 28th overall pick in 2013 is coming off an 80-point campaign in the WHL. The Flames won’t be a hard team to miss as they bring four players that stand 6-foot-6 or taller, including 6-foot-7, 250-pound defenceman, Keegan Kanzig.
Without question, all eyes will be on 2015 first overall pick Connor McDavid. Perhaps the most talked about draft pick since Sidney Crosby, McDavid is coming off a season in which he tallied 120 points in 47 games, not including another 49 points in just 19 post-season contests. The Oilers will also have a pair of past first-round picks, including 2014 third overall pick Leon Draisaitl, who appeared in 37 games with Edmonton last season. Darnell Nurse, the seventh overall pick in 2013, is also a player to keep an eye on as he looks to cement a spot on the Oilers blue line this coming season.
Nikolaj Ehlers, one of the most electrifying players in Penticton last year, will return to headline the Jets roster again this time around. The ninth overall pick in 2014 tallied 100 points in just 51 games last season with Halifax in the QMJHL. If you watched the 2015 World Juniors, you will be familiar with a few other names on the roster: forward Nic Petan, defenceman Josh Morrissey and goaltender Eric Comrie all won gold for Team Canada and will all see action in Penticton. Other notable players to watch include Chase De Leo, 2015 second round pick Jansen Harkins, as well as Brendan Lemieux, who was acquired from Buffalo in the Evander Kane/Tyler Myers trade. Forward Andrew Copp is the lone player on the roster to see action in the NHL, appearing in one game for the Jets this past season.