The 2015 Young Stars Classic gets underway tonight as Jake Virtanen and the Vancouver Canucks face-off against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers.
The game will be streamed live on Canucks.com with puck drop slated for 7:30 p.m.
For a couple of long time Canucks prospects in Ben Hutton and Joseph Labate, this marks the first year they are eligible to play in Penticton and needless to say, there is a bit of excitement to showcase what they can do in front of the fans.
“The guys have told me a little bit about how fun and intense it is so I am pretty excited,” said Hutton, who was drafted in the fifth round in 2012. “It’s been a little bit of a wait for me as every year I can go to Development Camp but I can’t come here, but that is part of the NCAA rules, and I am just happy I am here now.”
It has been an even longer wait for Labate, the towering forward who has filled out his frame nicely since the Canucks selected him back in the fourth round of the 2011 NHL Draft.
“I have developed into more of a power forward type player,” he said. “When I was a little bit younger I was still growing into my body, and still am, but I have become more of a power forward that can use my skill when I can.”
As for the lineup tonight, although nothing is set in stone, it appears Utica Comets head coach Travis Green, who will be running the Canucks bench this weekend, will go with Cole Cassels between Jake Virtanen and Hunter Shinkaruk, perhaps in a head-to-head matchup against McDavid. Jared McCann centred the second line at Thursday’s practice, between Brendan Gaunce and Dane Fox.
One thing that is set in stone is the excitement level around the Okanagan this year. Ticket packages sold out quickly and fans have traveled from all around to come and get a glimpse of the NHL’s future, including McDavid, the first overall pick back in June.