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The Winnipeg Jets open the 2017 Young Stars Classic tonight against the Vancouver Canucks at 9:30pm CT in Penticton, BC.
You can watch the game LIVE right here on WinnipegJets.com, as the Jets' official YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/user/NHLJets) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/nhljets/) pages beginning at 9:15pm CT.
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PENTICTON, B.C. - After a long summer, it's time to drop the puck.
The Winnipeg Jets prospects open the annual Young Stars Classic in Penticton, BC tonight against the Vancouver Canucks at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
"It's an exciting time for all of us. We get to see how the players developed over the summer, and for us it's time to get back to work," said Manitoba Moose head coach Pascal Vincent. "We've invited quite a few players. The guys that are coming back from last year, we have a few of them. We don't really know about the other teams, we know we're going to have some good competition.
"I felt we had a good practice yesterday, a good morning skate, everyone is excited."
Video: PREGAME | Pascal Vincent
Of the 24 players on the Jets roster, 10 are free agent invites, including seven forwards.
But in Vincent's mind, it doesn't matter if a particular player is at the tournament with an invitation or if he's drafted, they're all wearing Jets colours.
"We're looking for players that compete. We told them, and the message is clear, we're looking for players that are pushing for jobs and pushing to get signed, " said Vincent. "We're a team, we're the Winnipeg Jets. There are a lot of players that wanted to come here, and we had to select only a few. Those guys made that list. There's a reason for it. Now it's their job to show us what they can do."
Jansen Harkins (Winnipeg's second round pick in 2015) is no stranger to this tournament. This will be his third time skating in the event, giving him some veteran status in the dressing room this weekend.
He's also one of seven players on the roster with pro hockey experience. He reached 10 games played in the American Hockey League with the four he experienced with the Manitoba Moose at the end of the 2016-17 campaign.
"I've been waiting for a game for a couple months. Every guy here is a bit on edge just to start playing again," said Harkins. "It hit you yesterday just travelling, and the pre-game skate today just getting geared up. It should be fun."
Video: PREGAME | Jansen Harkins
The 20-year-old Harkins had 21 goals and 72 points in 64 games with the Prince George Cougars last season, and set the franchise mark for points as a Cougar (240) in a 6-1 win over Kamloops back in March.
Just over a month later, Harkins signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Jets.
His linemate tonight, Mason Appleton, did the same thing on July 13, when he made the decision to leave Michigan State University and NCAA hockey to join the pro ranks by signing his entry-level deal.
"It was a super hard decision for me, and my family too. It took a lot of thought and sat down with my family and we talked for days," said Appleton, who had 31 points in 35 games last season. "At MSU I was in a really good personally, but I thought I wanted to challenge myself, I wanted to take the next step. Signing would give me the best chance to do that.
"I thought I had a really good off season. I did all the things I wanted to. My body feels great coming in to pre-season right now, so I'm super excited."
Video: PREGAME | Mason Appleton
Michael Spacek - Winnipeg's fourth round pick in 2015 - is the third member of the forward trio with Appleton and Harkins. All of them have experience at centre, and Vincent plans to get a look at all of them in the middle before the end of the weekend.
"The thing about being able to play in different positions, is it gives us an opportunity to play with the lines a little bit. But it also gives them a chance to show us that they can be effective and efficient at different positions," said Vincent. "We're going to teach them and help them along the way. But if they can do it, and do it right, it's a big plus for them."
With three goaltenders on the roster, 2016 sixth round pick Mikhail Berdin (14-12-3, 0.925 save percentage with Sioux Falls in the USHL) will get the start in goal for the Jets tonight, with puck drop set for 9:30 pm CT.
-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com
JETS (0-0-0) vs. CANUCKS (0-0-0)
JET TO WATCH: Six-foot-seven, 228-pound Logan Stanley is entering the new year with a national championship on his belt, having won the Memorial Cup with the host Windsor Spitfires back in the spring. Stanley, the 18th pick in the 2016 Draft, appeared in only 35 regular-season games with the club before suffering a knee injury that kept him out of action until the tournament began May 19. Now, following an off-season trade to the Kitchener Rangers for his final season in junior, the Waterloo, Ontario native is eager to make an early impression and get the year off on the right foot.
"It was a strange year with my first NHL camp, then going back [to junior], playing well, and then suffering an injury like that, it was tough, both physically and mentally," Stanley said. "To get through it and enjoy the result we did at the end of the regular season, it was awesome."
CANUCK TO WATCH: Brock Boeser finished the 2016-17 season with the Canucks after an impressive two years with the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks. Boeser, the 23rd pick in the 2015 Draft, had 16 goals and 34 points in only 32 games with UND before traveling to Vancouver and playing the final nine games of the regular season where he scored four goals, including his first during his NHL debut in his home state of Minnesota. Boeser is likely to crack the Canucks' opening-night roster and play a key role throughout the upcoming season, and is one of the most NHL-ready prospects taking part this week in Penticton.
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com