There was a common theme among the Winnipeg Jets prospects and coaching staff this morning at the South Okanagan Events Centre: excitement.
Tonight, the Jets will open the 2016 Young Stars Classic against up-and-coming players in the Calgary Flames organization to kick off the sixth year of the event.
"I'm for sure excited to get the first game underway," said 2016 first-round selection Logan Stanley. "I'm a little bit nervous to throw on the sweater for the first time in game action, but I think the guys are excited and so am I."
To help with the small amount of nerves that may be running through the dressing room, coach Pascal Vincent is using the experience he has on the squad. Stanley will be paired on the blue line with Nelson Nogier, who played at the tournament in 2015.
"The guys that have a little bit more experience, that's one of their responsibilities - help the first-year guys to just get used to what it takes to be a pro player," said Vincent. "It's creating a team chemistry right away, and having some pride wearing that jersey."
Video: PREGAME | Pascal Vincent
Another experienced player in that role is tournament veteran Jimmy Lodge. The 21-year-old winger split last season with the Manitoba Moose and Tulsa Oilers. Besides the 57 games of professional experience Lodge will bring to the ice, he also brings three years worth of Young Stars Classic experience.
"He's a guy that can skate and can bring a lot of energy on the ice," said Vincent. "We want to see that. We want to see him helping the other players, and we want to see a guy that can make a difference in the game."
He'll have an opportunity to make a difference, playing with 2015 first-round picks Kyle Connor and Jack Roslovic. Connor registered 71 points in 38 games with Michigan in the NCAA last season, while Roslovic finished second on his team in scoring as a freshman, with 26 points in 36 games.
Video: PREGAME | Kyle Connor
"It's exciting every time you get to put on the Jets uniform. I think it's going to be a fun weekend and a good learning experience as well," said Connor. "It's tough (to build chemistry), but you have to take advantage of these practices you have. We had a good one yesterday, and really capitalized on that."
Vincent said his two goaltenders will split tonight's game. Jamie Phillips, fresh off signing a two-year entry-level contract with Winnipeg this summer, will get the start. Mikhail Berdin, the sixth-round selection in the 2016 NHL Draft, will play the second half.
Puck drop is 6 pm CT and all games will be live-streamed on WinnipegJets.com.
MORNING SKATE NOTEBOOK
There were no changes from the lines the Jets prospects skated in yesterday at MTS Centre:
Brendan Lemieux - Chase De Leo - Jiri Fronk
Michael Spacek - Jansen Harkins - Brandon Denham
Axel Blomqvist - Matteo Gennaro - Jordy Stallard
Matt Murphy - Luke Green
Tyson Wilson - Jan Kostalek
Logan Stanley - Nelson Nogier
Calgary will have their sixth overall pick in the 2016 Draft, Matthew Tkachuk in the line-up tonight. Tkachuk, who had 107 points in 57 games for the London Knights in the OHL last year, will be on a line with Mark Jankowski and Morgan Klimchuk. The full Flames line-up is as follows:
Matthew Tkachuk - Mark Jankowski - Morgan Klimchuk
Andrew Mangiapane - Ryan Lomberg - Eetu Tuulola
Brett Pollock - Dillon Dube - Austin Carroll
Hunter Smith - Dennis Kravchenko - Matthew Phillips
Ryan Culkin - Rasmus Andersson
Oliver Kylington - Roman Dyukov
Keegan Kanzig - Kenney Morrison