The kids are back in school and the hockey kids are back at school. Their school is called the Young Stars tournament and it's appropriately named because of all the 'young stars' that make their way through this four-day event in Penticton.
It's a real chance to impress and it's done in a picturesque relaxed setting blocks from the beach. July and August is all about sun drenched vacationers soaking up the sand and the surf for weeks at a time. The Young Stars Tournament is just a long weekend of hockey but they aren't so much tourists that attend but true hockey fans wanting to get a first glance at the next great thing in their organization.
For Edmonton, a look at the roster has one name that stands out. It does for many reasons. He's a first round pick 22nd overall. He had 99 points last season. He's got a great name: Kailer Yamamoto.
What you may notice most is his height (5-foot-8) and 153 pounds. Nowadays the way kids seem to eat and grow those numbers could be attributed to a kid in junior high. Instead attach them to a kid in junior hockey who was a star. Doesn't matter what league you're in, and especially one as difficult as the Western Hockey League, when you put up a Wayne Gretzky for point totals in your draft year that's impressive. Kid has also proven he's not shy and will mix it up with 46 penalty minutes. No shortage of eyes will be fixated on the Spokane sniper who grew up training and learning the game from Tampa Bay's Tyler Johnson.
At the opposite end of the tape measure is Ziyat Paigin. He stands 6-foot-6, 209 pounds and was born in Russia. He's got the makings, in a few years, to have the build of Zdeno Chara. I'm not suggesting his game will be that good but you can't teach size and he has an abundance of it. In 2015 Connor McDavid was drafted first overall on night one. The next day Edmonton made a swap to seal up their position in net by getting Cam Talbot.
By the time most people were headed to the beach in South Florida the Oilers were calling Paigin's name. In fact only two more names were called. Tate Olson at 210 went to Vancouver and John Dahlstrom went to Chicago at 211. Patric Hornqvist was the last player chosen his draft year so was Jonathan Ericsson. Both have gone on to win Stanley Cups and become good serviceable NHL'ers. Who knows what the Oilers have uncovered in Paigin.
In fact, who knows where all these kids are headed and what the organization will uncover. There are those expected to one day play in the NHL. Others are bound for the minor leagues. Some can only hope to scratch out a living while they wait for their dream to become reality. It starts in Penticton with a tournament bringing with it a Western based bias with Calgary, Vancouver and Winnipeg. For Edmonton of the 28 players on the roster a total of 8 were born in Alberta(one is Tyler Benson who won't be on the ice but we wish him a speedy recovery from sports hernia surgery).
There are 12 kids invited to camp. A couple more are on AHL deals and a couple other one's were signed as free agents. This tournament has been a great way for these kids and teams to kick off their seasons and I would expect that to be the case again in 2017. Bring your sunblock for the beach and your programs for the ice as hockey school is now in session.