Canucks Prospects Shine in Penticton

The Young Stars Classic featured the best young prospects from each of the NHL's Western Canadian teams.

On September 12 to the 15th, the Vancouver Canucks hosted their annual Young Stars Classic at the South Okanagan Event Centre in beautiful Penticton, BC. The tourney featured all of the best young prospects from the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets, and the host Vancouver Canucks. Over the course of the four-day event, a total of six games were played, with each club playing each other once.

A total of 12 first round draft picks played in this year’s contest, with Winnipeg & Edmonton bringing two, Calgary three, and Vancouver with five. Notable Canucks prospects included Hunter Shinkaruk, Nicklas Jensen, Brendan Gaunce, and Bo Horvat. Visibly not in attendance was first round draft pick Jake Virtanen, who was out recovering from shoulder surgery. Other noteworthy prospects participating included Sam Bennett of Calgary, Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse of Edmonton, and Nikolaj Ehlers of Winnipeg.

The Canucks showcased some fairly high level talents as the hosting club, with five players on the roster having played a game in either the NHL or AHL before. This number, however, did not include goaltenders Austin Lotz and Jackson Whistle, who both played in the Western Hockey League last season.

Over the course of the four days, the Vancouver club went 0-3, but were able to extend their first two games into overtime. Some attribute these dismal results to the young team’s lacking defensive play, and the fact that top prospect Bo Horvat did not record a point in each of the three contests.

Along with their dismal record, the boys in blue, green, and white did not chart many points. Curtis Valk had the most points on the team with three, which came courtesy of three goals. Hunter Shinkaruk had the most shots, with thirteen in all three games. Finally, Dane Fox and Frank Corrado had the third and fourth most penalty minutes in the tournament, with seventeen each.

While the Canucks did not win any games at the tournament, it is not a big loss for them. The Penticton tournament gave the team’s prospects the opportunity to play against other players their level without being overshadowed by big veteran players. It also gave the club a chance to decide who will be sent back to their junior hockey team, and who will move on to the Canucks’ AHL affiliate team, the Utica Comets. Hopefully, fans can understand from this that winning isn’t everything, and that the journey is just as important.