Canucks 2015 Young Stars Tournament Preview

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Image: Vancouver Canucks

The wait for the hockey season is almost over as the Young Stars tournament begins tomorrow in Penticton. Once again the Canucks, Jets, Flames and Oilers will send their top prospects to battle it out in the Okanagan.

This year’s tournament should be extra special as it will be the first appearance of Connor McDavid in an Oilers jersey. But Canucks fans may be more excited to make the trek to Penticton to see the latest crop of up and comers in blue and green.

This year the Canucks will ice four first round picks, with Hunter Shinkaruk, Brendan Gaunce, Jared McCann and Jake Virtanen suiting up. This will be the first tournament for Virtanen, the 6th overall pick in 2014, as he missed last year while recovering from a shoulder injury. McCann has been cleared to participate after taking a hard hit at the World Junior evaluation camp earlier this summer.

Here is the full roster (click image for enlarged version):

young-stars-2015

There are a few notable omissions for the Canucks, with Goaltender Thatcher Demko and recent first round pick Brock Boeser unable to attend due to NCAA regulations. Last year’s 3rd round pick, Nikita Tryamkin and this year’s 6th rounder, Lukas Jasek, will not be in Penticton because their seasons in Europe have already begun.

All games will be held at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton. Here is the Canucks’ schedule:

Date
Time
Game
Fri, Sep 11 7:30 PM vs Oilers
Sun, Sep 13 2:00 PM vs Jets
Mon, Sep 14 3:30 PM vs Flames

 

In particular, fans should keep a close eye on Cole Cassels, Jared McCann, Jordan Subban and Ben Hutton in this tournament.

Here are some other players that I’ll have my eye on:

Hunter Shinkaruk

This will be Hunter Shinkaruk’s third Young Stars tournament, so it should be expected that he will have to help lead the Canucks. As mentioned in our Canucks Top 10 Countdown, Shinkaruk had a good first pro season rounding out his 200-foot game. The Calgary native possesses high-end offensive skill that he should be able to display in Penticton.

This year will be huge for Shinkaruk to show that he can still make an offensive impact while being responsible defensively. The former first round pick had a full summer of training which included some time with a few of the league’s best players like Sidney Crosby, Nathan Mackinnon and Kyle Okposo.

A good Young Stars tournament will be a great jump start for Shinkaruk. If he follows that up with a good training camp, we may see the Calgary native as an injury call-up sometime this season.

Guillaume Brisebois

As the player drafted with the pick acquired in the Eddie Lack trade, Guillaume Brisebois’ development will be scrutinized more than a typical 3rd round draft pick. Brisebois had an impressive development camp in July, and the young defenceman will look to build on that in Penticton. Since Brisebois is just 18, there are some parts to his game that he needs to work on, but Canucks GM Jim Benning is already impressed:

The first thing is his mobility is really good and he’s smart and boxes out. He can either skate the puck out of the zone or makes a good first pass. He still needs to get physically stronger, but as far the hockey sense and the skating, he has all that.

Due to his low offensive numbers, some eyebrows were raised when the Canucks selected Brisebois in the 3rd round. However, after looking deeper into it, you can see why the Canucks were interested in him.

His junior team, Acadie-Bathurst Titans, was the second worst offensive team in the CHL. Brisebois contributed to 19.3% of his team’s points, which is an impressive number. If the Titans weren’t so anemic offensively, Brisebois likely would’ve had a much higher point total.

Despite being the second youngest full-time player on his team, the St. Hilaire native was named team captain. So he also has those elusive leadership skills that teams love.

As you can see, after some deep diving, there is a lot to like about Brisebois as a player. Penticton will be a great learning experience for the young mobile defenceman.

Jake Virtanen

Image: NHL

Image: NHL

The Canucks’ top prospect, Jake Virtanen, will make his Young Stars debut in Penticton. As mentioned above, Virtanen had to miss last year’s tournament due to recovering from shoulder surgery.

Due to his size, Virtanen will be able to dominate physically in a tournament like this, but I’m interested to see him make an impact on the scoresheet. For a player like Virtanen, who will be challenging for a roster spot with the Canucks, it is expected that he should make a significant impact on this tournament.

Under the guidance of the Canucks, the Abbotsford native has been training all summer and understands to not look too far ahead:

“For me, just obviously getting stronger and losing a lot of body fat was important,” the 6-foot-1, 212-pound Virtanen said. “I’ve put in a lot of hard work this summer and I think so far it has paid off.

“It’s obviously in the back of my mind that I could be on the Canucks this year as a rookie. It’s pretty cool. But you just have to take things day by day and not look ahead too far.”

Look for Virtanen to make that impact physically early on Friday night, and then hopefully add his name to the scoresheet with some points soon after.

Dmitry Zhukenov

Image: IIHF

Image: IIHF

After playing his entire hockey career in Russia, young winger Dmitry Zhukenov will be plying his trade in the QMJHL this year and is hoping to find his footing here in North America. Selected 10th overall by Chicoutimi Sagueneens in the CHL Import Draft, Zhukenov has started well with 6 points (3-3-6) in 5 QMJHL pre-season games.

The Young Stars Tournament should be a great measuring stick for him to see how he stacks up against some of the CHL’s best. Canucks fans didn’t know much about the Omsk, Russia native when he was drafted, but he has great offensive instincts. If he can add some strength and get used to the North American game, the Canucks may have something in the recent 4th round pick.

 

The Young Stars tournament has been a fantastic addition to Canucks fans calendars. It allows fans to get an early glimpse at the young players competing against their peers. It also is a great development tool and measuring stick for Canucks players and management.

Hockey season is back!

Penguins Baby

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Ryan Biech Hockey writer for Vancity Buzz
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