Canucks Young Stars Classic Returns

Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Chris Tanev, Cam Fowler and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – those are just five of 40 players who have competed in the Canucks Young Stars Classic and have continued to play in the NHL. So have Mikael Backlund, Zach Redmond, Aaron Volpatti and Magnus Paajarvi, just to name a few.

After a one year hiatus caused by the NHL lockout, the Young Stars Classic, prestigious NHL prospects tournament, is returning to Penticton, British Columbia for the third time, running from September 5th to 9th at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

“The Young Stars Classic has been very well received by our NHL partner clubs, who also participated the first two years,” Stan Smyl told Penticton Western News. “It’s a great opportunity to showcase the game’s top prospects in a competitive environment in front of passionate fans.”

The participating teams include the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets and the tournament consists of eight games in a round-robin formation. The five teams will have a combined seven first round picks from the 2013 NHL Draft available to play, and the tournament is an opportunity for teams to get a sense of what stage their prospects are at.

“We are pleased to have our prospects attend the Young Stars Classic in Penticton for the second time,” a press release by Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff stated. “This is a prime opportunity for us to get a closer look at our prospects in game situations as well as evaluate their development over the summer months.”

Canucks GM Mike Gillis thinks the same of this near-NHL experience for young players.

“This is a great opportunity to assess prospects and their development in a competitive environment with the support of passionate fans,” Gillis told canucks.com.

This event will be especially important for the Canucks, as several of their prospects could potentially make the starting line up in October. Prospects such as Frank Corrado and Nicklas Jensen, who played a few games each with the Canucks during the 2013 season should be there. Corrado played in three regular season games and four playoff games, while Jensen played in two regular season games. Brendan Gaunce, the Canucks’ first round pick from 2012 should also be on the roster.

One of the most successful homegrown Canucks players is Chris Tanev, who also played in the Young Stars Classic and is a perfect example of exactly how the tournament can impact participating NHL teams’ prospect systems.

“(Tanev) was very unknown to a lot of our staff,” Smyl told The Province. “The only ones who had seen him were myself and Jonathan Bates, another one of our pro scouts. No one else had really any idea of what kind of player he’d be. He walks in and you look at him and say: ‘Really? This kid is going to play? But then you watch him in a game and everyone said ‘Wow.’”

Chris Tanev has now played 92 regular season games and 10 playoff games for the Canucks, and is one of their most dependable and solid defenders, sure to be a key member of the Canucks’ core in the future.

The Canucks however, are not known for their prospects system, and as other players on the team are aging, gaps are opening up for new, younger players. With players competing for a spot on their respective NHL teams, this years Young Stars Classic will be another highly competitive event, which is being expanded into more than just an average hockey tournament.

“We felt it was imperative to expand the event beyond the ice surface,” Canucks hockey administration director Jonathan Wall told Penticton Western News. 

Along with the eight games there will be a Canucks Alumni game, a Canucks Business Leaders’ Day, a Minor Hockey Day with a Party on the Plaza and skills and development camps for minor hockey players and a Canucks Alumni and team personnel meet and greet.

“That’s why we built this facility,” the acting mayor for Penticton, Garry Litke, told Penticton Western News. “It has a huge economic impact to our community. The last time the Young Stars were here, there was extensive coverage on TSN. I happened to be traveling in the northern part of the province during one of the days and everybody was tuned to TSN because of what was happening in Penticton. I’m looking forward to that kind of exposure once again when they come back.”

The 2013 Canucks Young Stars Classic promises to not only be an event that showcases the skill of young players and assists NHL teams, but an event that will impact the community of Penticton as well.

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