Sitting down with Joey Kenward from Canucks TV, TSN’s Bob McKenzie said, “you could tell…these guys were premier prospects.”
“These guys” McKenzie was talking about are Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk, two of the Canucks’ five 2013 draft picks who played in the Young Stars Classic in Penticton last weekend. The Canucks team of draft picks and invitees played four games against other teams of NHL prospects. The Canucks beat San Jose, Edmonton and Winnipeg and lost to Calgary.
The tournament, which started in 2010, gives NHL teams an opportunity to see their prospects play together and make further decisions such as who to invite to the main training camp. The Canucks got a chance to get a better look at the five players they drafted this year – Horvat, Shinkaruk, Cole Cassels, Jordan Subban and Miles Liberati.
Horvat, who was the end product of the Cory Schneider trade with New Jersey, scored the first goal of the tournament for the Canucks (his only goal of the tournament) against San Jose in a 3-2 win, displaying some chemistry with the Canucks’ other first rounder, Shinkaruk.
“I think John Tortorella is going to love him,” McKenzie said after the first game. “Bo Horvat is going to go to camp and John Tortorella is going to be blown away by the maturity of a kid who’s just been drafted…But it’s still a big jump.” McKenzie seemed to want to stress the point that these prospects are good and the Canucks need more youth in their lineup, but the transition into the NHL is not going to be an easy one and should not necessarily be rushed.
While Horvat scored the first goal of the tournament for the Canucks, Shinkaruk’s only goal was the last goal of the tournament; he scored the game winner off a rebound in a 2-1 win over Winnipeg. Shinkaruk also proved to be effective on the power play. Two of his four points, including his one goal, were with the man advantage.
“He’s contagious,” Travis Green, head coach of the Canucks Young Stars team and the AHL’s Utica Comets told The Province. “As a coach, you know he’s excited to play the game. You always want to see players who like coming to the rink.” Shinkaruk and Horvat both played three of the four games.
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the tournament however was Cassels, drafted 85th overall. The only non-invitee to play in all four games, Cassels was spoken highly of after each and every game, proving himself to be a strong, all around player. He had one goal and two assists, both of which were on the power play; technically, one of his assists should have belonged to Niklas Jensen, but that does not take away from the effect Cassels had on the game. He made big hits and served eight minutes in the penalty box over the course of the four games.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Cassels told Canucks TV, “but I think I’m adjusting well to the speed of the game. It’s bigger guys, stronger guys, but I like it, I’m having fun.”
While he wasn’t eye-poppingly spectacular, and did not make toe drags like Horvat or sometimes risky (but entertaining) plays like Shinkaruk, Cassels is a good player. Green said all that needed to be said in a post-game interview with Canucks TV after the win against Edmonton: “I thought Cassels was real good tonight.”
As for the two defencemen, Subban and Liberati, neither made a big splash. Subban seemed cool, calm and collected in the first game, but wavered in the loss against Calgary. He contributed in some rushes, but did not make it onto the score sheet. Liberati played only two games, the fewest of the Canucks’ 2013 draft picks.
The Canucks are now reducing the prospects roster, narrowing it down to around 20 players from the 30 that attended the Young Stars tournament. Those that remain will make their way to the Canucks’ main training camp later this week. It is possible that Horvat, Shinkaruk or Cassels could find their way onto the Canucks roster this season, but there is no need to rush these three 18 year olds, who headline the forwards on the Canucks’ prospect list along with Brendan Gaunce and Niklas Jensen, showing some promise for a bright future as a part of the Vancouver Canucks.