Canucks’ next wave hits Okanagan
Like the area’s fine wines, sparkling rookies to get a taste of spirited action
Bo Horvat: Drafted ninth overall by the Vancouver Canucks this June, he's the only return from the Cory Schneider trade and you can bet all Canuck eyes will be on the London Knights centre.
Photograph by: Mark van Manen, PNG
PENTICTON — Hope is on the way to Penticton, but hope — the feeling, not the town — is really what’s happening this week for the Vancouver Canucks and their prospects at the Young Stars Classic.
The Canucks have brought 30 players to the rookie tournament here and they’ll be challenged in four games against rookies from the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets and San Jose Sharks.
Canucks management hopes that 2013 first-round picks Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk are the real deal, that previous first-rounders Brendan Gaunce and Niklas Jensen have grown as players, that Frank Corrado continues to show maturity beyond his years and that goaltender Joacim Eriksson is the winner he was in Sweden last season.
Lots of questions, lots of hope.
“This tournament is an exceptional forum for us,” noted Canucks assistant general manager Laurence Gilman. “It gives us a chance to see our prospects play and perform against their peers and it also gives us the opportunity to see them play with each other, particularly in the case of guys who are junior age and will be going back.
“Additionally, it gives players who are coming here for the first time, in some cases from Europe, an opportunity to get their feet wet and get some familiarity with their teammates before the season starts.”
This is the third version of the Young Stars tournament. It began in 2010 but was cancelled last season because of the NHL lockout.
“It was a success from the start and everyone who was in the first one, except for Anaheim, decided to stay in,” Gilman said. “From what we’ve been told, everyone is looking to keep this going for years to come.”
The Canuck prospects will get down to work Wednesday with a practice, to be run by Utica Comets head coach Travis Green and his assistants Nolan Baumgartner and Paul Jerrard. Their first game is Thursday night against the Sharks, followed by a Friday nighter against the Flames, and then matinees Sunday against Oilers (2 p.m.) and Monday against the Jets (noon).
There will be all kinds of players trying to make an impression, from first-round picks to mid- and late-round picks, to tryout candidates. Here are some prospects, both on the Canucks and the other teams, worth watching:
1. Bo Horvat, 18, drafted ninth overall by Vancouver in 2013. Horvat is the only return from the Cory Schneider trade and you can bet all Canuck eyes will be on the London Knights centre. By the way, have you seen his top-10 goals video? Some beauties in there.
2. Hunter Shinkaruk, 18, drafted 24th overall by Vancouver in 2013. After filling the net the last two seasons for the Medicine Hat Tigers, Shinkaruk will be looking to prove he can score at any level, not just major junior.
3. Cole Cassels, 18, drafted 85th overall by Vancouver in 2013. His dad Andrew, a one-time Canuck, made a living dishing to his wingers with his soft hands. Is Cole an Andrew clone?
4. Jordan Subban, 18, drafted 115th overall by Vancouver in 2013. Like his big bro P.K., Jordan is an offensive defenceman but, unlike P.K., he doesn’t have NHL size. Can 5-9 Jordan overcome the ‘small’ factor and produce from the back end?
5. Joacim Eriksson, 23, signed as a free agent in June by Vancouver. Eriksson comes from Sweden with a winning pedigree after a championship season with Skelleftea. How quickly can he adapt to North American ice? Better still, can he adapt at all?
6. Cain Franson, 20, signed to an amateur tryout by Vancouver. The Canucks have been criticized for never drafting a Vancouver Giant but they are giving this Giant left-winger an opportunity. Franson is a nifty offensive forward who relies on skill and hockey sense, not brawn, to get the job done.
7. Nic Petan, 18, drafted 43rd overall by Winnipeg in 2013. A local product from Delta, the diminutive Petan put up huge numbers last season — 120 points in 71 games — for the Portland Winterhawks and shared the WHL scoring title with teammate Brendan Leipsic. Can he rip it up here?
8. Sean Monahan, 18, drafted sixth overall by Calgary in 2013. The 6-2 centre was selected three spots ahead of Horvat in what is supposed to be an exceptional draft class. So just how good is he?
9. Darnell Nurse, 18, drafted seventh overall by Edmonton in 2013. The son of former CFL wide receiver Richard Nurse, Darnell is a crucial pick by the Oilers, who have plenty of talent up front but need a stud defenceman. He had 41 points and 116 PIMs last season for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
10. Eric Comrie, 18, drafted 59th overall by Winnipeg in 2013. His father Bill once owned the B.C. Lions and half-brother Mike was a skill forward. But Eric stops pucks and is on Hockey Canada’s radar for the world junior team.
ICE CHIPS: Two other Vancouver Giants will be competing in Penticton, defenceman Brett Kulak (Flames) and right-winger Jackson Houck (Oilers). Kulak was drafted 105th overall in 2012 while Houck went 94th overall in 2013 ... Dave Gagner has left the Canucks after five seasons as their director of player development. He is joining Bobby Orr’s player agency, the Orr Hockey Group. Said Gilman about a replacement: “We are currently considering several suitable candidates.”
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