For the last seven years the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, and Winnipeg Jets have met in Penticton for the annual Young Start Tournament. Players who have played less than 100 pro games in each organization are eligible to attend. This leads to large age differences, and thus differences in expectations between players.
Since this tournament is just three games, a good or bad tournament won’t make or break a player’s career, or change their trajectory. There is still a lot of hockey to be played for these youngsters, so this is merely a glimpse of their skill and development.
Here is a breakdown of the positive and negative standout moments from the tournament, broken down by team.
The Flames first forward line of Foo-Jankowski-Mangiapane was the most dominate forward line in the tournament, as they should be because they are among the older players invited.
Spencer Foo was more physical than expected and has a great shot; he was the QB on the power play as he manned the point. Mark Jankowski loved to hang around the slot. He has a heavy shot and quick hands in tight. Andrew Mangiapane showed great speed and vison, and was great at carrying the puck into the offensive zone. Jankowski and Foo both have opportunities to make the NHL roster.
The 6-7 Hunter Smith was, again, one of the disappointments. The Flames put him out on the power play to stand in front of the net, wasting a spot a skilled player could have taken. Every time he touched the puck, it was either lost or the puck problem was transferred to another player via bad pass. The former 2nd round pick keeps getting chances and never seizes them.
Mathew Phillips wasn’t scared to go to the front of the net and was mixing it up more than expected for a 5’7” player. He was creative and quick, and was usually the guy making things happen for his line. The smooth skating Dillon Dube took some time to get going but by the third game he was one of the best players for the Flames. He scored a great goal coming off the half boards, and showed an ability to create plays. He has an accurate shot and can dangle at full speed. Zach Fisher was noticeable getting in a few fights and always willing to play the body. He has a good shot and skated well with the puck.
Defenceman Josh Healy was the most physical player in the tournament. He made noticeably hard hits every shift, as you could hear the boards rattle and the crowd gasp every time he delivered. However, he put himself out of position in an attempt to make a hit on a few occasions. His defensive play was decent and I believe he will get a spot in Stockton in the coming season.
Rasmus Andersson and his defensive partner Juuso Valimaki were solid. Andersson played poised and confident, and no one could get by him on the rush. He has a great first pass out of the defensive zone, and set up a few goals in the offensive zone. He is a solid right-handed defenseman and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him being the first call up when injuries occur. Valimaki did not look like an 18-year-old out there as he played with stature and confidence beyond his years.
Tyler Parsons the Flames’ highly touted goalie prospect had a mediocre game. He has style similar to Jonathan Quick, making many saves out of position that would be highlight reel fashion. Nick Schnieder and Mason McDonald both put in an average performance. Mcdonald played solid for the most part, but made a couple of gaffs that lead to goals against.
Logan Stanley didn’t stand out as much as expected in this tournament. The lanky defenseman has a hard slap shot from the point, but besides that wasn’t too noticeable. Tucker Poolman was the most impressive defencemen on the Jets’ roster. He was great a keeping the puck in the offensive zone, he was effective at pinching, and showed offensive ability.
Mathieu Sevigny was all over the puck, making plays, and delivering big hits. He wasn’t scared to mix it up in front of the net either. Michael Spacek revealed his great offensive instincts by carrying the puck into the offensive zone and driving to the net. Jansen Harkins was one of the Jets’ best players and looks like a pure goal scorer. He has great hands, made some smart passes, and took some great shots. Rickard Hugg also stood out by using his quick feet to find open ice. However, he failed to convert a few opportunities in close.
Goaltender Mikhail Berdin made one of the best passes of the tournament sending one of his teammates on a breakaway from the far blue line. He was also solid in net, making stops look easy with his strong positional play.
The most noticeable player for the Canucks was Olli Juolevi, but not for positive reasons. He was walked around multiple times, had trouble defending his own end, and had a hard time moving the puck out of the zone. He seemed disinterested and wasn’t engaged; not what you would expect from a fifth overall pick. Aaron Irving played as Juolevi’s partner and he had a good showing. He had a decent shot and was good at breaking up neutral zone plays. Cole Candella was the most impressive defencemen in his own zone. He cleared pucks and was able to break up rushes.
Brock Boeser can shoot the puck. His shot is NHL caliber and his release is unbelievably quick. Boeser is a player that needs the puck on his stick, and needed more skilled line mates to get it to him, as he found the open ice often. We may see him in the NHL this year, where he will be able to score at least 20 goals with the proper ice time.
Yan-Pavel Laplante was the most impressive Canuck throughout the entire tournament. He was the hardest worker on the ice in all three games. He threw some big hits, fought Hunter Smith, and made some remarkable plays in the offensive zone. He played his way up from the ECHL to the AHL last season and looks to be working his way to a permanent spot. Michael Carcone had a great final game of the tournament as he used his quick release and ability to burn defenders wide, in order to take the puck to the net. The Kelowna Rocket Kole Lind was also impressive as he made smart plays and was great at moving the puck to his teammates.
Griffin Milino uses his agility and explosive acceleration to make plays out of nothing, and is always around the net when the puck is there. Brett McKenzie was an impactful player, scoring a few goals and always involved in the play when he is on the ice.
In net Thatcher Demko played two solid games, making all of his stops look easy. As expected, he was the best goalie at the tournament. Michael DiPietro played a good game against the Flames, despite getting five goals scored against him. Most of the goals were not his fault as the Canucks’ defense couldn’t handle the Flames’ offense.
Kailer Yamamoto, who is often compared to Johnny Gaudreau, impressed with quick hands, creative play, and blistering speed. Lane Bauer was also notable with a nose for the net and playmaking ability. He led the Oilers in points for the tournament with his offensive instincts. The captain, Joseph Gambardella, was also impactful as he orchestrated a couple of give and goes, one which found the back of the net. Gambardella was also a presence in front of the net and showed quick hands getting his stick on the rebounds. Krill Maksimov scored an overtime winning goal, and was dangerous all tournament with his quick release and offensive prowess.
The most impressive defencemen of the tournament were Ethan Bear and Ryan Mantha. They both possess hard shots and took every opportunity to shoot, converting them into goals on the power play. Mantha wasn’t afraid to use his 6-5, 225 lbs to punish his opponents and Bear didn’t shy away from the physical play either. Caleb Jones was a great skater but did not impress as much as the other two. Ziyat Paigin had extraordinary shot power, which broke Demko’s mask, and later in the match he put a one-timer past Demko.
Dylan Wells played calm and collected and made some good saves. We will hear more of him as his Peterborough Petes are Memorial Cup contenders. Shane Starrett made a strong appearance by keeping the Oilers in the game after getting peppered with shots from the Canucks.
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