It is going to be a fun year here in Vancouver. While the writers and pundits will have their own stories to push and uncover, there will be stories that will shine through on their own.
Players will push their way onto the stage with their play. And we will talk endlessly about it, and eagerly click the link of the latest batch of stories the hockey season brings.
Great, isn't it ?
It all began tonight in Penticton, as the Canucks opened the Young Stars tourney with a 4-3 loss in overtime. It was a fairly entertaining game, with plenty of action, some huge hits and pretty goals, and in the end, the Oilers had a couple more guys that made plays. A game that had the Oilers outshooting the Canucks by a 7 to 1 rate in the first, and where the final shots were 33 to 25. ( here is the game sheet from the mothership )
But let's face it. It is the Young Stars. We are hear to figure out who did what, and no one cares about the results. Tonight, I am going to give you the players that stood out, and whether they started making that impression on the new bosses.
- Big Bo' . Bo Horvat was credited with 2 shots, and a - 1. But that simply does not encapsulate his game tonight. He was making 200 ' plays in the first period against a relentless wave of pressure ( well, maybe not that bad, but it was pretty one sided in the 1st ! ), and he was one of the main guys leading the Canucks 3rd period, ( a 14-2 1st period for the Oil was answered with a 14-9 3rd period, where the host pushed the play for most of the period. ). Whether setting up someone, making the smart play, it was Bo and his line ( with Shinkaruk and Fox, mainly )that was the best on the ice for the Blue and Green.
- Whole Lotz of Saves . Good Lord. What a performance by the free agent invitee, most recently with the Everett Silvertips In that first period, he was the only reason the game was close, and was standing on his head all night. 2 on 1's, cross ice feeds that required getting all the way to the other side, rebound saves, coverage saves, just being in the right place saves, he had it all going. He stoned a lot of guys on great chances, and was really not to be blamed for any of the goals that got in. Austin Lotz. Remember the name. Sure, it was only a prospect tourny. But that was impressive.
- No, Not That Valk. I missed exactly the marriage thread, but it turns out that Curtis Valk is not related to one time Canuck Gary Valk in any way. It is Kelly Hrudey with whom he shares a family tree. Either way, he led the way on the score sheet, and made a good impression himself. His first goal was all ability, with a snipe shot off of a Pro Toe Drag that used the defenseman perfectly as a screen. The second was all about reading the pay and getting to a puck off of a rebound. Both showed a guy that can play. At least he showed he sure can in his first opportunity. Like Big Bo', he was pretty good on the penalty kill that got plenty of practice on this night. He was picked the 3rd star on the night. ( though, whomever picked those was nuts to not find a spot for the goalie. Come on ! ) Well done kid, you opened some eyes too...
- The BEST Subban. Remember when the Canucks drafted Jordan Subban, and big brother PK said he was "better than I was at his age"? Wow. A blast of a hip check on one of the Joneses ( the Oilers have a set of Twins of their own, one signed and one not. Not how you do the Twin Thing Mac T ) Poise all night under pressure, both in breaking up plays in his own end, rushing the puck , and contributing the same poise on the only power play that looked worth a shit, the last one where they tied the score. Only one shot on the stat sheet, and a dash one on the stat sheet did not portray how PK's little brother did on this night.
- ANOTHER Swedish Defenceman ? Anton Cederholm was the guy that showed best on the scoresheet, stats wise. On a night where his team was under pressure a fair bit, he was ( with his partner Jeramie Blaine, who also was a +2 ), the Swede showed his hockey sense and skills with a fair bit of regularity. Another defenseman that showed poise in his own end, his penalty was for being "too much man", as he seemed to have the knack of being in the right place.
- Danish Delight. With 5 shots, Niklas Jensen led his team, and had several chances to hit the scoresheet on the night. He threw his weight around, and looked good on the power play ( when it wasn't "meh" ) as the shooter, finding the spots to get the shot off from.
- How Was Fox Undrafted ? I am glad Jim Benning is the new boss. But, damn Mike Gillis, if Dane Fox is going to be this good, I doff my chapeau mon ami GMMG. He had a goal that had goalscorer written all over it, on a nice Shinkaruk set up, and showed that ability that you can just tell when you see it. It is the ability that says "sniper". He had 4 shots, and together with Hunter Shinkaruk and Horvat, was the best line for the hosts.
- Hunting The Puck. You could tell Hunter Shinkaruk was happy to be playing again, and he might have been trying a bit too hard. But his skills were on show with the sublime pass to Fox on his goal. He meant to get it there, I think. He was all around the net and the puck on this night, and while his stats ( 1 assist, -1, 3 shots, 2 PIM ) reflected that, I think that we will see even better in the next one. Now that he has gotten eh jitters out.
- Honorable Mentions. Brendan Gaunce, who showed flashes ( there was one play that screamed power forward, where he went in the corner, had the puck, and the wraparound attempt all in one motion...smooottttthhh ), and probably graded out better on the team sheets. Klarc Wilson. I thought he hit on James was high, and he knew that, as a guy with his skill set looking to get noticed, it was his chance to do so. Gene Principe really tried to sell "shoulder to the head", but I thought the hit was wrong by Conor Boland. It looked like headhunting, and it was met with swift and savage retribution. Mike Zalewski. He might have been the hardest working Canuck Young Star along the boards, and did a lot of good PK work on this night as well.
- The Other Guys. Marco Roy. All 3 of his shots were dangerous. The two Russians, Yakimov and Tkachev, The big one showed great hands on his goal, and the smaller Yakimov was shifty and made great passes all night. Connor Jones, who was the better of the Jones Twins. There were quite a few others, but we recap Canuck Young Stars here ! #lol
It sure was great to watch some hockey, even if it was just online. The next one is on Sunday at 2 pm versus the Jets. I am not sure on how that one is airing. Hopefully, if it is online, it won't freeze in the middle of a power play in the third period, like this one did.
Preseason for everyone... ;-)
Now, I have enjoyed watching this series throughout the summer on Canucks.com, and I leave you with Jack, the dazzler on the 2023 Young Stars Tourney. He sure has a lot of MVP awards !