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Young Stars 2016: Forwards

We have already looked at the D and the Goalies, how does the forward group look?

Cassels fighting for position, just like he will be this year at Young Stars!
Cassels fighting for position, just like he will be this year at Young Stars!
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

In part one of our look at the Young Stars 2016 roster, we examined the Goaltenders and the Defensemen who are attending the Young Stars tournament this weekend in Penticton.  The back end and crease look to be strong moving forward, but how do our front lines look?

Our forward group has had a substantial turnover from last year’s Young Stars roster.  Brendan Gaunce has now played enough AHL games to be exempt from participating in this rookie showcase; Jake Virtanen as well as defenseman Ben Hutton are considered NHLers and are not required to play in this eventM; and Ronalds Kenins, Hunter Shinkaruk Dane Fox, and  Jared ‘we barely knew ya’ McCann are no longer with the organization. 

The most interesting forward prospect on this year’s roster is Russian center Dmitry Zhukenov.  The native of Omsk made the journey to North America this year to suit up for Chicoutimi (QMJHL) where he showed himself to be a dangerous playmaker racking up 42 assists and 57 points in 64 games.  His hockey IQ is incredibly high, but needs to work a bit on his skating and rounding out his 5’11" 169 pound frame before threatening for a roster spot.

Cole Cassels had a rough go in his first professional season managing a mere 7 points in 67 games in Utica.  Hopefully it was mostly related to him adjusting to the pro game, and his sophomore season brings more success. 

Obviously the organization saw enough progress from Rodrigo Abols during last year’s hockey season to use the 184th draft pick in the 2016 draft on the big Latvian.  Abols possesses a good frame (6’4") with plenty of room to grow (188 lbs.) and a knack for driving the play into the opposition’s end.  In his first year in North America, Abols put up 20 goals and 49 points in 62 games.

Western Conference teams have a lot of grit, and Yan-Pavel Laplante could well provide that needed grit down the road!  Laplante is known for his tenacity and willingness to get to the dirty areas.  He may be known for his toughness (88 pims) but he’s is not a one trick pony as he was just above a point per game in his overage season with Gatineau (QMJHL).  The greater question about his style of play is if he will be able to maintain it as his body continues to get worn down by the rough stuff.

This year the Canucks have brought in an Oiler cast-off for evaluation: Marco Roy.  Roy was a 2nd round pick in the 2013 draft but has not lived up to the expectations of the Oilers and was only offered a 1 year AHL contract upon his graduation from the QMJHL.  In his one professional season, Roy spent time with both Bakersfield of the AHL and Norfolk of the ECHL.

6th round draft pick Jakob Stukel is a player who many folks were curious about when the Canucks took him 154th overall this year.  After an early season trade to Calgary (WHL) from Vancouver (WHL), Stukel’s production went from .33 points per game to slightly more than 1 point per game.  Stukel led the WHL in powerplay goals with 18.

Don’t count out diminutive forward Curtis Valk!  At the time of an unfortunate season ending knee injury, Valk was leading the Kalamazoo Wings (ECHL) in scoring.  This will be a big test in the road to recovery for Valk, as he pushes to earn an NHL contract when his current AHL deal expires.  His size is still seen as a negative, but his production thus far has shown that he possesses professional hockey skill.  Provided his recovery goes according to plan, Valk should find himself on the cusp of becoming a full time AHL player.

In addition to the players mentioned above, the Canucks also have protected prospects Michael Carcone, Joe LaBate, and Brett McKenzie joining the team in Penticton.  Joe LaBate is a holdover from the 2015 tournament and has completed his first pro season and will be looking to make an impression that carries into the main camp. 

To round out the roster the Canucks have invited: Alexis D’Aoust, Tyler Coulter, Kyle Maksimovich, and Danny Moynihan. These invitations will not be taken lightly, especially when you look at the result of Rodrigo Abols being selected in this year’s draft after being an invite to the 2015 tournament.

Even though the Young Stars tournament showcases our best young players there are some notable players who will not be on the team due to various reasons.  The NCAA regulations pertaining to academic attendance prevents 2015 1st round pick Brock Boeser (North Dakota) William Lockwood (Michigan), and Adam Gaudette (Northeastern) from joining the rest of the prospects.  Lukas Jasek (2105 draft) did not participate in last year’s tournament and will not be with the organization this season after playing on 3 different teams in 2015-16 in the Czech Republic.

Which forwards are you most interested in seeing play this weekend?

Up next: The most interesting players to keep an eye on that play for the other teams.