It's been a pretty long day today having driven from Calgary to Penticton, but the journey to the 2016 Young Stars tournament has already been worthwhile! There's something special about seeing top prospects play their first shift in their team's colors. Tonight saw all four teams in action with the Calgary Flames taking on the Winnipeg Jets followed by the Edmonton Oilers and YOUR Vancouver Canucks.
Game 1: Calgary (4) vs. Winnipeg (1) Highlights
This game was interesting to say the least. Going into the game, all eyes were on Matthew Tkachuk. He was seen as NHL ready by many scouts and media personalities on draft day. After his first night, that is up for debate. Tkachuk led the team in... Penalty Minutes with 16 including a 10 minute misconduct that came as a result of a line brawl with around 5 minutes left in the game.
Andrew Mangiapane: the 'veteran' (if you can call anyone at this tournament a vet) was very effective, scoring the game winner and assisting on another. He was visible all night, which is exactly what he needs to do to keep himself near the top of the Flames prospect board.
Oliver Kylington: The Swedish d-man who was very slight and easily taken off the puck showed great improvement over last year. He made smarter plays with the puck, and won more puck battles than in his previous appearance.
Brendan Lemieux: Let's call him the reason Matthew Tkachuk lived in the penalty box tonight! No one knows what was said, but it was bad enough to take the focus away from the best player in the matchup. That type of peskiness will be what gets Lemieux to the NHL, it will be his skills as a scoring threat that will keep him there.
Matthew Tkachuk: Playing with an edge is one thing, but taking three minor penalties and a 10 minute misconduct is not the kind of hockey that is needed out of a top prospect with the offensive prowess of Tkachuk.
Light on Skates: Jankowski, Connor, and Roslovic were at times a little to light on their skates. It seemed as though they were looking to draw a penalty in the event that a stick were to come in close proximity to their skates. It can't be called diving, but it definitely was a recurring theme.
Line Brawl: It's the first game of the preseason, did you really have that much pent up aggression? Apparently so! The stripes handed out 7 ten minute misconducts as a result of this brawl. Finishing strong is one thing, but line brawls aren't part of finishing strong.
Game 2: Edmonton (4) vs. Vancouver (1) Highlights
This score line isn't what we were hoping for out of the local boys, but the scoreboard only tells part of the story. The Canucks never stopped trying to get back into the game.
Jesse Puljujarvi: Hard to see how this player fell to 4th overall in the draft this year. The big Finn is exactly as advertised: He can score, pass, and skate with the best of them. 2 goals is a great way to start his tenure in an Oilers jersey!
Nick Ellis: The Oiler netminder was solid, stopping wave after wave of Canuck pressure throughout the last 30 minutes of the game.
Marc-Olivier Roy: Hopefully this was not a single game revenge effort for the former Oiler draft pick. Roy was very active on the forecheck and was rewarded by scoring the lone Canucks goal.
Curtis Valk: Talk about a man on a mission, Valk was everywhere! He played the point on the 1st powerplay unit, center on the penalty kill and was on a dangerous 3rd line.
Tate Olson/Carl Neill pairing: More often than not when this tandem was on the ice, the puck was heading towards Demko on the stick of an Oiler forward. This tandem was on ice several times last year with similar results... When will Willie & Co. give up on this pairing?
Tate Olson: The puck had eyes tonight, and those eyes were fixated on being behind Tate Olson's stick. Olson couldn't buy a break with the puck whether it was on offense, defense or in the neutral zone the puck just wasn't with him tonight. Hopefully a day of rest will reset his puck Karma!
The Offense: Plenty of quality scoring chances tonight, not a lot of goals. This team will be grinding for every goal they score and will need to focus on getting point shots through traffic and maybe capitalize on a few deflections.
What did you see out of the opening night of Young Stars?