Last year at the Young Stars tournament was a tough go for the Canucks. They had some veteran leadership, but not a ton of experience in net. This year 2 of the netminders are back between the pipes (Demko and Garteig), with newly drafted Michael Dipietro getting his first chance to shine in this tournament.
On defense the team returns Olli Juolevi, Guillaume Brisebois, Cole Candella, and Mackenze Stewart. This should provide the team with some reliable options for the coaching staff to work with in the 3 game round robin.
The forwards are a blend of returnees and new blood. They should be a very exciting bunch to watch with Brock Boeser, Kole Lind, Jonah Gadjovich, and Zach McEwan being tasked with leading the team on offense. Don’t underestimate the value of players with AHL/ECHL experience though, Michael Carcone, Yan-Pavel Laplante and Danny Moynihan will bring some strong efforts to help the Canucks best their opponents.
As impressive as the list of who’s going to participate is, there are numerous players ineligible for academic reasons or under contract in Europe who would take this team over the top! Adam Gaudette and William Lockwood have started their NCAA scholastic years making them unavailable; Elias Pettersson, Dmitri Zhukenov, Kristoffer Gunnarsson, and Lukas Jasek are parts of their European teams; and finally, and most unfortunately Jonathan Dahlin and Petrus Palmu are physically unable to participate as they recover from illness/injury.
Brock Boeser: We’ve seen a small sample size of the potential that Brock Boeser possesses when he signed his contract upon the completion of the UND season. In 9 games with the Canucks the Minnesota native scored 4 goals and added 1 helper. This training camp he will be auditioning for a spot with the Canucks full-time. If he is not seen as ready for the NHL, he will ply his trade in the AHL where he would likely be one of the more dominant players in the league.
Olli Juolevi: A strong 2-way player, Juolevi has compiled back to back 42 point seasons with the London Knights (OHL). The 6’3” Finnish player is a smooth skater who can quarterback a powerplay or kill a big penalty with the same level of competence. Look for Juolevi to be on the bubble for an NHL opening night placement. If he is not successful in cracking the Canucks, it is likely that he will head back to Europe to compete against professional players instead of returning to the OHL where there is limited opportunity for growth.
Jonah Gadjovich: The big bodied winger from Whitby, ON was a second round selection in 2017. He plays the game with size and a nose for the net. His 2016-17 season was incredibly strong, notching 46 goal and adding 28 assists. Gadjovich was a participant in Canada’s World Junior summer camp this year and impressed most scouts with his high energy style. Likely returning to the OHL for at least one more season (and hopefully a spot on this year’s U20 Team Canada) will allow the 6’2, 210 lbs. Winger an opportunity to improve his skating.
Jalen Chatfield: First there was Chris Tanev; then came Troy Stecher; Jim Benning has found what he hopes is the next un-drafted defenseman signing to crack the Canucks lineup in Jalen Chatfield. The co-Captain of the Memorial Cup Champion Windsor Spitfires was one of the best transition blueliners in the CHL last season. His offensive numbers were modest (8g-20a), but it can not be held against him as much given the talent on his Junior club. Capable in all facets of the game, Chatfield is a hard worker and will be great depth for the Utica Comets this season.
Thatcher Demko: In his first professional season, Demko played respectably and kept his team in many hockey games. The 6’3” goalie from San Diego, CA plays a strong butterfly technique which combined with sound positioning makes for minimal glimpses of open net for the opposition to direct the puck into. His second Pro season will likely have him take a bigger portion of the starts with the Comets and try to build on his 2016-17 stat line (22-17-4, 2 so, 2.68 gaa, .907 sv%).
Late Round Steal
Brett McKenzie: Drafted as an over-age player in 2016 out of the North Bay Battaions, McKenzie has an NHL frame (6’1”, 192 lbs.). His numbers aren’t overly spectacular (28g, 38a), but when you lead your team in scoring by 20 points, you can only be held to account for some of your limiited production. McKenzie is a sound skater who is not afraid to go to the corners and dig out pucks or stand in front of the net and jostle for position. It’s doubtful that he develops into much more than a bottom six forward, but any time a player drafted in the 7th round turns into an NHL player it’s like playing with house money!
Intriguing Camp Invite
Aaron Irving: A 5 year veteran of the WHL with the Edmonton Oil Kings and Everett Silvertips, Irving was a 6th round choice of the Nashviller Predators in 2014. After the Preds decided not to sign the former Oil King Captain, he started looking for a new professional opportunity. Last year, Irving was a member of the Edmonton Oilers Young Stars roster prior to returning to the WHL where he set career highs in goals (18), assists (30) and points (48). The Edmonton native is not afraid to lay a hit, drop the mitts, run a powerplay, or kill a penalty. He does however suffer from slow feet, and will need to dramatically improve upon this area if he wishes to pursue professional hockey. This is likely his ‘last stand’, expect him to be leaving it all on the ice for the Canucks!
Missing in Action
Jonathan Dahlen: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before... A Young Vancouver Canuck prospect will be missing out on the Young Stars tournament due to Mononucleosis (ahem, McCann, ahem). It’s a real shame because Dahlen is a player that every Canucks fan is itching to see live and in person. Dahlen was brought to Vancouver from Ottawa at last year’s trade deadline for fan favorite, Alex Burrows. Dahlen is an offensive dynamo who has all of the makings of a future star in the NHL. It also doesn’t hurt his future that he is best friends with Canucks 2017 1st round pick Elias Pettersson with whom he shares great chemistry. The World will have to wait for Dahlen-mania... But it will be well worth it!
This has been a brief overview of some of the players to look forward to seeing in Penticton! The entire lineup can be found here.