Young Stars hit SOEC ice

Colton Davies

Vancouver Canucks prospects at the Young Stars Classic hit the ice in Penticton on Thursday – the first time they assembled as a team before games this weekend.

Now in its eighth year, the Young Stars is scaled back this time around. Each team plays only two games when they’ve each played three and four in the past.

And most notably there’s only two NHL teams compared to four a year ago — and five when it began in 2010. 

The Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames prospects took part last year but are playing their own two prospect games in Red Deer this weekend.

"We're very optimistic they'll return," Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said, who is also the tournament's chair.

"Here was a three-game series and really an opportunity, in a real game environment, to see how they fit in the depth chart and see how they fit amongst their peers.

"You can't fault Edmonton and Calgary for wanting to try something in their own market... both teams draw from Red Deer."

With fewer games at this year’s tournament, Jakubeit said there will be less economic activity but he says the city has prepared for that accordingly.

"We just scale back the expenses accordingly, so from an event standpoint it'll still be a good event for the city both from an economic standpoint and just the exposure."

While there's fewer NHL prospects at this tournament, there's more buzz around the Canucks team of prospects than ever before. Many, in fact, are saying this year's Canucks team is the best ever assembled at the Young Stars.

Like Brock Boeser was a year ago, Elias Pettersson is the biggest name among Canucks prospects at the tournament this year. The fifth-overall draft pick from 2017 was the scoring leader and MVP of the Swedish Elite League this past season, and is expected to crack the big club's roster this season.

Along with the Canucks and Winnipeg Jets prospects, the University of B.C. and University of Alberta hockey teams will play two games each during the weekend.

The tournament's schedule and ticket information can be found here.

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