Just in time for Vancouver Canucks fans to plan a trip to Penticton three months from now, the Canucks announced the details of the 2022 Young Stars Classic on Wednesday.
The prospect tournament is making its return after a four-year absence and will run from September 16 to 19 at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton, B.C. The four-team round robin will include the Canucks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets.
The tournament will kick off with games between the Jets and Flames at 4:00 p.m., then Oilers and Canucks at 7:30 p.m. on September 16. The Battle of Alberta will renew on September 17 at 7:30 p.m. with a game between the Flames and Oilers, then the Canucks will take on the Jets at 2:00 p.m. on September 18.
The tournament will then wrap up on September 19 with a game between the Jets and Oilers at 11:00 a.m. and a game between the Canucks and Flames at 2:30 p.m.
The Canucks will also present a “Hockey Talk” with assistant general manager Cammi Granato on Thursday, September 15 before the tournament, as well as a minor hockey skills clinic and “Party on the Plaza” on Sunday, September 18.
The last time the Canucks hosted the Young Stars Classic, only one other NHL team, the Jets, joined them. The return of the Flames and Oilers will make for a more balanced tournament and give each team a better sense of how their prospects stack up against other teams.
“Thank you to the Winnipeg Jets, the Edmonton Oilers, and the Calgary Flames for their involvement in the tournament,” said Canucks vice president of hockey operations Stan Smyl, who then quipped, “I don't say thank you that much to those sorts of teams because they're not one of my favorites from playing against them all the time.”
Smyl suggested it wasn’t too hard to convince the Oilers and Flames to return.
“Well, we took a picture of this behind us,” joked Smyl, gesturing to the picturesque view of Penticton through the window behind him. “All the teams that are coming this year have been here before and really like being part of the tournament…They get a great opportunity to spend some time and have that team building which is important moving forward and there’s nothing better than doing that before the main training camp starts.”
Smyl confirmed that the intention is to once again make the Young Stars Classic an annual event, while Penticton mayor John Vassalaki suggested they’re working to convince the Seattle Kraken to take part in the future. Smyl indicated that the Kraken may not yet have a deep enough prospect pool as a new team to participate at this time.
Intriguingly, Smyl confirmed that Jonathan Wall — once the director of hockey operations for the Canucks before he was fired prior to the arrival of Jim Rutherford — is still involved in organizing the Young Stars tournament. He was one of the people in the Canucks organization who pushed hard to bring back the Young Stars tournament in recent years.
Ryan Johnson, the Canucks’ senior director of player development and GM of the Abbotsford Canucks, will be part of the group designing the rules of the tournament, including age limits to ensure that the focus is on youth and prospects.
“You could see a few players from Abbotsford and Karlsson would be one of the players that would be on the roster,” said Smyl.
Those “few players from Abbotsford” would likely include Danila Klimovich, the Canucks’ second-round pick from 2021, who spent all of last season in the AHL with Abbotsford despite only turning 19 in January. Other prospects that might make the age cutoff from Abbotsford include goaltender Arturs Silovs, defenceman Jett Woo, and winger Karel Plasek.