The Nations Network is sending this Jets blogger to the 2014 Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, BC. I’ll be judging your team and bringing you live scouting reports. Check out last year’s wrap-up piece here.
The Young Stars Tournament is here again! I’ll be there all weekend to scout, blog, and dry out my insides with Okanagan Events Centre popcorn. You can follow me on twitter (@kevinmccart) for live insights, or check out the Nations Network of blogs for game and player reviews.
Inside we’ll reflect a bit on last year’s tournament and take a look at the Oilers’ Young Stars roster. Have a player, story or system you’re excited about? Let me know in the comments!
Bring on the skill!
The Oilers brought a very strange team to the tournament last year after graduating so much young talent to the NHL in recent years. The defence group was elite, but all left handed – headlined by Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin, and Darnell Nurse. Gernat, Musil, Marincin, Klefbom and others played whole or parts of games on their off-handed side and generally struggled. The forward group, meanwhile, included a lot of stick-optional types and very little pure skill. Cam Abney played in this tournament dating back to 2009, but 2013 would be his last year as he warmed the bench in an enforcer role for a friendly tournament. Invites Ty Bilke and Brandon Baddock did their best to use their bodies as the play zoomed by them. AHL addition Austen Fyten mostly floated in awe of Marco Roy. 2014 returnee Travis Ewanyk brought new meaning to the term ‘train wreck,’ while Kale Kessy may have been convinced it was a puck-free tournament. The coaches struggled to put together two powerplay lines, changed systems for each of three games and lost a combined 17-6.
But that was last year.
This year, the Oilers might have the most talented forward group at the event, led of course by 3rd overall pick Leon Draisaitl. While most teams are relying on their high-end draft picks to bring the skill, the Oilers have also added a throng of pure-skill players through a variety of unusual methods thanks to Bob Green. It’s our first chance to see them in true game action.
AHL-signed Mitch Holmberg (118 points in Spokane) and Josh Winquist (93 points in Everett) will get a chance to make an impression on management, while the tiny dynamo Vladimir Tkachev plays for a contract. The Jones brothers (Kellen and Conner) have both been in the top-5 of scoring for a good Quinnipac team each of the last four years, and Oilers fans have waited 4 years to see what they can do in the copper and blue.
Despite adding a handful of smaller skill players and letting go of some of the stick-optional types, the Oilers will still feature a lot of size. Bogdan Yakimov (6’5, 202), Jujhar Khaira (6’4″, 215) and Mitch Moroz (6’3″, 214) will clear space up front and chip in some skill, while 5 of the Oilers’ 9 defenders are listed over 6’4″ in this tournament.
It’s a solid if unspectacular defence group, but includes a bonafide NHL goaltender prospect in Laurent Brossoit that was missing from last year’s team. Nurse, Gernat, David Musil and Ben Betker return from last year.
Some exciting new additions include:
Dillon Simpson: Turned pro this season with a lot of buzz despite unimpressive counting numbers in college. Known as a two-way player, the Young Stars is our first chance to see him against some (nearly) NHL ready talent.
Leon Draisaitl: He could be the Oilers’ #2 centre a month from now, and yet we barely know the kid. He’s expected to be among the top contributors in the tournament and it will be exciting to see both his creativity and his competitiveness.
Mitch Moroz: He was at the tournament last year, but didn’t play due to injury. He was slated as the most skilled of the vertical, big-bodied, physical wingers, but the play of Kessey et al told us that was a low bar. The most pressing question with this player is whether he can play with the skill on this roster. Every shift spent with Travis Ewanyk will be a waste, but it’s possible the club puts him in an ‘energy’ role anyway.
Vladimir Tkachev: He’s listed at 5’8″, 163lbs and apparently that’s generous. Still, it’s a wonder he fell through the draft after a season with 39 points in 26 games for Moncton and an outstanding Super Series. His nationality and playing in three different leagues last year probably hurt his case, but Tkachev could be an impact NHL player in the future. This tournament is his chance to show what he’s got and our chance to see if his size really does hold him back.
For the full roster and game schedule, go here.
If you have any scouting requests or things you’d like me to watch for, fire away in the comments!