When I was a kid we used to spend part of the summer in Penticton, at that time it would have been around 15,000 population. Now? Penticton and area is triple that and receives a major spike in humans during the summer months. The temperatures in Penticton are normally over 80 in peak summer and often pass 100 degrees (these are Fahrenheit numbers, we’re talking 40 degrees Celsius at the high end).
Once September arrives, Penticton begins to cool, average Edmontonian would consider it comfortable mid-summer weather. Hockey fans from across western Canada will head there for the Young Stars Tournament starting this Friday.
The Oilers haven’t announced their rookie list yet, it could happen at any time (I will update with link if it happens today). Here are five ‘players to watch’ for the Oilers Young Stars this year.
- R Kailer Yamamoto. A tournament that has boasted Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Darnell Nurse (at the same tournament!) in recent seasons is a little shy on star power this time. That said, Yamamoto is an undersized offensive buzzsaw who is already ripping it up in the WHL (2gp, 2-2-4 in preseason action). The Canucks got the lottery pick this year but the Oilers have another dynamic talent in Yamamoto.
- RD Ethan Bear. A fantastic junior career that peaked with a Memorial Cup appearance and the WHL Defenseman of the Year Award makes him a player to watch as he turns pro. The young man has a gigantic shot from the point and—perhaps as important—is terrific at getting his shot through to the net. He’ll be a big part of the power play in Penticton.
- LD Caleb Jones. Jones has NHL wheels as he enters pro hockey and he stands out because of it. Bear received a lot of publicity due to his offensive prowess, but Jones wasn’t far behind and at times outperformed Bear in even-strength offense. Defensive acumen will be the thing to work on with Jones, who could emerge as an NHL option with a strong year in Bakersfield.
- W Ostap Safin. I’m not absolutely certain he’ll be on the rookie roster, but we do know he made it to Canada and will play for the Saint-John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL. Safin was a later round draft steal (potentially) at the 2017 draft and should stand out in the crowd despite being one of the younger players in the tournament. Safin brings size and skill to the wing.
- LC Joe Gambardella. Every Penticton camp sees a player emerge as something more than he was projected to be (remember Braden Christoffer in 2015?) and my pick this year is Joe Gambardella. Unlike Christoffer, Gambardella already has a contract but I think he is going to surprise this fall in main camp. He plays an aggressive two-way game and may be a surprising penalty killing option for a team looking for cover in that area. The buzz may begin in Penticton.
There’s a chance one or more of these players doesn’t appear on the rookie camp roster. If they do make it to Penticton, these five men are most worthy of your complete attention.