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Photo Credit: Kevin Light

Five to watch in Penticton

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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    • OriginalPouzar

      I don’t believe Benson will be playing and, last I heard, he’s questionable to be ready for junior camp.

      I is very important that Tyler gets a full season of hockey in this year. He was a significant prospect and we need him be reestablish himself as such.

      As we all know, it will be imperative to have cheap value contracts to fill in with top 6 minutes as we simply cannot afford high priced wingers. We need Tyler to be one of these players in a few years.

      I’m rooting for him.

  • Kepler62c

    Complete off topic but I’m being dead serious, WHY would you quote the temperature of Penticton in Fahrenheit?! It’s a dirty system that needs to be wiped out for good – plus we’re in Canada!

    • OriginalPouzar

      The verbal is already out there – it is extremely unreasonable and simply isn’t a foreseeable option to have him in the NHL this season.

      The 2nd similar verbal is a Bear or Jones in the NHL – sigh

  • OriginalPouzar

    I will also throw Maksimov on the list – he’s with Safin for me – I intrigued by both these prospects. High skill draftees.

    Great news that Safin is in Canada – I’m concerned he isn’t committed to the tournament (that we know of) – don’t see why he wouldn’t be there as he’s in Canada and will be playing in the CHL this year.

  • madjam

    It is still the off season , but ON is turning into a depressing site to visit . So many want to squash the expectations of team players and in system, and any one that tries to show some advancement in players and club . Most obviously expect the Oilers to regress this season and reload somewhere down the line . Even our writers seem to expect even McDavid and Draisaitl to regress from last season, and thus rest of team will follow that regression . How about showing some positive vibes for the club and the team . At least most of Flames nation and it’s writers spout out about their players and how good they might be/get . Here on ON you get bashed/trashed for it . The glass is empty on our site , when we should be filling it up with expectations to move higher up than last year . Enjoy our youth and try to envision what they might bring to team , there is some dynamic talent there . Most seem to want to bash others hopes that the odd one makes team this year and bash player/players in doing so . Hockey starts this weekend and I hope some of you get away from so many depressing thoughts surrounding the club and it’s rookies . Take a lighten up pill .

    • OriginalPouzar

      I haven’t seen a single poster or writer provide their opinion than they expect McDavid to regress.

      I am extremely excited for this coming season, as I am every season, and I look forward to making a run to the Stanley Cup – I have cautious expectations that we’ll be in the conversation.

      At the same time, I am able to take a step back and take a realistic view of the team and provide my opinion on potential pitfalls and holes.

      Of course there is dymamic talent on this team. Doesn’t mean its a perfect team and doesn’t mean we can’t talk about potential issues along with the potential advances.

      I simply can’t get on board with your opinion that Ethan Bear will be an NHL player this year or Yamamoto – sorry. You are entitled to that opinion but I am entitled to disagree with it because, in my opinion, it is extremely unreasonable and shows a lack of knowledge of natural progression of players and the jump between the WHL and the AHL and the NHL.

      If you are looking for nothing but biased optimism, go head over to oilersonwhyte!

      • madjam

        Having a homer or biased opinion is one facet we appear to have little of anymore , unlike FN . Even our writers like Willis and Matt seem to trash our players continuously . Maybe that is why so many have left the ON site ? Between cautious optimism and lack of homerism our site has become boring .

        • Space Pants

          I can totally understand where you are coming from on the negativity (you can get trashed for saying the sky is blue). I probably still check in once a day on this site, but it used to easily be a dozen times a day or more. All the little prepubescent Flame retards usually keep me away.

        • BornInAGretzkyJersey

          Personally, I prefer to aim for an objective perspective based in reality… do I think Jones or Bear (or even Yammamoto) are going to earn their way onto the team based on merit this year? NO. Full stop. I wouldn’t, however, be upset if they did manage the feat. I just don’t expect it as likely.

          However, that should not be misconstrued with any kind of pessimism about the future of the Oilers’ prospect pipeline. After so many years of watching so called blue-chip prospects flounder when gifted ice time, I’m relishing the opportunity to watch the kids earn their time on merit. We have some kind of depth these days, and it’s refreshing. Granted, there is work to be done, namely at centre and wing, but we’re eons ahead of where we were just one GM prior.

          This luxury of watching real time development of organizational growth and stability in direction is truly exciting, perhaps only second to the supernova named McDavid proliferating before our eyes.

  • OriginalPouzar

    Most Oiler fans will be keeping their eye on Yakamoto as the shiny new toy.

    I expect him to have a good tournament but don’t anticipate he’ll “dominate” – I think older prospects like Joey G. will show up more of the scoreboard.

    • OP: Yes, I think that’s fair. Khaira and Pakarinen are probably the extra forwards, both of them will need to PK. If someone gets hurt next man up would also need to have that gear. Agree with you on Malone being ahead entering camp.

      • OriginalPouzar

        I’m excited for Khaira to develop his PK skills – if he’s going to be the 4C of the near future, he’ll need to have that skill and, with his size, he should be able to be effective.

        I see Khaira and Pak as the extra forwards as well, however, if we carry 8D, I think there is only room for one.

        I am also not closing the door on the possibility of allowing JP some more development time in Bakersfield and keeping Rattie for some offensive potential.

  • Lee

    I think Benson is one of the reason why the squad has not been named, he was hurt last year and so him missing this tournament as well doesn’t look good.
    They rolled the dice with Benson , so far he looks like a solid player who can’t keep healthy. If he misses this Oiler camp , next season he will be behind a lot of players and he will need a lights out season to make him relevant.
    How many pro camps can he miss.
    Surprised he was named in the summer world junior camp (which he didn’t play, injured) .
    Really hope he puts it together soon, there are two older l/w players who will be moved down the pecking order in a few years. This is a position that will need a top winger in a few years.

    • OriginalPouzar

      Yes, its very important for this player to have a healthy year – he is important to our forward prospect depth over the next few years.

      This is the same injury as last year, its nothing new its just not quite 100% but I hear he is close.

      A full season would/should serve to re-establish himself as a real prospect – we need ELC production from Tyler.

  • OilCan2

    Penticton means we are getting closer to the season. Yamamoto will remain with Spokane and I hope he takes the scoring title. Jones and Bear look primed to go pro with the Condors. Benson should have a break out year if he can sidestep the injuries. Safin is unknown to me but it looks like good scouting on the surface.