For the Vancouver Canucks Young Stars Classic, four is fantastic, six would be even better, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I’m talking about the number of teams participating in the rookie tournament in Penticton come September. Sportsnet’s Iain MacIntyre, a fine Scotsman, first reported the news on Wednesday that the Winnipeg Jets had finally decided to join the fray. We’re not sure what the hold up was … but I’m sure the management of the Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, and Edmonton Oilers are pleased.
We didn’t bother Edmonton GM Ken Holland today for comment. He’s wrapping things up after his Oilers got bounced from the Western Conference Final in a four game sweep on Monday. But we can safely assume that Holland will be stoked with the report that ‘Penticton’ is up to a tidy four teams.
Holland was the architect and host of the preeminent NHL rookie tournament for two decades when his Detroit Red Wings started the Traverse City (Michigan) Rookie Tournament in 1998. It grew to a pre-Covid peak of eight teams on a regular basis beginning in 2006.
“I took away a lot from competing in Traverse City,” Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin told NHL.com back in 2016. “I felt among all the prospects that I was right there with some of the highly touted ones. I also got a chance to play with some of the Detroit prospects for the first time and build chemistry, and it’s a really good tournament to come together, play a bunch of games and have a ton of fun.”
Penticton, although smaller in scope for the moment, offers a similar vibe. A resort town with lake activities, golf, and scenery. A getaway and a chance to bond while also playing or scouting competitive pre-season hockey.
Establishing a Tradition
At the end of July, 2021, VHN gave you a little history behind the Penticton tournament through the eyes of national broadcaster John Shannon and Calgary Flames General Manager Brad Treliving, both Penticton natives, while also lamenting the Covid-cancellation of the event.
A decade ago, the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks participated when it was a 5-team tourney. Cam Fowler, Nick Bonino, and Kyle Palmieri were on the 2010 Ducks roster in the tournament’s first year. Others to have graced this South Okanagan stage along the way; Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson, Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Mark Scheifele, and Johnny Gaudreau.
Not a bad line-up.
After the July NHL Draft we’ll be able to build another list of prospects that will be worth checking out come almost autumn. The Vancouver Canucks Young Stars Classic is slated for September 14th through the 18th. Once it’s wrapped, maybe the powers that be can start recruiting the likes of the Seattle Kraken and Colorado Avalanche for 2023.