The 2016 Young Stars Classic has finished up in scenic Penticton, British Columbia. Viewed since its inception in 2010 as the traditional kick-off for the hockey season, this year’s edition saw prospects from the four Western Canadian clubs do battle for supremacy. The Calgary Flames won two of three games over the weekend event, with their lone loss coming in an extremely close overtime contest with the Edmonton Oilers.
With main training camp looming, what are the main takeaways for the Flames from the season’s opening weekend?
They May Have Some Goalie Depth
— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) September 17, 2016
Hopes were high for former NCAA standout Jon Gillies as he turned pro in 2015-16. Unfortunately, he was hampered by a lingering hip injury and the club opted for surgery after he gutted out seven starts. In his first in-game action in roughly 10 months, he made 22 saves against a pretty game Winnipeg Jets team and backstopped the Flames to a 4-1 win.
Gillies’ effort was followed by a 17-save start (over a half-game) for Memorial Cup champion Tyler Parsons, followed by a 16-save overtime win (in relief) by Parsons in the tournament finale. While Gillies is the undisputed goalie of the future for the Flames, Parsons put himself firmly in the conversation with his Jonathan Quick-esque saves over the weekend.
Matthew Tkachuk Is a Wrecking Ball
What a shift by Matthew Tkachuk. Wins battle along boards, dodges check, gives puck to Mark Jankowski, gets it back, scores. 1-0 #Flames.
— Derek Wills (@Fan960Wills) September 18, 2016
After a season that saw Johnny Gaudreau get hacked, slashed and pushed around – when he wasn’t lighting up the National Hockey League – the Flames went out over the summer and tried to become a harder team to play against. While we haven’t yet seen how Troy Brouwer will do wearing the Flaming C quite yet, fans and pundits alike got a preview of 2016 first round selection Matthew Tkachuk in Penticton. In short? The kid plays on the edge of the game and occasionally steps over it.
Over the weekend, Tkachuk played in all three games (primarily on a line with 2012 first rounder Mark Jankowski and 2014 seventh rounder Austin Carroll). He had a goal, nine shots on goal, several big hits, and 22 minutes in penalties. Opposition players were constantly looking over their shoulders with him on the ice. If he can rein in the physicality just a bit and take fewer penalties, he could be extremely valuable for the Flames going forward.
Mark Jankowski Has Matured
When the Flames drafted Jankowski out of Quebec high school in 2012, he was a skinny, gangly kid. He was snugly tucked away in the NCAA for four years while other Flames prospects (selected after him) made their way to the big leagues. Heck, six players the Flames draft after Jankowski have already made their NHL debuts (Patrick Sieloff, Brett Kulak, Sean Monahan, Emile Poirier, Sam Bennett and Oliver Kylington) and another six have already gone pro.
In Penticton, Jankowski’s poise, patience, and hockey sense were on display and it seems as if he might be worth the wait. He was extremely unlucky to have only amassed a single point over the weekend, as he was constantly in the midst of offensive situations and was responsible for a few really close scoring chances.
This and That
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) September 19, 2016
Beyond the high-profile prospects, the Young Stars event saw strong performances from Finnish import Eetu Tuulola, agitating AHL signee Ryan Lomberg and the smooth-skating Swedish defenseman Kylington.
Stockton head coach Ryan Huska called Ryan Lomberg the team’s best forward over the course of the event. #Flames
— Pat Steinberg (@Fan960Steinberg) September 20, 2016
Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames and the NHL Draft extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and Senior Contributing Editor of FlamesNation.ca. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, he lives in Calgary.