The Vancouver Canucks announced their roster for the 2022 Young Stars Classic on Tuesday. The tournament takes place from Sept. 16th to the 19th. Along with the Canucks, the Edmonton Oilers, the Calgary Flames, and the Winnipeg Jets will participate in this year’s tournament. The tournament returns for its ninth edition and for the first time since 2018.
As for the Canucks, they have a few players fans should watch for this weekend. Although the team will be without a few notable prospects, including 2022 NHL Draft pick Jonathan Lekkerimäki, there are a few players who could potentially crack the Canucks roster in the future.
Although Lekkerimäki will not be at the tournament this weekend, the next best offensive prospect for the Canucks will. The Canucks selected Danila Klimovich in the second round of the 2021 Draft.
He played in the American Hockey League (AHL) last season with Abbotsford, where he showed flashes of his skill. However, he struggled with consistency, scoring eight goals and posting 18 points in 62 games. He also showed a lack of defensive awareness, which is why he didn’t play in any AHL playoff games. Klimovich did impress by growing in other parts of his game throughout the season. Abbotsford’s general manager Ryan Johnson noted the forward improved in using his linemates, his puck management and decisions down low (from ‘Canucks prospects tracker: The head of player development weighs in,’ The Province, April 25, 2022). Heading into the offseason, the Canucks wanted him to improve on the pace of his game and increase his explosiveness.
“That’s something we’ll spend the off-season on,” said Johnson. “For a kid that young to get his first kick at the can in the American League, the cultural change, and to think he could end up with 10 goals … there’s a lot of growth there.”
The Young Stars tournament will be the first opportunity to see Klimovich’s growth over the offseason. He will likely be the go-to offensive weapon for the Canucks this weekend. Klimovich should improve on his production in his second season in the AHL, as the forward had time to adjust to the North American game last season.
The Canucks signed Linus Karlsson to a two-year, entry level-contract this offseason. The organization acquired the Swedish forward in a trade with the San Jose Sharks for Jonathan Dahlen. Despite being with the club for two seasons, this will be his first opportunity to show off his skills at camp. In his first camp, he sustained a knee injury before his arrival, which was followed up by development camps being cancelled due to COVID-19 the past two years. Karlsson did have a breakthrough season last year with Skelleftea AIK of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). He scored 26 goals and posted 46 points in 52 games as a rookie.
The Canucks are impressed by Karlsson’s two-way game but believe he will have to learn the North American game. Therefore, he will likely spend next season in Abbotsford unless he impresses the organization. For Karlsson, his goal is to play in the NHL, and he will have to show he is ready for the big leagues starting this weekend. He showed he can transition from one league to another last year (from ‘Canucks: Linus Karlsson aims to please after record-setting SHL rookie season,’ The Province, July 12, 2022).
“It hasn’t been easy at all,” said Karlsson. “I played in the Swedish second league for three years and last year was in the highest league. It’s been a tough way, but I’m proud of that way, and I still have a bit to go. I want to play in the NHL. I’m going to try to do everything better.”
The Canucks signed Surrey, B.C. native Arshdeep Bains to an entry-level deal in March. Bains is coming off of a season where he led the Western Hockey League (WHL) in scoring with 43 goals and 112 points in 68 games. He is the first player of South Asian descent to win the Bob Clarke Trophy as the WHL’s leading scoring champion. He spent five seasons with the Red Deer Rebels in the WHL and now will look to make an impact in his first appearance in a Canucks jersey this weekend.
Bains skates well, can handle the puck and has a good release on his shot. The 21-year-old will likely spend the 2022-23 season in the AHL with Abbotsford. It will allow him to improve on his play under the guidance of the Canucks. As for the Young Stars tournament, Bains will have a chance to show off the skillset that helped him win the WHL’s scoring race last season.
The Canucks also signed Nils Aman to an entry-level contract in June. The 22-year-old scored six goals and posted 14 points in 51 games with Leksands IF of the SHL. Similar to the other three forwards, the Colorado Avalanche’s 2020 sixth-round pick will play in the AHL next season. The Swede is a well-rounded player and was good depth addition to the club.
“Nils is a smart hockey player who plays with speed and has a strong work ethic,” said general manager Patrik Allvin. “He possesses a good two-way game, and we look forward to seeing his continued development on both sides of the ice with the Canucks organization.”
With Michael DiPietro asking for a trade, Arturs Silovs is the best goalie prospect the Canucks have. The 21-year-old netminder was drafted by the club in 2019 with the sixth-round pick. He split time between the AHL and the ECHL last season, playing in 10 games each. He recently outplayed Elvis Merzlikins at the 2022 World Championships for their home country Latvia. Silovs posted a .952 save percentage (SV%) in four games. He can use that momentum heading into this weekend and the 2022-23 season with Abbotsford, as he will likely be the starting goalie there sometime in the future.
Young Stars Tournament Returns
The return of the Young Stars tournament is exciting as it has featured multiple young prospects in the past. Along with the five mentioned, Jett Woo and Kirill Kudravtsev are players fans should watch. The other three teams will also showcase some of their top prospects as well. Notable names such as 2022 first-round pick Brad Lambert and 2020 first-round pick Cole Perfetti will play in the tournament for the Winnipeg Jets. The Oilers will have their last four first-round picks in Reid Schaefer, Xavier Bourgault, Dylan Holloway and Philip Broberg. Meanwhile, the Flames will bring Jakob Pelletier, Dustin Wolf and Connor Zary to Penticton.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.