Canucks to Watch at the 2023 Young Stars Tournament

The Vancouver Canucks have officially named their roster for the 2023 Young Stars Classic, set to take place in Penticton. This year’s team features plenty of talent, including Akito Hirose, Cole McWard, Aidan McDonough, and Aatu Räty, who all saw minutes with the Canucks last season. Here is a look at six players to watch during the tournament.

Josh Bloom: Winger

A third-round pick by the Buffalo Sabres in 2021, Josh Bloom will make his debut at the tournament after being traded to Vancouver last season for Riley Stillman. The 20-year-old is expected to make the jump to the American Hockey League (AHL) this season after playing 189 games in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with the Saginaw Spirit and North Bay Battalion. A two-way winger with good speed, he should get some time on the penalty kill with the Abbostford Canucks during the 2023-24 campaign.

Josh Bloom North Bay Battalion
Josh Bloom, North Bay Battalion (Natalie Shaver/OHL Images)

One strong area of Bloom’s game is that he understands how to protect the puck and use his size to his advantage. Listed at 6-foot-2, 183 pounds, he isn’t known as a big hitter but does use his big frame to win board battles and drive the net. While he is still a few years away from being considered for an NHL roster spot, he is a prospect fans should keep an eye on while he develops in Abbotsford.

Max Sasson: Center

One of the oldest participants for Vancouver at this year’s tournament will be Max Sasson. The 23-year-old signed with the Canucks last season after a successful career at Western Michigan University and is looking to impress heading into his first full season with the organization. While he may have a leg up on some of the other prospects, as he did play games in Abbotsford last season, this event will be the perfect chance for him to show how his game has improved over the summer.

Related: Canucks Prospects Report: McDonough, Sasson & More

While his time in Abbotsford during the 2022-23 season may have been short, he showed that he has the potential to be a solid AHL player. He did not look out of place and could be one of those players who receives a call-up if injuries occur, as he does not require waivers. He is expected to be one of the top players for Vancouver at the Young Stars tournament, so do not be surprised if he plays a significant role on special teams throughout the event.

Vilmer Alriksson: Winger

Selected by the Canucks in the fourth round of the 2023 NHL Draft, winger Vilmer Alriksson will be difficult to miss when he hits the ice in Penticton. Listed at 6-foot-6, 214 pounds, this tournament will be a great opportunity for him to show that his game can adapt to the smaller ice surface in North America. While he still has a way to go in his development, this tournament is the perfect way for him to introduce himself to the fan base.

This season, Alkriksson will be making the move to North America as he is set to play for the Guelph Storm in the OHL. The move from Sweden should allow the Canucks to keep a close eye on him and ensure he is developing properly. He has potential, with this tournament being a great opportunity for him to show just how skilled he actually is.

Hunter Brzustewicz: Defence

One of the more high-profile players on Vancouver’s roster will be defenceman Hunter Brzustewicz. The 2023 third-rounder plays an exciting style of hockey and finished last season with the eighth most points by a defender in the OHL. A prospect known for his work in the transition game, he should be given some time on the power play during the tournament.

Related: Canucks’ 2023 Draft Deep Dive: Hunter Brzustewicz

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Based on draft projections, including the one done by Logan Horn of The Hockey Writers, the Canucks were lucky that Brzustewicz was available for selection at 75th overall. For whatever reason, he slipped out of the second round and right into Vancouver’s lap, where they wisely took the right-handed defender. A prospect that has the potential to be a draft day steal, he should provide plenty of exciting moments throughout the event.

Kirill Kudryavtsev: Defence

Originally a seventh-rounder in 2022, Kirill Kudryavtsev has developed into one of Vancouver’s top prospects. Listed at 6-foot, 201 pounds, the left-shot defenceman is not only one of the OHL’s best defensive defencemen but also has shown he can produce offensively, putting up 50 points in 67 games last season. Projected to once again be a top point-producing defender with the Soo Greyhounds in 2023-24, he is a prospect Canucks fans should be monitoring throughout the season.

It is clear Vancouver is very high on him as they have already signed him to an entry-level contract. In fact, the Canucks liked him so much that he was actually the first player from the 2022 Draft class the organization decided to sign. A player with a ton of potential, if developed correctly, could play games at the NHL level before turning 23.

Ty Young: Goaltender

A fifth-round pick in 2022, Ty Young enters the season as the only prospect set to play in the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) B.C. Division. Playing for the Prince George Cougars, he is finally going to get his opportunity to be a full-time starter on what should be one of the WHL’s top teams in 2023-24. A strong Young Stars tournament could go a long way in not just getting in the right mindset for the season but showing Ian Clark and the rest of the organization just how strong of a prospect he is.

Related: Revisiting the Canucks’ 2022 Draft Class

With the Canucks bringing three goaltenders to Penticton, it means Young may only get one opportunity to really impress. While he is still young at just 19 years old, this will be his second Young Stars tournament, where he will want to show just how much he has developed since last year’s event. A player fans in Vancouver will get to see plenty in the WHL this season; a strong season could help him nab an entry-level contract by the end of the year.

Canucks Bringing Plenty Of Talent To Penticton

When breaking down this roster, it is clear the Canucks have some high-end talent in their system. Whether it be players on entry-level deals, those signed to AHL contracts, or even players being brought in on tryouts, fans at the South Okanagan Events Centre are going to experience some exciting hockey throughout the four-day event. Overall, it should be a fun tournament and one that will hopefully show that Vancouver has a bright future.

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