It has become the official start of the new season, the Rookie Tournament, and out West that means a trip to the South Okanagan as the NHL’s four Western Canadian teams convene in Penticton, B.C.
Over the years we’ve seen the likes of Bo Horvat, Sean Monahan, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Mark Scheifele all don their team’s uniform for the first time in a true game situation in Penticton. This year’s 2015 Young Stars tournament will see Connor McDavid front-and-centre as he makes his debut in Edmonton Oilers silks.
Here’s the low-down on what has become one of the real fall gems of the hockey world as Vancouver, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Calgary put their prospects on display in a round-robin tournament.
(Watch each game of the Young Stars Classic tournament live here at sportsnet.ca)
What is the rookie camp?
In 2010 the southern Okanagan city of Penticton became host to the Young Stars tournament for the first time. It was a novel idea: a bunch of teams send their 18- to 20-year-old prospects into battle against their peers. It gave club executives a chance to see their draftees up against players their own age, and took some pressure off the numbers at main training camp, with the teams able to send kids back to junior that much sooner.
In 2010 Taylor Hall embarked on what was expected to be a short Edmonton Oilers rebuild. In 2011 a kid named Levko Koper scored the first goal in the history of the reincarnated Winnipeg Jets. He would end up with the University of Alberta Golden Bears that season, but another kid from that Jets Rookie team — Scheifele — has managed to stick around for a while in Winnipeg.
This year? McDavid will be the highlight, and we’ll get a good look at how the latest Oilers No. 1 stacks up against the top prospects from three other organizations.
When is it?
The tournament takes place from Friday, Sept. 11 through Monday, Sept. 14. There are double-headers on Friday and Monday, with single games on Saturday and Sunday.
Where is it taking place?
At the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton, B.C. You can fly right into Penticton, or fly into Kelowna and drive about 90 minutes to the south end of the lake.
Who will be there?
While this was once a six-team tournament, the California clubs have now left Penticton to the four Western Canadian teams: Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. The beauty of this tournament for hockey fans and media is that you’ll see four general managers, four head coaches, and most of four scouting staffs inside the cozy confines of the Penticton rink over the weekend.
You won’t see a single veteran player, but you will see scouts from other teams, who open their season with a look at the prospects of these four clubs. Most teams will broadcast the game on their flagship radio stations, and the games are usually live-streamed as well.
Key players to watch:
Outside of those paralyzing summer prospect camps that NHL teams hold, this is the first chance for fans to see their newest crop of 2015 drafts. Add to that players drafted in 2012, 2013 and 2014, and fans can get a true look at the depth in prospects that their team has.
McDavid will be there for Edmonton, a big reason why tournament passes have sold out (single game tickets are still available). Darnell Nurse will be there as well.
The Canucks will send first-rounders Jake Virtanen, Jared McCann, Hunter Shinkaruk and Brendan Gaunce.
Swedes Rasmus Andersson and Oliver Kylington are expected to dress for Calgary, as well as big goalie Jon Gillies.
Jets prospects are expected to include Nikolaj Ehlers and Josh Morrissey, plus the rest of the members of their past four draft classes who have not become NHL players.
Schedule of events: (All games live streamed here at sportsnet.ca)
Game 1: Calgary vs. Winnipeg
Sept. 11, 5:00pm
Game 2: Vancouver vs. Edmonton
Sept. 11, 8:30pm
Game 3: Calgary vs. Edmonton
Sept. 12, 8:30pm
Game 4: Vancouver vs. Winnipeg
Sept. 13, 3:00pm
Game 5: Edmonton vs. Winnipeg
Sept. 14, 12:30pm
Game 6: Vancouver vs. Calgary
Sept. 14, 4:30pm