September 13 2010 07:13AM
South Okanagan Events Center
5 PM MT
Hockey of a sort begins later this afternoon for the Flames, as the youngsters open their portion of Penticton's Young Stars against the Ducklings. I'm glad that the club decided to be part of this event, if for no other reason than the fact that we get to a glimpse of how the prospect corps matches up against a few other teams' future big leaguers, so maybe we can get a sense of whether the angst that the subject of drafting and development appears to create in some of the fan base is fully warranted.
The club is bringing a fairly experienced roster to the Okanagan, in relative terms. That's mostly a by-product of Abbotsford's playoff run last spring, as the organization had an opportunity to blood a number of graduating juniors over a couple of rounds of action. As Kent noted in comments last night, there a few players of interest in this event, with Backlund, Wahl, and John Negrin being at the forefront for me. Negrin ended up having a terrible year physically, but when I watched him play early in the season against the Manitoba Moose, he looked pretty calm for a player less than 10 games into his AHL career. He plies his trade in an area of depth, so he's likely at least two more seasons away from a shot at the NHL even under ideal circumstances, but I am curious about his mobility post-injury.
The one other roster note is that Ryan Howse was on the limp yesterday, which might make him unavailable for the week's activities, which is a bit of a shame. The players in this tournament are half a level or more above the usual fare of the Dub, and I was interested in seeing if his game translated. Logan MacMillan is also out as he continues recovery from a hernia operation, with the former Duck prospect holding out hope of action by Thursday.
His former club's youth had their first go of the week last night against the Shark prospects, falling 4-1. 2010 first rounder Cam Fowler and Kelowna standout Brandon McMillan are a couple of players of interest for the Ducks. From the action I had a chance to watch, Timo Pielmeier kept the future Ducks in the game in the first period before the Sharks were finally able to break things open. As always, though, we're watching young men that are just getting familiar with one another, so there was some scratchy play in the collective.
As for tonight, this should be a chance for Mikael Backlund to start taking control of proceedings. I'm fairly certain that more than a few people are of the opinion that the Swede is being unfairly pushed back to the AHL at the expense of an old dude or two, but to be blunt, he didn't dominate his peer group last season, and that's the normal first step before considering a player ready to progress to the NHL. If he and Mitch Wahl are becoming the players we'd all like them to be, we should begin to see the signs this week when they're working against their contemporaries.