Young Stars Tournament: Flames Preview

The Nations Network is sending this Jets blogger to the 2014 Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, BC. I’ll be judging your team and bringing you live scouting reports. Check out last year’s wrap-up piece here.

The Young Stars Tournament is here again! I’ll be there all weekend to scout, blog, and dry out my insides with Okanagan Events Centre popcorn. You can follow me on twitter (@kevinmccart) for live insights, or check out the Nations Network of blogs for game and player reviews. 

Inside we’ll reflect a bit on last year’s tournament and take a look at the Flames’ Young Stars roster. Have a player, story or system you’re excited about? Let me know in the comments!

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Professional Development

The Flames’ NHL squad surprised many last year by showing up in mid-season form for October’s contests. Their professionalism and effort actually started with the Young Stars group, who were much more prepared for and much more serious about the tournament than the other organizations. Practices were at a professional pace while other teams broke to teach drills on the ice. Their systems were more advanced and consistent. The roster boasted more AHL-pros in skill positions, alongside wunderkind Sean Monahan and fellow 2013 1st rounder Emile Poirier. 

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With a new GM and Head of Player Truculence in place, no one can be sure what the mandate will be this year. Still, the Flames are bringing another older squad, with 12 skater and goaltender Joni Ortio being born in 1993 or earlier. (Compared to 8 ’93 or older players on the Canucks, 8 skaters and 2 goalies on the Jets, and a whopping 13 skaters and 3 goalies for the Oilers). The imperative to turn 4th overall pick Sam Bennett, as well as recent pro Johnny Gaudreau and former first round picks Poirier and Morgan Klimchuk into bonafide NHL difference makers is clear for a team that struggled with both skill and depth. But what role returning tournament veterans like Michael Ferland, Joni Orito and John Ramage will have is unclear.     

Will the Flames be looking to make an organizational statement again this year? Or will the focus be on the new comers and teenagers? 

This Year

Last year’s tournament was (finally) Sven Baertschi’s last, but the team also graduated Sean Monahan, Corbin Knight and Max Reinhart. Joni Ortio returns after a stellar 2013 tournament and despite his time in the NHL. The defense group and supporting cast are largely the same, and we can look forward to measuring the progress of the surprisingly effective Keegan Kanzig as well as Patrick Sieloff who is returning from a year lost to injury. Tyler Wotherspoon is expected to challenge for a job in the Flames main camp, but was unspectacular a year ago in Penticton. 

Meanwhile, up front the team is bringing back quite a bit of its supporting cast in Michael Ferland, Markus Granlund, Josh Jooris and Turner Elson.

Some exciting new additions:

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Johnny Gaudreau: Johnny Hockey is expected to make a splash in the NHL this season, and takes on the Sven Baertschi role this year as the over-age dynamic scorer. Baertschi began his confusing and disappointing season with a confusing and disappointing Young Stars tournament a year ago. Here’s hoping Gaudreau arrives ready to put on a show.  

Sam Bennett: The high-skill centre will be looking to follow in Monahan’s footsteps, a year after Monahan showed elite level scoring sense in a tournament of highly touted prospects. We can expect Bennett to incorporate his usual grit in an effort to make an impression, but it’s his pure talent I’m most excited to see. 

Morgan Klimchuk: An abdominal strain kept him out of the tournament last year, but this year we will see him featured in an offensive role and perhaps he’ll share the ice with fellow 2013 1st rounder Emile Poirier. He’s been a shoot-first scorer at junior level and managed to improve his points-per-game in his draft+1 season. Can he open up space against some talented defenders? 

For the full roster and game schedule, go here.

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If you have any scouting requests or things you’d like me to watch for, fire away in the comments!

  • Craig

    It’s great to hear about future stars like Bennett or Gaudreau……but we all know they will dominate.

    I’m much more interested in how the new crop of prospects do (2014 draft, yes I know Bennett is 2014).

    How did BB BT do in the second round? what are the early observations of McDonald and Smith?

    Are BB BT as smart as they think they are?


  • Craig

    I’d love to see Sam Bennett and Johnny Hockey player on a line together. Hopefully they can build chemistry as a team and not just be there for themselves. I think that could’ve been faults of high prospects in the past from the flames organization. I don’t know how everything will play out this year, I’m really excited for the future. It isn’t just one Iginla to save a franchise, we have I think a nice deep pool of talent.

  • Craig

    Poirier is injured and will not play in the young stars tournie and the same with Wspoon. Granlund IMO is a better prospect than you imply and by many people accounts of last years tournie was the best forward there, he was probably the best forward on the Heat last season and I expect he will be strong again this year.

  • seve927

    Just wondering if you could elaborate on ‘the surprisingly effective Keegan Kanzig’. Is that based on your viewings from last year’s tourney? Is that the general concensus on his play? I haven’t heard much talk about him at all, so I got the feeling he was pretty much off the radar.

  • Scary Gary

    Good stuff Kevin. You’d said on oilersnation that “the Oilers might have the most talented forward group at the event” so this should be interesting to watch.

    • beloch

      As a fan of both teams, I’d say the Oilers come up a little short behind Draisaitl and the Flames have a large advantage in terms of forwards attending this tournament. However, the Oilers have a clearly superior set of defenders. When these two teams play it will be a contest of offense vs defense.