After the Canucks prospects delivered a thorough butt-kicking to the Jets prospects on Friday, Sunday’s game was a lot more competitive.
It didn’t look like that in the first period, of course. The Canucks jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the opening twenty minutes and it looked like the officials in Penticton would need to evoke the mercy rule to keep things from getting out of hand.
The Jets found their feet in the second period, however, tying the game at 3-3. That led to a tightly-contested third period, with the final 6-4 score not quite doing justice to how close the game truly was. Two of the Canucks’ goals, after all, were into an empty net.
So, who on the Canucks stood out for the right reasons? Here are the three stars of the game for the Canucks, along with some honourable mentions and a couple players who stood out for the wrong reasons.
3rd Star: Jonathan Dahlen
With two goals in this game, Jonathan Dahlen officially led the 2018 Young Stars Classic in scoring with five points. Not too shabby.
Dahlen scored the 3-0 goal off a Jets turnover in the neutral zone. Reid Gardiner took the puck in, avoided Logan Stanley’s attempted poke check, and got the puck to Dahlen. He quickly got the puck to his forehand and snapped it inside the far post.
Dahlen’s line with Elias Pettersson and Kole Lind wasn’t quite as dominant as they were in the second game, but still created the Canucks’ best chances of the game. They just couldn’t find the back of the net after the first period.
Finally, with the Jets’ net empty late in the third period, Dahlen found the empty net from a tough angle to make the score 5-3. It turned out to be an essential goal, as the Jets managed to make it 5-4 not long after.
Dahlen doesn’t have an easy path to the Canucks’ lineup in training camp, with Loui Eriksson, Nikolay Goldobin, Brendan Leipsic, Antoine Roussel, and Tim Schaller all likely ahead of him on left wing. His play in Penticton, however, suggests that he’s ready to compete for a spot.
Ultimately, his waiver eligibility more than his NHL-readiness will likely determine where he starts the season.
2nd Star: Adam Gaudette
Adam Gaudette somewhat disappeared on Friday after opening the scoring with a deflection. On Sunday, he once again opened the scoring, this time with a one-timer on the power play.
Gaudette didn’t just finish off the play, he helped set it up as well, sending a nice cross-ice pass to Tanner MacMaster before MacMaster returned the favour. Gaudette scored a lot of goals for Northeastern University from that spot at the left faceoff circle and could find a home there on the second power play unit.
After his goal, Gaudette didn’t disappear, creating more chances for himself, including a wraparound that nearly squeezed past Jets goaltender Mikhail Berdin. He also had one of the biggest hits of the game and did some solid work on the penalty kill.
Gaudette will find it tough to make the Canucks out of camp with Jay Beagle and Brandon Sutter likely to take the third and fourth-line centre roles, so will likely start the season in the AHL. That’s not a terrible thing: some experience playing in a top-six role with the Utica Comets will serve him well.
1st Star: Elias Pettersson
Pettersson wasn’t perfect in this game, by any means, but he continued to give Canucks fans plenty of reasons to be excited.
The first reason was, of course, his rocket of a one-timer on the power play that made it 2-0. Olli Juolevi put the puck on a platter for Pettersson and, like a teenager playing music his parents hate, he blasted it upstairs.
How can you not get excited about the idea of Pettersson and Brock Boeser at opposite faceoff circles on the power play? Penalty kills will have to respect both their shots, hopefully splitting their attention, as well as their power play formation, opening up passing and shooting lanes for the rest of the unit.
That was Pettersson’s lone point of the game, but he showed flashes of other aspects of his game. His puck distribution and vision were on display multiple times in the offensive zone. He set up Jonathan Dahlen with a gorgeous back door pass late in the second period, forcing a fantastic save. On another occasion, he, Dahlen, and Kole Lind picked apart the Jets’ defence with a simple triangle formation and some quick passes.
Pettersson showed some good defensive awareness, twice breaking up 2-on-1s on the backcheck. The first time, he poked the puck off a Jet stick, then dumped the player unceremoniously into the net. The second time, he picked off a pass and quickly turned the puck up ice for a chance.
Pettersson back checking like a boss. Then throws in the savvy "let's get a faceoff by tossing a guy into the net" trick. A Jeff Tambellini favorite. pic.twitter.com/FDBrHyA46P— Wyatt Arndt (@TheStanchion) September 9, 2018
He was also better in the faceoff circle, holding his own after struggling in his first game. There’s going to be a learning curve there, but the Canucks seem committed to him quickly settling in at centre, so he’ll have to adapt. Some long sessions with Manny Malhotra should help.
Unfortunately, Pettersson also had a couple issues with puck management in the defensive zone. His turnovers led to the Jets’ third goal, and he struggled a couple of times down low along the boards. You can see the need for him to increase his strength, even if he overcame that issue many times throughout the game with smart body positioning.
All in all, it was a great prospect tournament for Pettersson, setting him up well for main training camp and preseason. While expectations should be kept in check, it’s easy to be excited for what he’ll bring to the team this season, particularly on the power play.
- Ivan Kulbakov got the start for the Canucks on Sunday and made some big stops as the Jets peppered the net with over 40 shots. The Belarusian goaltender is signed to the Utica Comets and will likely start the season in the ECHL, but he showed some good puck tracking and athleticism. The one issue is that he tended to make himself look quite small in the net, a problem for a 6’0” goaltender. Still, a strong performance overall.
- Kaleb Bulych was the youngest player on the Canucks’ Young Stars roster and the Vancouver Giants defenceman looked good on Sunday, making a few solid defensive plays and scoring the 4-3 goa. He jumped up in the play, cut across the zone on Logan Stanley, then shot back against the grain on Berdin. Bulych will be one to watch with the Giants this season and could be worth a late-round pick at the 2019 draft.
- It feels wrong that Petrus Palmu didn’t end up as one of the three stars in either game, because he looks like the most NHL-ready player apart from Pettersson, Dahlen, and Gaudette. He was constantly coming off the boards in possession of the puck after winning a battle against a larger player and created several chances for himself and his linemates.
- Kole Lind got a plum assignment in Penticton, riding shotgun with Pettersson and Dahlen. While he wasn’t as good in this game as he was on Friday, he still had a couple good scoring chances and showed he has the skill and hockey IQ to keep up with his Swedish linemates. He had the lone assist on Dahlen’s empty net goal after intercepting a pass in the defensive zone and chipping it ahead.
- Tanner MacMaster impressed in Utica at the end of last season and he looks ready to pick up right where he left off. His playmaking was a big plus in this game, with the assist on Gaudette’s goal and several other nice set ups. With him as a centre in Utica, the Canucks’ prospects should get plenty of chances to put up points.
- I was hoping for more from Olli Juolevi in these two games. While he played well overall and I particularly liked his work on the point on the power play, he simply wasn’t good enough on the Jets’ first goal. Instead of getting inside position on C.J. Suess or at least tying up his stick, Juolevi was effectively boxed out and could only cross check the Jets forward in the back as he put the puck in the net. He was too passive in front of the net on that play, which is something he’ll need to address.
- While I didn’t mind Jagger Dirk’s game overall, he struggled to find a shooting lane all game. Dirk had plenty of shot attempts, but not one made it to the net. Being in the offensive zone that much is a positive, but creating shooting lanes with his skating is supposed to be one of his strengths.
- This was Guillaume Brisebois’s fourth Young Stars tournament. With that in mind and with the way Jim Benning speaks about him, you’d expect to see a little more out of the defenceman. While he wasn’t terrible in either game, he also didn’t stand out in any way. His most noticeable moment was regrettably a turnover that gave Suess a breakaway, on which Kulbakov made a great stop.