Throughout the Young Stars Tournament, we will have in-person coverage from Harrison, while I will be “in studio” back here in the Valley. We won’t be writing our usual I Watched This Game feature, as the games themselves are not what matters. Instead, we’ll be looking at the individual performances. I will be choosing the 3 stars from amongst the Canucks prospects as well as making a few other observations. Why just the Canucks prospects? Because we don’t care about the other teams. Screw ‘em.
3rd Star: Karel St. Laurent
After a solid performance in relief on Sunday, St. Laurent put in an excellent performance against the Flames. His size combined with his solid positioning made most of his saves look easy and he controlled his rebounds well. The undrafted invitee made 44 saves on 47 shots, with very little he could do on the Flames’ three goals. The 6’4″ goaltender moves well from post to post, keeps his shoulders high when he goes into his butterfly, and doesn’t overplay shots from the point. He’s looking more and more like he deserves a professional contract.
2nd Star: Kellan Tochkin
What a pleasant surprise! The undersized winger was signed as a free agent in 2009 after putting up 74 points in 72 games for the Everett Silvertips, but failed to build on his breakout season, putting up 68 and 64 points in his next two seasons. Many Canucks fans, myself included, had pretty much written him off. Tochkin, however, has no interest in giving up.
He had an excellent game, scoring the opening goal by tipping the puck on net and beating everyone to the rebound, but it wasn’t just the goal. Tochkin was constantly around the puck in the offensive zone, controlling it well and making intelligent decisions, finishing with a team-high 6 shots. He also forechecked effectively and broke up plays in the neutral zone with good positioning and an active stick.
He was only credited with the one goal, but should have had an assist on the game-tying goal as he picked up the puck in the slot and immediately put it on net, where Longpre chipped in the rebound. It was yet another intelligent play in a very impressive game.
1st Star: Nathan Longpre
Longpre was the obvious first star of the game, scoring 2 goals and adding an assist. But he also showed a mature two-way game, playing well away from the puck. He went in hard on the forecheck, was strong on the backcheck, and was constantly in the right position. On the penalty kill, he closed off passing lanes with perfect positioning and an active stick. At 23 years old, it’s important that he shows his maturity in all aspects of the game.
Longpre opened the scoring by firing home a Bill Sweatt rebound, then chipped in the last-second game-tying goal by boxing out his defender and flipping the puck up and over Joni Ortio instead of frantically jamming at the puck a la Steve Bernier. Finally, on the game-winning goal, the RMU graduate smartly went forward on the faceoff, then showed some speed going wide and was strong on his skates, protecting the puck well as he drove the net and flipped the pass across to fellow invitee Antoine Roussel.
Invitee of the Game: Nathan Longpre
The Canucks had twice as many invitees in the lineup as they did against the Oilers and got several solid performances. Longpre was clearly the best, though St. Laurent was excellent in net. Antoine Roussel had a solid game, scoring the gamewinner and somehow getting credit for an assist on Longpre’s tying goal that probably should have been given to Tochkin. His physical play was also noticeable, throwing several hits and adding a fight.
Craig Duininck was at his best when he kept things simple and ended up with an assist. Marc-Anthony Zanetti had 3 shots and was noticeable offensively, but had a terrible giveaway in his own end that led to the Flames’ third goal. But none of them compared to Nathan Longpre on this night.
Biggest Disappointment: Steven Janes
No one was outright terrible, but I was disappointed in Janes. I had hopes for the physical forward after accidentally forgetting him in my invitee previews and doing a late profile on him. Janes fought the puck all night and had two bad giveaways in the neutral zone. He looked better in the third period, so it’s possible his nerves got the better of him and he will be better through the rest of the tournament. Here’s hoping that is the case.
The Mason Raymond Award for “We Need More Out of You”: Kevin Connauton
The big knock on Connauton has always been the defensive end of the ice and the most important thing for him to prove at this camp is that he has been developing that part of his game. Unfortunately, that was his biggest weakness against the Flames. When the puck was on his stick, Connauton looked comfortable and aggressive, but he was an adventure away from the puck. He constantly tried to do too much, highlighted by an attempted hipcheck early in the first period that he completely flubbed.
Connauton desperately needs to simplify his game in the defensive zone. Offensively, he looks great, but the Canucks need to see more out of the young defender.Tags: Canucks, featured, Flames, Invitees, Prospects, Young Stars Three Stars, YoungStars