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: Anton Rodin
Until Rodin scored his beautiful highlight reel goal with 4 minutes to go in the third period, Kellan Tochkin was going to be the 3rd star. After all, Tochkin followed up a fantastic game on Monday with a 2-assist performance, one of them a slick deke past a defender to start a tic-tac-toe goal by Steven Janes.
Rodin, on the other hand, didn’t look good to start the game. He seemed to shy away from contact and couldn’t corral the puck. But then he started making some nice passes and combined with Darren Archibald on some good offensive plays. And then he scored a superb goal, taking an Adam Polasek outlet pass, beating his defender one-on-one, and slipping the puck in five-hole. It was likely the best goal of the tournament and he deserves the recognition.
2nd Star: Darren Archibald
Archibald continues to show that he’s a man amongst boys, looking calm and comfortable at all times. He had a pure goalscorer’s goal in the second period. He cleverly took a Craig Duininck pass at centre ice with just his right hand on the stick, deflecting it past his defender while already blowing past him. He charged hard up the wing and snapped a shot through the goaltender’s legs.
There were a lot of things to like about Archibald’s game: he clearly has an NHL level shot with a quick release, but he also has excellent on-ice vision and makes nice passes. I also like his power forward potential: at times he drew defenders to him like Canucks fans haven’t seen since Todd Bertuzzi in his prime with the West Coast Express. Of course, he’s playing against smaller and weaker players, so the Bertuzzi comparison is likely over-hyping him a little. Just a little.
1st Star: Adam Polasek
After breaking Colten Teubert’s nose in his first game of the tournament, Polasek was eager to prove that fighting wasn’t all he could do. After all, he also finished minus-3 in that game and has a grand total of two fights in his QMJHL career. As much as he got a lot of attention for his fight, he didn’t have a good game and fighting is not how he will work his way into the NHL.
Scoring the gamewinning goal and adding an assist on the insurance marker? That’s more like it. Polasek had a great game, showing his superb offensive instincts. His one weak moment came when he got turned around in the neutral zone and had to take a penalty to prevent a scoring chance, but he later drew a penalty by strongly driving into the slot with the puck, so he breaks even on that score.
Polasek’s goal came on the powerplay on a hard and low slapshot that deflected off a Shark defenseman past an Alexandre Grenier screen, while his assist was a perfect outlet pass to spring Rodin for his brilliant goal. He also had a solid game defensively, using his size effectively and controlling space well.
Invitee of the Game: Craig Duininck
With 9 invitees in the lineup (and 1 more on the bench), there was bound to be several good performances. Michael Curtis was a game-high plus-3 and had a great touch pass on a one-timer goal by fellow invitee Steven Janes, who had 4 shots, a welcome reversal from their previous struggles in the tournament. Antoine Roussel was a physical presence (though he clearly studied in the Zach Stortini of fighting) and had some great moments on the penalty kill. But none of them were the best invitee on the ice.
That honour goes to someone you might not have even noticed: Craig Duininck. He had one assist, a fine outlet pass on Darren Archibald’s goal, but his finest moments came in the defensive zone. His positioning and gap control were solid, but he also took the opportunity to throw a few hits. His physical play in front of the net was great, particularly on the PK, and used his stick well to cut off passing lanes.
He played a safe game, but still picked up an assist. Even in his weakest moment, a giveaway below the goal line, turned into a moment of strength, as he immediately recovered and cut short the subsequent scoring chance.
Biggest Disappointment: Nathan Longpre
Longpre didn’t exactly have a terrible game. In fact, he looked fine: he was confident with the puck, backchecked effectively, and put in some good minutes on the penalty kill. However, he was on the top line with Anton Rodin and Darren Archibald, a fine opportunity to build on his excellent 2 goal, 1 assist performance in his previous game. He didn’t grasp that opportunity, not creating enough offensively with the two star forwards of the game. He still deserves a call up to main camp, but it was a disappointing letdown after his previous great performance.
The Mason Raymond Award for “We Need More Out of You”: Prab Rai
Odd as it may seem, this was Rai’s best performance in a Canucks uniform. And yet, I still want more. Rai had a game-high 6 shots, scored a goal, and had another golden scoring chance that he was unable to put home. His first period scoring chance came off a sneaky play where he slipped in behind the Sharks’ defense and took the puck to the backhand. It was an intelligent play, but he needed to raise the puck and was instead too casual.
On his goal, however, he showed great determination, coming off the boards and going hard to the slot with the puck. His initial shot was blocked, but he stuck with the puck and got a second shot on net, where a fortuitous bounce off a defender trickled across the goal line. He even took a few shifts on the penalty kill and did well to get into shooting lanes.
But he spent far too much time coasting. When he didn’t have the puck and wasn’t on the penalty kill, he seemed disinterested. It was frustrating that he played so poorly while playing so well. I, and I’m sure Canucks management, would love to see more out of him.Tags: Canucks, featured, Invitees, Prospects, Young Stars Three Stars, YoungStars