Shortly after the conclusion of the final game of the Young Stars Tournament, the Vancouver Canucks announced their first round of cuts, letting eight players know that they would not be coming to the main camp. Unfortunately for me and my increasingly creepy obsession, all eight players were invitees. We bid a sad farewell to Michael Curtis, Craig Duininck, Ryan Harrison, Steven Janes, Brendan Jensen, Jonathan Lessard, Ian Saab, and Andrew Smith.
In happier news, this means that several invitees are heading to main camp and are still in the running to
become America’s favorite dancer earn a contract with the Canucks or Wolves. Sticking around are Marc Anthony Zanetti, Nathan Longpre, Antoine Roussel, and Karel St. Laurent. It’s worth noting that the invitees asked to stay were four of the five oldest invitees. All four are at least 20, with the only 20-year-old not staying being Jonathan Lessard.
So how did these players fare during the Young Stars Tournament? Are any invitees heading back to Junior unjustly? And of those staying, do any of them have a chance at earning a contract? Fortunately for you, I watched all four games of the tournament and took extensive notes. Let’s take a look.
Craig Duininck – In my opinion, Duininck was easily the best of the three invitee defencemen, picking up Invitee of the Game honours against the Sharks. He consistently made a good first pass, had two assists in his three games, and was physical in his own end. He showed a good all-around game and, at the age of eighteen, deserves a longer look in the future.
Ian Saab – While he showed the physical side of his game, throwing several big hits and getting in one fight, the other aspects of his game were lacking. He showed poor gap control against the rush and frequently made poor puck decisions. At other times, however, he played a simple game and was effective in front of the net.
Marc Anthony Zanetti – The only invitee defencemen to earn a call up to main camp, Zanetti showed a proclivity for giveaways, particularly in his first game against the Flames. He also had some bad luck against the Sharks, tipping in a cross-crease pass for an own goal. Beyond those mishaps, he played reasonably well. He’s sound positionally, closes down angles well, and can play a physical game. It doesn’t seem like all the elements of his game are there yet, so he’s unlikely to earn a contract with the Canucks organization.
Michael Curtis – The two-way centre had a largely forgettable performance at the tournament, capped off by a terrible giveaway in the final game that led directly to a goal. His highlight was a sweet little touch pass to set up a one-timer goal by Steven Janes. While effective at times defensively, he struggled to handle the puck and wasn’t able to put together a complete game.
Ryan Harrison – While quiet for most of the tournament, Harrison had one big moment when he levelled a Calgary Flames prospect into his bench. Beyond that, he played a simple, yet effective game. He was responsible defensively and made good passes when they were available, but mostly dumped the puck in to start the forecheck. Nothing too impressive, but not a player that hurt the team.
Steven Janes – After an ugly game against the Flames to open his tournament, Janes played a much better second game against the Sharks, finishing off a pretty passing play with a solid one-timer. It’s hard to forget the giveaways, however, and Janes simply did not look ready for this level of play.
Jonathan Lessard – I had higher hopes for Lessard, who scored 37 goals last season in the QMJHL. He was frequently noticeable and clearly has some decent skill with the puck, but he didn’t pick up a single point and finished minus-2 for the tournament. He skates well, has good hands, and can make nice passes, but nothing ended up in the back of the net for him. Against the Jets, however, he was a physical force, making several good hits. It wasn’t enough, however, for him to stick around.
Nathan Longpre – The invitee I was most excited to see pre-camp, Longpre did not disappoint, finishing tied for the tournament lead in points, though a commenter claimed he should have been awarded another assist to give him sole possession of the top spot. To be fair, that commenter is a relative of Longpre. His best game came against the Flames, where he scored all three of his points, including the game-tying goal in the dying seconds of the third period and the assist on the gamewinner mere seconds into overtime. But it was his play away from the puck that likely earned him his invite to main camp: he’s a responsible player defensively who consistently makes good decisions. If he performs well in the preseason, Longpre will earn himself a contract.
Antoine Roussel – Personally, I wasn’t too impressed with what I saw from Roussel. But then I look at the stats and notice that he had two points in two games and led the tournament in penalty minutes and he makes me want to take another look. Clearly, Canucks management think he’s worth a second glance, inviting him to the main camp. Roussel is an aggressive and physical player who plays a simple north-south game and goes hard to the net. He also had some good shifts on the penalty kill and was plus-2 in his two games. At the very least, he can drop the gloves in preseason instead of some of the Canucks drafted prospects and he might earn a contract with the Wolves in the process.
Andrew Smith – While not a very good skater, Smith had some effective shifts during the week. He showed some strength along the boards, though he did lose a few puck battles, and some hard work on the forecheck. Still, if he wants to work his way up into the professional ranks, he’ll need to work on his speed and maneuverability on the ice. His upside is nearly non-existent, though he may find work on a fourth line in the AHL in the future thanks to his size.
Brendan Jensen – As expected, Jensen didn’t get a chance to strut his stuff in Penticton, but he was in the lineup against the Jets, suiting up as the backup.
Karel St. Laurent – St. Laurent caught me completely off guard. An unheralded goalie from the BCHL, he took the tournament by storm, playing in a tournament-high 3 games and posting a .938 SV% and a 2.50 GAA. He made 90 saves on 96 shots and kept the Canucks prospects in the games that he started. His size combined with his technical ability made most of his saves look remarkably easy and he received a well-deserved invite to the main camp. Where he could potentially fit into the Canucks system is anyone’s guess, but we’ll wait to see how he handles preseason action before jumping to any conclusions.Tags: featured, Invitees, Prospects, YoungStars