If you’re eager for the return of our regular I Watched This Game feature, you’ll have to wait a little longer. Since the game itself isn’t really the point of the Young Stars tournament, we’re instead looking at the games with a three stars format looking at individual performances and who stood out the most. We’ll be looking at the three best players from among the Canucks prospects as well as making a few other observations.
3rd Star: Joacim Eriksson
Eriksson impressed in his first appearance in a Canucks uniform after getting signed as a free agent in the off-season. The Swedish goaltender got beat on the short side early in the game and could have done better on a second goal that got by him from the point, but he also made 37 saves and helped keep the Canucks’ penalty kill perfect despite the Canucks giving the Sharks 6 opportunities. Considering that the Canucks were badly outshot, 39 to 22, Eriksson deserves a lot of credit for the win.
What was most interesting was seeing Eriksson in action. He plays deep in his net, similar to how Henrik Lundqvist plays in New York, relying on his wide and tall butterfly stance and quick reactions to make saves. He moves well laterally and is athletic enough to react and dive across the net when necessary. It was a solid introduction to Eriksson, who will be aiming for the backup job behind Roberto Luongo.
2nd Star: Nicklas Jensen
The Canucks’ 2011 first round pick simply looked better than most of his compatriots, capping off his solid performance with a nice goal, rifling a shot top corner after Ludwig Blomstrand went hard to the net to open up space, getting obliterated in the process. Jensen led the Canucks with 4 shots on goal, with several dangerous chances. His best came on a slick move, undressing a defender before getting hooked down with no penalty call. That was baffling, as the referees seemed to be eager to give the teams practice on the powerplay.
He was good along the boards, responsible defensively, and showed some nice hands while puckhandling. Essentially, he did everything that could be expected from him as he battles to earn a spot on the Canucks’ opening night roster.
1st Star: Bo Horvat
The Canucks’ first round pick from this year’s draft did not disappoint. Horvat was noticeable every time he stepped on the ice, combining with Hunter Shinkaruk (who would have been the 4th star) for some great shifts in the Sharks’ zone. Two moments, however, stand out for Horvat: his goal and his incredible toe-drag.
His goal demonstrated his release and accurate shot. After Shinkaruk’s pressure on the forecheck caused the Sharks to cough up the puck, Horvat wasted no time placing the puck top corner. It was a perfect shot. Then, he showed off his slick hands early in the second period when he dangled around his check with an absolutely sick toe-drag to create a scoring chance in the slot.
Beyond that, he was also laying out to block shots on the penalty kill and displayed his physicality with a couple nice bodychecks. It was a promising start for Horvat.
Invitee of the Game
While Daniel Johnston scored a goal and was frequently noticeable offensively, he doesn’t get the nod as the invitee of the game, thanks to some questionable moments in the defensive zone. On the Sharks’ first goal, he got knocked off the puck along the boards, turning over the puck. He had a particularly questionable turnover later in the game, as he seemed to just not be aware that a Sharks forward was anywhere near him.
Instead, I’m going with David Pacan, who benefited from playing with Horvat and Shinkaruk, but also showed his own skill, walking around a defender at the blue line late in the third, creating a scoring chance. He was second on the team with 3 shots and didn’t look out of place, making some nice passes and battling well along the boards.
There are going to be some players who aren’t particularly good in this tournament, but that’s not what this section is for. Instead, this is for the players that should be better and aren’t meeting expectations.
That player in this game was Brendan Gaunce, who was decent enough, winning faceoffs and playing a reasonable two-way game, but just didn’t stand out the way I hoped he would. There were just a few moments that were disappointing. In the first period while killing a penalty, he rushed it up ice and made a risky cross-ice pass instead of getting the puck deep, leading to a rush the other way.
In the second, he picked up a turnover in the offensive zone, but instead of confidently taking it to the net, he passed it off to Blomstrand, who was in a worse position, effectively killing the scoring chance. It was emblematic of Gaunce seeming to lack a little bit of confidence with the puck. He ended up with no shots on net and a completely blank statline. That’s just not good enough for a player that Canucks fans are hoping will battle for a spot on the Canucks’ opening night roster.Tags: Bo Horvat, Joacim Eriksson, Nicklas Jensen, young stars, Young Stars Three Stars