What to watch for at the Young Stars Classic

With the start of the Young Stars Classic just a few days away, there will be a number of current and future Abbotsford Canucks making their way to Penticton. The event will be played on September 16-19th out of the South Okanagan Events Centre, and will provide Vancouver Canucks prospects a chance to impress the Abbotsford coaching staff ahead of the upcoming season.

WHL Graduates

An exciting trio of players are hoping to make their professional debuts this season following successful stints in the Western Hockey League. Arshdeep Bains, Quinn Schmiemann and Chad Nychuk all impressed the coaching staff at Canucks Development Camp this past July, and are poised to earn a roster spot this season.

Bains, 21, is a six-foot tall left winger from Surrey, BC. Growing up a fan of the team, Bains instantly became a fan favourite after signing an NHL contract in March. Arshdeep spent five seasons with the Red Deer Rebels, putting up a league leading 112 points in his final junior campaign in 2021-22.

Schmiemann, 21, is a six-foot-two, left handed defenceman from Wilcox, SK. After being drafted in the sixth round at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning, Schmiemann signed a two-year AHL deal as a free agent in June. Quinn spent five seasons with the Kamloops Blazers, racking up 136 points as a Blazer, and wearing the captain’s “C” in his final year.

Nychuk, 21, is a six-foot-one, left-handed defenceman from Rossburn, MB. After standing out at Development Camp as an invitee, Nychuk signed a one-year AHL deal one week later in July. The “Rossburn Rifle” spent part of five seasons with the Brandon Wheat Kings, putting up a career best 21 goals and 50 assists in the 2021-22 campaign.

Swedish Connections

Over the past 20 years, the Canucks organization has become synonymous with a strong Swedish presence. Linus Karlsson and Nils Åman are no different in that regard. Both are yet to play a game for a team based out of their native Sweden, yet both are certainly planning to play in British Columbia in 2022-23.

Karlsson, 22, is a six-foot-one, right-handed centre from Eksjö, Sweden. After being drafted in the third round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft by the San Jose Sharks, Karlsson signed an Entry-Level Contract with the Vancouver Canucks in May. Registering 46 points (including a team leading 26 goals) during his rookie season in the Swedish Hockey League with Skellefteå AIK, Karlsson was awarded SHL Rookie of the Year after helping lead his team to the playoffs.

Åman, 22, is a six-foot-two, left-handed centre from Avesta, Sweden. After being drafted in the sixth round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft by the Colorado Avalanche, Åman signed an Entry-Level Contract with the Vancouver Canucks in June. Skating in over 110 Swedish Hockey League games across three seasons, Åman helped Leksands IF to back to back SHL playoff appearances for the first time in franchise history.

Familiar Faces

A handful of players making their way to Penticton on AHL deals featured heavily during Abbotsford’s inaugural season last year. Tristen Nielsen, Chase Wouters, Alex Kannok Leipert and Marc Gatcomb all skated and contributed to Abbotsford’s success in 2021-22, and the same will be expected next time around.

Nielsen, 22, is a five-foot-ten, left-handed centre from Fort St. John, BC. After spending parts of seven seasons in the WHL with the Calgary Hitmen and more recently the Vancouver Giants, Nielsen made his professional debut with Abbotsford last year. Playing in over 40 games last season, he notably scored a hat-trick on March 16th against the Manitoba Moose.

Wouters, 22, is a six-foot, right-handed centre from Lloydminster, AB. Spending parts of six WHL seasons with the Saskatoon Blades, Wouters was named captain at 18 years old and wore the “C” for his final three years with the Blades. As a rookie, Wouters had the best plus/minus by any Abbotsford forward last year, and picked up the team’s “Unsung Hero Award” in 2021-22.

Kannok Leipert, 22, is a six-foot, right-handed defenseman born in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand and raised in Regina, SK. After spending parts of five seasons with the Vancouver Giants of the WHL, and two as their captain, Alex made his professional debut in Abbotsford last season. Kannok Leipert also grabbed his first professional goal on April 9th in a 5-2 victory over the San Diego Gulls.

Gatcomb, 23, is a six-foot-two, right-handed forward from Woburn, Massachusetts. Going through the University of Connecticut, Gatcomb produced 46 points across four seasons with the Huskies. Marc received an offer to join the Abbotsford Canucks on a “ Professional Try Out” (PTO) agreement late in the season, playing six times for Abbotsford. Gatcomb then signed a one-year AHL contract, seeing him inked through the end of the 2022-23 campaign.

Vancouver Draft Picks

Carson Focht, Danila Klimovich, Jett Woo and Arturs Silovs all featured heavily on the Abbotsford roster last season as drafted prospects of the Vancouver Canucks. The four played in a combined 157 AHL games last season, and will all be heading to Penticton next week for the Young Stars Classic.

Focht, 22, is a six-foot-two, left-handed centre from Regina, SK. Having been drafted in the fifth round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft by Vancouver, Focht spent the 2019-20 season with the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL, where he was named an Assistant Captain. He spent the following season in Utica with the Comets where he made his AHL debut, before picking up double-digit points with Abbotsford in 2021-22.

Klimovich, 19, is a six-foot-two, right-handed centre from Pinsk, Belarus. After being drafted in the second round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft by Vancouver, “Klim” went straight into the AHL as an 18-year-old with Abbotsford. Registering eight goals and ten assists, Danila Klimovich was the first ever Abbotsford Canucks player to score in back-to-back games in October 2021.

Woo, 22, is a six-foot, right-handed defenceman from Winnipeg, MB. Another second round pick from Vancouver (2018)Woo spent a pair of seasons in the WHL with Moose Jaw and Calgary, before stepping up to Utica in the AHL. Woo featured in 44 games for Abbotsford in 2021-22, which landed him amongst the team leaders for defenceman.

Silovs, 21, is a six-foot-four,goaltender from Riga, Latvia. After being drafted in the sixth round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft by Vancouver, Silovs spent time in the Ontario Hockey League, ECHL, Latvian Hockey Higher League, and the American Hockey League. Arturs Silovs registered the first ever shutout win in Abbotsford Canucks history on October 24th, 2021.