After 5 long months, the Winnipeg Jets open their 2017 Young Stars tournament tonight against the Vancouver Canucks (9:30 PM CT, watch live on jets.nhl.com). This tournament has been a starting point in the past for many of the young players on the currently on the Jets roster, such as Mark Scheifele, Jacob Trouba, and Nikolaj Ehlers. Who will be the stand outs at the tournament this year? Let’s take a look at a few key Jets to watch tonight and as the tournament progresses.
D #3 Tucker Poolman
Poolman signed a 1 year, $1,775,000 contract in March 2017 after being a 5th round pick by the Jets in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Poolman is coming off a 3 year career at the University of North Dakota, where in 118 games he had 20 goals and 52 assists. He was also named the NCHC Defensive Defenseman of the Year in 2016-2017. Poolman will likely start the 2017-18 season with the Moose, as he sits behind Byfuglien, Myers, and Trouba on the right side of the Jets defense corps. This tournament will be his first game action since having shoulder surgery in March, and will be an opportunity to see where his game is in advance of Jets main camp next week. Fans hoping for him to work his way into the Jets defense corps this season will expect him to be a strong player in his appearances in this tournament.
D #64 Logan Stanley
The 18th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, Stanley will be playing in his second Young Stars tournament. In last year’s Young Stars tournament, he was a -5 with 26 penalty minutes. Stanley, like Poolman, is coming off an injury, missing the second half of the season with Windsor last season. He returned to be a part of the Memorial Cup champions, contributing a goal in the championship final against Erie, while being a +4 for the tournament playing with Rangers draft pick Sean Day. This training camp will be interesting for Stanley, who is likely headed back to junior to play for his hometown Kitchener Rangers, but will want to make an impression on Jets management. Fans will be looking for him to be a steady, shut-down defenseman, not doing anything too flashy, but being in strong position in his own zone.
F #80 Michael Spacek
A 4th round pick by the Jets in 2015, Spacek is coming off a 2-year junior career with the Red Deer Rebels. In two seasons, the 5’11” forward had 48 goals and 91 assists in 120 games, averaging 1.16 points per game. In 24 career WHL playoff games, Spacek had 7 goals and 18 assists. He joined the Moose at the end of last season, getting into 4 games, and recording 1 assist. Spacek is one of 3 forwards returning to the Young Stars tournament from last season. The 20 year old will be turning pro this year, likely to start in a regular role with the Moose. I expect that Spacek will stand out in this tournament, and will give him momentum leading into main camp next week.
The Canucks are led by forward Brock Boeser. The UND grad, who was a teammate of Tucker Poolman in 2015-16 and 2016-17, got into 9 NHL games last season with the Canucks, and had 4 goals in the 9 games, including scoring in his NHL debut at Minnesota. Boeser will likely play on the Canucks top line tonight and go head to head with either Poolman or Stanley, which will be a strong test for the Jets defensemen.
The Canucks also have a strong goaltending tandem, with Thatcher Demko and Memorial Cup champion Michael DiPietro. Demko had a 22-17-1 record with the Utica Comets of the AHL as a rookie, a year after winning the Mike Richter award as the top goalie in NCAA with Boston College. Demko will probably start the season in Utica, and like Connor Hellebuyck is to the Jets, is the goalie of the future in the Canucks organization. DiPietro was a 3rd round pick by the Canucks in the 2017 NHL draft, after recording a 30-12-2 record with Windsor last season. He was the Spitfires starter throughout the Memorial Cup last season, and will return to Windsor as a 19 year old in 2017-18