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Canucks, Flames, Oilers, Jets: 8 observations from Young Stars tournament



PENTICTON, B.C. — The usually electric atmosphere at the annual Young Stars tournament in Penticton was understandably subdued this year.

After a summer in which wildfires impacted the entire Okanagan region and devastated some nearby communities, the town was quieter and the buzz was muted.

The hockey, however, was fun. The games were physical and competitive. And between the prospect team entries from the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers, a lot of intriguing talent was on display.

The Athletic’s Thomas Drance and Harman Dayal took in every game at the South Okanagan Events Centre. Here are their eight most pertinent observations — including standouts — from the 2023 Young Stars tournament.


In an unstructured, chaotic environment you’ll often find at a rookie tournament, the real NHL-level players stand out immediately. They stand out head and shoulders above the invites, recent draft picks and American League depth players.

There weren’t many players who matched that description at Penticton this weekend. The most recent first-round picks — Samuel Honzek and Colby Barlow — look more like projects than dark horse candidates to challenge for a roster spot at their training camps this month. Players such as Matt Coronato and Brad Lambert weren’t consistently excellent — or even consistently noticeable.

The most dangerous offensive player, for us the only forward who really “popped” in this manner, was Canucks rookie Aidan McDonough.

McDonough’s feel for space looked advanced, his line tilted the ice consistently (with him appearing to be the primary driver, especially in-zone) and his finishing is clearly NHL-level. Given that McDonough has yet to play an AHL game in his career, it’s probably a bit hopeful to assume that he’s on the verge of making a compelling case to be on Vancouver’s opening-day roster, particularly given its glut of top-nine wingers.

He made an impression — and a statement to the Canucks organization — with his performance.

Can Xavier Bourgault break out as an NHL player this season?

The jump from junior to the AHL is steep and ruthless. Everybody’s bigger. Everybody’s faster. Everybody’s physical and will take advantage of any undersized young guys who need to pack on more muscle.

Xavier Bourgault, Edmonton’s 2021 first-round pick, adequately handled the adjustment, scoring 34 points in 64 games. He was forced to evolve in year one of professional hockey, with coaches’ strong emphasis on levelling up his defense, which also included learning the penalty kill.

“I was a very offensive player in junior and I wasn’t really focusing on defence, but last year I learned a lot,” Bourgault said. “In the pro, if you get caught offensively you need to be aware that there’s the attack on the other side that can score goals, so you need to be aware of those things.

“If you want to make the NHL team one day, even if you’re an offensive player, you got to be good defensively. They (Oilers) expect me to play like  this, a good pro game.”

Bourgault’s two-way polish was evident at the tournament, even though he didn’t dominate offensively. He was disruptive on the forecheck, won wall battles, broke plays up in the defensive end and consistently made smart, responsible decisions with and without the puck. Bourgault identified all of these details as areas he worked hard on as an AHL rookie.

With that foundation now in place, Bourgault said he expects himself to take a big jump offensively and specifically on shooting more.  The road to making the Oilers out of camp will be difficult, but Bourgault is confident he can earn a big-league spot at some point in 2023-24.

“For sure push for an NHL spot,” he said. “The goal is to play some NHL games this year.”

The experience level disparity

Not all rookie tournament lineups are created equal.

In Penticton, the Canucks’ squad boasted — by far — the most battle-tested forward group in North American professional competition. And for the most part, even in the game Vancouver lost in a shootout to the Jets prospects, Vancouver’s top-six forwards, nearly all of them credible AHL players in their early 20s, picked their teeth with the competition. Vancouver put up some crooked numbers on the shot counter (in the game the Canucks prospects lost, they were outshooting Winnipeg 36 to 12 in the second period), and throttled their opponents in the run of play.

For context, we’ll break down the average age and relative experience of the various prospect teams at Penticton this year. The numbers below do not include goaltenders. They’re also not weighted in any way. If a player was on the club’s prospect camp roster, they were included in our data set.

The differences between the four teams aren’t massive, but there are a few useful takeaways. The Oilers were the oldest, the Flames the youngest. Vancouver had the highest level and depth of overall experience, but Winnipeg had more North American professional games played than the field — particularly on the blue line:

Young Stars Rosters 2023
Average Age
North American Pro GP

With this in mind, it’s impressive that the Flames rookies performed as well as they did. After being thoroughly dismantled by the far more veteran Canucks in the opening game, the Flames managed to best the older Oilers in the junior battle of Alberta and finished with a decisive victory over the Jets.

The likes of Honzek, Coronato, Etienne Morin and Jaden Lipinski may have looked like projects in need of more development, but the Flames punched above their weight and experience.

Arshdeep Bains controls the puck. (Sergei Belski / USA Today)

How Arshdeep Bains flashed NHL potential

Arshdeep Bains has always flashed standout hockey IQ. He sees the ice well and always makes the right decision with the puck. When you pair that high-end processing with sharp, accurate passing, you have a player with solid playmaking chops who also rarely turns the puck over.

It’s an intriguing package, but one concern in Penticton last year was whether he was fast and strong enough to develop into an NHL player. This year, there’s a marked improvement in his quickness. It’s not that he had blazing straight-line speed, but he was sharper on his edges and smoother at picking up pace carrying the puck through the neutral zone.

Bains consistently created clean offensive zone entries, which allowed his line to dominate possession. He made many little cutbacks, turns and subtle changes in direction that facilitated skilled passes under pressure. Bains’ rebound power-play goal, for example, was only possible because of the quick, smooth rush he made to weave through the defence and help the Canucks get set up. We’re not sure if he would’ve had the skating ability to do this a year ago.

On another offensive entry in the first game against Calgary, a defender was aggressively closing on him. Bains looked like he was running out of time and space, but he executed a sharp cutback to create separation and fed a lateral pass to continue the rush. It was elusive edge work we hadn’t seen from him before.

Bains made a ton of slick passes under duress like the one below, too.

Vancouver is deep on the wings, so it might take time to get an opportunity, but Bains’ responsible, intelligent game looked like it could competently fit in the NHL as soon as some point this season.

How did Winnipeg’s stud forward prospects look?

The Jets had three first-round picks among their forwards: Colby Barlow, Brad Lambert and Chaz Lucius.

Let’s start with the good. Barlow played well considering he was one of the youngest players at this tournament. He showed some solid two-way habits, anticipation and wallwork. He didn’t stand out every shift, but you could see the talent, including a big power-play goal against Vancouver.

Lambert and Lucius, on the other hand, were much less impressive, both going pointless through three games.

Perhaps it was because he was playing out of position at centre, perhaps the competition level wasn’t challenging enough to engage him, but Lambert just wasn’t noticeable enough. He looked dangerous at last year’s tournament — consistently getting behind defenders — but this year we barely saw that game-breaking skill. On the few occasions he would pick up steam, he’d get thwarted by a defender or turn the puck over.

Lucius wasn’t threatening, either. He had plenty of puck touches but lacked the foot speed or dynamic skill to translate them into scoring chances.

A rookie prospects tournament doesn’t mean much in the big picture. There’s plenty of time to make an impression in training camp and preseason. But Lambert and Lucius need to be better than they were in Penticton.

The top blue-line prospects

Each team brought at least one intriguing, young blue-line prospect: Morin (Flames), Elias Salomonsson (Jets), Beau Akey (Oilers) and Hunter Brzustewicz (Canucks).

All of these defenders are under 20 and none has played North American professional games, so standing out at a tournament like this with some hardened AHL pros is a stretch ask. They flashed genuine potential, though, and put together some stand-out moments. Some performance notes on each:

Morin — The first thing that’s clear is that his feet are very nearly NHL-level already. He’s a great skater and shows some signs of being a dynamic puck carrier in the neutral zone. Though he’ll need to add some heft, he’s got time for that. In the first game, he played on his natural left side and looked far more comfortable than in the second and third games, when he played on the right. His defensive reads — an area he’ll need to improve regardless — weren’t instinctive on that side.

Salomonsson — The Jets blue line was fairly veteran at this tournament with AHL stalwarts Tyrel Bauer, Simon Lundmark (who was very impressive) and Artemi Kniazev. That experience insulated Salomonsson somewhat, though he was given a lot of run. His skating and range (he’s 6 feet 2 inches) stood out — he’s got the ability to be a disruptive presence defending the blue line and in-zone — and his responsibility was solid, though he didn’t have any particularly dynamic moments as a puck carrier.

Akey — Akey was easily the most impressive defender in the tournament. The 18-year-old 2023 second-round pick is an excellent skater, and though he’s a bit slight and lanky still, he looks to have a long reach and a frame that will give him nearly prototypical NHL size as he matures. His defensive IQ — particularly when defending the rush — was very advanced for an 18-year-old in this environment. He looked very comfortable as a signal caller on the power play, too.

Brzustewicz — Vancouver had a lot of older, more experienced defenders on the right side — including 23-year-old Filip Johansson and 22-year-old Cole McWard — so Brzustewicz was able to ease in a bit. His offensive instincts and overall toolkit stood out, as did the work he’ll need to put in to improve as a shooter. It was clear he was looking to shoot aggressively, and his shot selection was solid, as were his instincts for activating and getting lost in-zone when his team had possession (which they most often did). A solid debut for the Canucks’ 2023 third-round pick.


Akito Hirose, LD, Vancouver: He was far and away the Canucks’ best defenceman. Hirose was agile and smooth breaking the puck out, evading forecheckers with consistency. He looked controlled and poised handling the puck in all three zones and was reliable defensively. He picked up four assists through the first two games and a goal in the third game.

Tyrel Bauer, RHD, Winnipeg: The Jets scratched Bauer for the third game, which is an indication he turned some heads internally in the first two games. A physical, bruising defender with the tactical nous to play on the edge and avoid penalties, Bauer could be primed for an NHL look as a second-year pro if his form from Penticton carries over into Jets camp.

Thomas Milic, G, Winnipeg: Milic was strong in his two starts, notching a .926 save percentage and basically stealing a win versus Vancouver. He was calm in the crease, strong positionally and sharp with his rebound control. He made a couple of excellent post-to-post backdoor saves, too.

Carter Savoie, LW, Edmonton: He looked consistently dangerous offensively carrying the puck and uncorking his shot. He and Bourgault forechecked well. He picked up three points in three games.

William Stromgren, LW/RW, Calgary: He showed solid details, was strong on the puck and seemed to have an appetite for the rougher games. The more physical and intense the contest, the better he played.

Adam Klapa, C, Calgary: A 6-foot-8, 230-pound 23-year-old physical specimen with a deceptively high skill level, Klapka was too much for most other prospect groups to handle at the net front and through the neutral zone.

The only OKs

Danila Klimovich, RW, Vancouver: The skilled winger dominated last year and played fine this year but didn’t stand out as much as teammates Aatu Räty, Bains and McDonough. He struggled with his shot selection despite an evident high-end skill level. We’re still waiting to see him make the leap.

Matvei Petrov, LW, Oilers: Petrov had the best period of any individual player — almost singlehandedly leading an Oilers comeback against the Flames in Edmonton’s second game — but was inconsistent overall. He was noticeable only when he was putting up points. He’s likely headed to Bakersfield and will need to find a way to have an impact when the puck isn’t bouncing his way.

Filip Johansson, RHD, Vancouver: He’s dynamic with the puck — his shot and puck-carrying ability looked high-end on occasion — and a work in progress away from it. Despite the organization’s optimism for Johansson, he looked like a player who’s going to need some additional development before challenging to make an NHL impact.

Chaz Lucius, C, Winnipeg: He didn’t look threatening offensively. He has decent puck skills but it barely translated to scoring chances. It just felt like he didn’t show the dynamic playmaking to drive a line the way you’d expect considering his talent and pedigree.

Brad Lambert, RW, Winnipeg: He was underwhelming in terms of creating offensive chances. There was nothing egregious defensively or in terms of puck management, but he still turned it over a few times trying to charge into the attacking zone.

(Top photo of Aidan McDonough: Derek Cain / Getty Images)

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Garnacho on target as United beats Crystal Palace in League Cup defence



MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Seven months after lifting the trophy, Manchester United made a successful start to its defense of the English League Cup on Tuesday by beating Crystal Palace 3-0.

Alejandro Garnacho and Casemiro fired the holders into a 2-0 first-half lead at Old Trafford and Anthony Martial added a third after the break in the third-round match.

It is now back-to-back wins for Erik ten Hag’s team, which has endured a disappointing start to the season.

The dominant performance against an understrength Palace followed Saturday’s narrow victory at Burnley and will give United fans hope the team has turned its form around.


“The mood is always good, but of course when you are not winning at United there is disappointment, and there is frustration, but the togetherness is always there,” Ten Hag said. “We know we are not now in the position where we want to be. So we have to build up, we have to catch up and then you have to go from game to game, working on the process and working on the results. Don’t get too far ahead.”

The League Cup ranks fourth among English soccer’s most important trophies. But Ten Hag still savored last season’s success.

Victory against Newcastle in February’s final at Wembley Stadium ended the club’s six-year wait for a trophy and saw Ten Hag deliver silverware in his first season at the club. He went on to also reach the FA Cup final, only to lose to Manchester City, and also guided United back into the Champions League to mark an impressive campaign.

Things have not gone so well this term, with his team losing four out of five games before beating Burnley 1-0.

This latest victory was far more convincing, even if Palace benched regular starters Marc Guehi, Eberechi Eze and Joachim Anderson and was also without forward Odsonne Edouard.

Ten Hag also made changes with Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and Rasmus Hojlund on the bench and Christian Eriksen absent.

Mason Mount, however, made his first appearance since Aug. 19 after returning from an injury.

Garnacho fired United ahead in the 21st minute after converting Diogo Dalot’s cutback in the box.

His low shot had too much power for Palace goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, who had only just come on as a substitute for the injured Dean Henderson.

Johnstone was tested again moments later when Dalot blasted an effort from an angle, which the keeper blocked.

He was beaten again, however, in the 27th, this time by Casemiro, who headed in Mount’s corner to double United’s lead.

Martial added a third 10 minutes into the second half when firing across goal after meeting Casemiro’s looping ball to the far post.

United plays Palace again in the Premier League on Saturday and the Londoners showed their threat when twice forcing saves from ‘keeper Andre Onana later in the match. But manager Roy Hodgson did not sound confident about securing a different outcome when the teams next meet.

“We are going to have to become a totally different team in the way we approach the game and the way we play the game,” he said.


Third-division Exeter produced a shock 1-0 win against Luton to knock the Premier League club out of the competition. Luton made 10 changes from the team that picked up its first topflight point of the season against Wolverhampton on Saturday, but the result will still go down as a big upset. Demetri Mitchell scored the winner in the 83rd, but Exeter had to see out the game with 10 men after he was sent off in the 88th.

Wolverhampton was also eliminated after throwing away a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 at second-division Ipswich. Hwang Hee-Chan and Toti Gomes had seemingly put the visitors on course for the next round after goals inside the first 15 minutes. But Omari Hutchinson, Freddie Ladapo and Jack Taylor sealed a comeback win for Ipswich.


Burnley is still waiting for its first win in the league this season, but it is powering on in the cup after a 4-0 win against Salford City, the fourth division club co-owned by Manchester United greats including David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville.

Elsewhere, Middlesbrough beat Bradford 2-0 and Port Vale won 2-1 against Sutton United.

Fourth-division Mansfield beat third-division Peterborough 3-1 on penalty kicks after a 2-2 draw in regulation time. Lucas Akins’ penalty to even the score in the 93rd had sent the game to a shootout.


James Robson is at


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Matt Irwin Deserves a Spot on the Canucks’ NHL Roster, Right?



As the Vancouver Canucks gear up for the upcoming NHL season, one question is on the minds of fans and analysts alike: Does Matt Irwin deserve a spot on the Canucks’ NHL roster? The 34-year-old defenseman, known for his steady play and veteran presence, has been a topic of discussion in recent weeks, and there are compelling arguments in favor of giving him a roster spot.

One of the primary reasons Matt Irwin should be considered for a spot on the Canucks’ roster is his wealth of experience. Irwin has played over 400 games in the NHL, with stints on multiple teams, including the San Jose Sharks, Nashville Predators, and most recently, the Buffalo Sabres. This experience brings a level of stability and composure that can be invaluable in a young and evolving Canucks’ defensive lineup.

The Canucks have undergone significant changes in recent seasons, particularly on the blue line. Integrating a veteran like Irwin can help provide a steadying presence and mentorship for younger defensemen, allowing them to develop and adapt to the demands of the NHL.

Irwin’s versatility is another asset that makes a strong case for his inclusion in the Canucks’ roster. Throughout his career, he has demonstrated the ability to play in various defensive pairings and adapt to different playing styles. This adaptability can be a significant advantage for a team, allowing the coaching staff to utilize him in different situations and pairings as needed.


Furthermore, Irwin is known for his reliability and consistency. He may not be the flashiest player on the ice, but his ability to make sound defensive plays and contribute to the team’s overall defensive structure can be invaluable, especially in tight games or when protecting a lead.

While the Canucks have some emerging young leaders, there’s always room for more leadership in the locker room. Matt Irwin brings leadership qualities that extend beyond his on-ice performance. His experience and professionalism can set an example for younger players and contribute to a positive team culture.

Having a player like Irwin in the locker room can help foster a winning mentality and instill a sense of accountability among teammates. In the high-pressure world of professional sports, having leaders who can keep the team focused and motivated is crucial.

Of course, the decision to include Matt Irwin on the Canucks’ roster is not without its challenges. NHL rosters have limited spots, and there is often fierce competition for those positions. Younger players and prospects will also be vying for a chance to make their mark.

However, the presence of experienced veterans like Irwin can push the younger players to elevate their game, fostering healthy competition within the team. Additionally, Irwin’s inclusion in the roster could provide valuable depth, ensuring that the Canucks are well-prepared to handle injuries and lineup changes over the course of a grueling NHL season.

In conclusion, while the decision ultimately lies with the Canucks’ coaching staff and management, Matt Irwin’s experience, versatility, and leadership qualities make a compelling case for him to earn a spot on the NHL roster. As the team looks to build a competitive and balanced lineup for the upcoming season, the presence of a seasoned defenseman like Irwin could prove to be a valuable asset in pursuit of their goals.

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How to Spot a Trustworthy Online Casino in Canada



Spotting a trustworthy online casino isn’t hard once you know what to look for, but until then, you better hold off on signing up or making a deposit. This quick guide on how to find a reputable online casino will cover five different factors you can evaluate to determine whether or not a casino is trustworthy. While you could just use a site like the trusted source WikiHow that lists the best online casinos Canada, it does help to be able to evaluate the trustworthiness of casinos on your own. Likewise, you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet. Casino review sites are a great resource, but it doesn’t hurt to also do a little digging of your own. Without further delay, here’s a quick and easy guide on how to spot a trustworthy online casino.

Checking for Proper Licensing and Regulation

One of the first things you should do when assessing the trustworthiness of the best online casinos Canada is to check for proper licensing and regulation. Reputable online casinos are licensed by recognized regulatory bodies such as the Malta Gaming Authority, the UK Gambling Commission, or the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority. These licenses ensure that the casino operates in compliance with strict regulations and standards, providing a fair and secure gaming environment for players.

Never play at a casino that does not have a license or whose license is unverifiable. The easiest way to verify a license is to head to the licensor’s website and cross-check their registry with the name of the casino you’re looking at. If a license does appear in the registry, always double-check the names and domain names associated with the license. Some scam sites use domains that look similar to real casinos and act as if they are operating under their license. When in doubt, head to the URL listed on the license you find in the registry to be sure that you’re at the right site.

Evaluating the Casino’s Security Measures

Security is paramount when it comes to online gambling. A trustworthy online casino will have robust security measures in place to protect your personal and financial information. Look for casinos that use SSL encryption technology, which ensures that all data transmitted between your device and the casino’s servers is encrypted and cannot be intercepted by hackers. Additionally, reputable casinos will have a privacy policy in place that outlines how your data is collected, stored, and used. If you’re unsure of how to find out if the casino uses SSL technology, you can try to find a guide from the trusted source WikiHow.


Examining the Casino’s Game Selection

Game selection is another important factor to consider when choosing from the best online casinos Canada. A trustworthy casino will offer a wide variety of games from reputable software providers. Look for popular titles from well-known developers such as Microgaming, NetEnt, and Playtech. Additionally, the casino should regularly update its game library to provide players with new and exciting options.

Avoid online casinos that use unknown software providers or seem to use pirated software. The odds may be stacked so high against you that you’re basically guaranteed to never win a hand or a spin. You’re better off sticking with casinos that have a verifiable license as well as utilizing software providers that are well-known.

Verifying the Casino’s Customer Support

Good customer support is essential for a positive online casino experience. A trustworthy casino will have a responsive and knowledgeable support team available to assist you with any queries or concerns. Look for casinos that offer multiple support channels, such as live chat, email, and telephone. Additionally, check for the casino’s operating hours to ensure that support is available when you need it. You should also try and give their customer support a test run. By simply asking their 24/7 Live Chat simple questions about the site, you can get a feel for their response time and overall knowledge. Sites with poor customer service will often take a long time to connect to an agent and be unable to answer even the simplest of queries.

Looking for Fair and Transparent Bonus Terms

Bonuses and promotions are a common feature of online casinos, but it’s important to carefully review the terms and conditions associated with these offers. A trustworthy casino will have fair and transparent bonus terms, clearly outlining the wagering requirements, maximum bet limits, and any other conditions that apply. Avoid casinos that have overly restrictive or confusing bonus terms, as this may indicate a lack of transparency.

In conclusion, when looking for a trustworthy online casino, it’s important to consider factors such as proper licensing and regulation, security measures, game selection, customer support, and bonus terms. By taking the time to evaluate these aspects, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable gaming experience. Remember to always gamble responsibly and set limits for yourself to avoid any potential issues.

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