With the COVID-19 pandemic behind most of the world, something that has returned to the NHL one is the annual rookie tournament held in the Okanagan. The Young Stars Classic, scheduled for Sept. 15-18, 2023, at Penticton’s South Okanagan Events Centre, will feature prospects from the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets.
The host Canucks revived the tourney last season following a four-year hiatus due to the global pandemic.
As is the case each year during the tournament, a Flames prospects squad will face off in three games, one each against their Western Canadian rivals.
- Friday, Sept. 15: vs. Canucks, 8:30 p.m. MT
- Saturday, Sept. 16: vs. Oilers, 8:30 p.m. MT
- Monday, Sept. 18: vs. Jets, noon MT
Other games include Oilers vs. Jets (Sept. 15, 5 p.m.), Canucks vs. Jets (Sept. 17, 3 p.m.) and Canucks vs. Oilers (Sept. 18, 3:30 p.m.). Saturday will also see an exhibition Tier 2 junior BCHL game between the Chilliwack Chiefs and the host Penticton Vees at the 5,000-seat arena.
Last year’s Classic saw the Flames ice a lineup that featured Jakob Pelletier, Walker Doehr, Dustin Wolf, Adam Klapka, Jeremie Poirier, Cole Schwindt, Connor Zary and Rory Kerins with the bench run by Mitch Love, the current AHL Wranglers coach and potential near-future NHL Flames HC.
The Flames rookies went 0-3 in 2022.
The Canucks first hosted the Young Stars Classic in 2010, when the Flames, Oilers, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks made the trip to B.C. with their up-and-coming prospects.
Among Calgary’s prospects in Penticton that year was Mikael Backlund, today a longtime Flame and a finalist for the NHL’s King Clancy Award, along with eventual Flames stalwarts T.J. Brodie, Michael Ferland and Lance Bouma.
That year marked Backlund’s third rookie camp with the Flames. The centre, drafted in the first round, 24th overall, by the Flames in 2007, had already played 24 NHL games and was expected to stick in the team’s lineup that coming season.
That was the case, with Backlund playing 73 more NHL games for the Calgary Flames in 2010-11. The 14-year veteran has played 908 NHL games, all for the Flames.