From Bo Horvat to Thatcher Demko and even Connor McDavid, a number of current NHL stars started their professional careers in Penticton at the annual pre-season prospects tournament.
And after a three-year hiatus, the next batch of the game’s brightest youngsters will be back in the Okanagan later this year to start their own respective journeys.
The Vancouver Canucks are bringing the Young Stars Classic back to the Peach City from Sept. 16 to 19, with Western Canadian foes the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets set to join in on the action.
“It’s a real honour for the Vancouver Canucks to be back here in Penticton,” said Stan Smyl, who played for B.C.’s team from 1978 to 1991 and now acts as the club’s vice president of hockey operations. “This is a great opportunity for fans to come out and see the future stars of their team.”
The South Okanagan Events Centre will be home to the action, which will also feature a B.C. Hockey League pre-season game between the Penticton Vees and Chilliwack Chiefs on Sept. 17.
“There’s not many venues that could host four (NHL) teams for an event like this…two sheets of ice and just an ideal location for everyone involved,” said Jonathan Wall, the tournament’s chair and former director of hockey operations for the Canucks.
Wall added that Penticton’s centralized location will be inviting for those in Alberta who have a keen interest in catching some of the brightest Flames and Oilers stars as well.
One omission from the tournament this year, though, will be the NHL’s newest franchise, the Seattle Kraken.
“We see that as a natural fit moving forward and they see that also, but they’re kind of just getting their feet wet,” Smyl said. “I can see Seattle being part of this in the future.”
The Canucks’ top prospects will play a total of three games during the tournament, one against each of their Western rivals.
Starting in 2010, the team brought the pre-season tournament to Penticton for nine consecutive years. Aside from the other aforementioned Canadian squads, prospects from the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks have also appeared in the Okanagan for the event.