Each time hockey returns I am struck by a flood of memories and the melancholy it brings. You know, a man my age carries memories of friends who shared the hockey experience and have been lost along the way. My Dad, my Father-in-law, my friend Gord who possessed the faith of a child and believed until he passed that the Vancouver Canucks would win Stanley. When they do, I’ll have a tear in my eye. That’s the connection. A shared love of this beautiful game means we’re all connected every fall—the moment skates cut ice. It is a part of our lives, our communities, as sure as the baby clothes, the bricks and mortar, the empty bottles of Crown Royal and the worn out copies of Sit Down, Young Stranger. This is us.
OPENING NIGHT ONE YEAR AGO
- Joey Benik-Drake Caggiula-Jesse Puljujarvi
- Braden Christoffer-Kyle Platzer-Patrick Russell
- Colin Shirley-Chad Butcher-Greg Chase
- Carson Stadnyk-Lane Bauer-Thomas Foster
- Ben Betker-Ethan Bear
- Caleb Jones-Matt Benning
- Markus Neimelainen-Dallas Valentine
- Nick Ellis
Once again reminding us that players who appear in this tournament do in fact have a chance to play in the NHL this coming season, we see Drake Caggiula, Jesse Puljujarvi and Matt Benning in the lineup opening night a year ago.
GAME NOTES ONE YEAR AGO
- G Nick Ellis—He was a strong candidate for player of the game, suspect many left the rink thinking exactly that way. Saved 29 of 30, .967, and several were of the difficult variety. College man, so he had more experience than many in that game but for me that was a terrific effort. No. 3 star of the game for me.
- G Dylan Wells—Did not play.
- G Keven Bouchard—Did not play.
- RD Ethan Bear—0-0-0, Even, one shot. I liked his game, he looked more mobile than a year ago and was an effective passer. I felt he deferred to Betker several times, but as the younger player that makes sense. He played a steady, consistent game.
- RD Matt Benning—0-0-0, +1. He was very good to my eye, once I stopped expected Hemsky. Defensively he looked strong in positioning and he moved the puck quickly and efficiently. He also recovered quickly when losing a mini-battle, he is a determined fellow.
- LD Ben Betker—0-1-1, +1, two shots, 5PIMS. Big man had a strong game, got caught flat-footed a couple of times but recovered well. We should expect strong performance from him based on age and experience, but credit where due that was a good game.
- RD Kayle Doetzel—Did not play.
- LD Caleb Jones—0-0-0, +1 and one shot. Played a strong game and his wheels are excellent. He has size, skill and a rugged style, so that gives him a chance to play in a lot of situations. I would guess the Jones-Benning pairing played the most and he didn’t look out of place in any situation. Recovered nicely a few times. The man can wheel.
- LD Markus Niemelainen—1-0-1 +1, 4 shots. I think this was one of the best performances of the evening (I would rank him as the No. 2 star). Niemelainen is a big, rangy defender who can move the puck well and does seem to have an idea in the offensive zone. An extremely encouraging evening.
- LD Kyle Jenkins—Did not play.
- RD Aaron Irving—Did not play.
- RD Dallas Valentine—0-1-1, +2 and one shot. I did not think he played at the same level as the other five defenders on the evening. He was exposed on the GA, although the forward (Russell) should have been home and dry.
- C Lane Bauer—0-0-0, Even and two shots. He was noticeable in a few areas (drew a penalty, had some reasonable looks) and is a responsible player. I doubt he will get enough TOI to show his stuff in this format, but he is probably good enough to have a pro career if he pursues it.
- L Joey Benik—1-1-2, +3 and one shot. He got a nice push on the top line, but credit where due this was a fine evening. He didn’t win every battle, and you would like to see that from a 24-year old, but a good night.
- L Tyler Benson—Did not play. The biggest disappointment of the evening.
- R Chad Butcher—0-0-0, even and two shots. I really liked his game. Slippery and skilled, bet he gets a goal if he plays his next game just like this one.
- C Drake Caggiula—0-1-1, +2 and one shot. He didn’t get rewarded for a lot of good play imo. He checks up at the blueline a lot (remember Ralph Intranuovo?) and has an idea about how to get good looks in the offensive zone. I liked him, he would be my No. 5 star.
- R Greg Chase—0-0-0, even and two shots. I was disappointed in his first period, but Chase came on later in the game and did some good things. He was not part of a feature line, but skated a long way in search of making something happen. Hope he gets a better shake in his second game in terms of linemates.
- L Braden Christoffer—0-0-0, even, no shots and 2PIMS. He had a good game, Penticton agrees with him. He is a gritty fellow (the penalty was nothing) and has some skill.
- R Jaeden Desheaneau—Did not play.
- LC Thomas Foster—0-0-0, even, three shots. I liked him a lot, probably the best of the invites. He was on what looked like the 4line and was the most impressive of the group.
- RC Kyle Platzer—0-2-2, +1 and four shots. Fantastic game for Platzer, who always shows well at this tournament. His good work at puck retrieval led directly to the first goal, and he skated miles at both ends of the ice. A big season ahead, he was my fourth star of the game.
- R Jesse Puljujarvi—2-1-3, +3 and five shots. Jesus, Mary and Joseph that second goal was thrilling. He seemed sleepy early, but there was a play in the first period where JP got a pass with some open road and showed off his skating ability—it was fantastic. First goal was kind of a whiff, but goal-scorers tend to find a way. An electric debut.
- R Patrick Russell—0-0-0, -1 and three shots. He is big and physical and can shoot the puck, but speed was the obvious issue and he had a couple of wobbly moments. Of the college men Edmonton signed over the summer, he had the least impressive game.
- L Collin Shirley—0-0-0, even, one shot and 2PIMS. He was noticeable in good and bad ways, the line he was on (Butcher, Chase) had several good shifts and a couple that included some running around.
- RC Tomas Soustal—Did not play.
- LC Carson Stadnyk—0-0-0, even and one shot. He was on what looked like the 4line and did not do anything noticeable beyond chasing the puck in specific situations. You would have to see him for a few games to form an opinion, but he has size and skill. Edmonton invited more interesting players this time.
- Ostap Safin—Joe Gambardella—Kailer Yamamoto
- Davis Koch—Chad Butcher—Kyle Maksimov
- Brandon Saigeon—Lane Bauer—Trey-Fix Wolansky
- Evan Polei—Austin Glover—Steve Owre
- Caleb Jones—Ryan Mantha
- Ziyat Paigin—Ethan Bear
- Dmitri Samorukov—William Lagesson
- Dylan Wells, Stuart Skinner
All of the prominent Oilers prospects play tonight, only Tyler Benson (injured) plus goalie Shane Starrett will not play. I think all of the kids will play at least two games but the Oilers have so few of their own prospects maybe we see some of them play in all Penticton games.