A number of West Kootenay Hockey products will be taking to the ice today in the NHL’s Young Stars Tournaments going across North America.
In Penticton, Montrose’s Connor and Kellen Jones will lace them up for the Edmonton Oilers Rookie team at the South Okanagan Events Centre, while Nelson’s Dryden Hunt and Isaac McLeod will play for the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets Rookie teams respectively in Traverse City, Michigan.
The tournament will be a good measuring stick for the Jones’ who graduated from Quinnipiac University this past summer, and signed a playing contract with the Oilers AHL affiliate Oklahoma City Barons last April.
The competition will be fierce with the 2014 third-overall pick Leon Draisaitl on board and coming off a 100-point season playing for Prince Albert in the WHL.
The Jones’ also join at least six other forwards who scored 34 or more goals last season in the Canadian Hockey League. The list includes the aforementioned Draisaitl (38), 2012 second-round pick Mitch Moroz (35) and 2013 draft picks Greg Chase (35) and Jackson Houck (34).
Western Hockey League scoring champion Mitch Holmberg (62 goals) and Josh Winquist (47 goals for defensive-minded Everett last season) have signed minor-league deals and should provide the Oilers’ rookies with scoring depth as well.
Former Prince George Spruce King forward Jujhar Khaira will also look to create an impression after a decent season with the WHL’s Everett Silvertips where he registered 43 points.
For the past three seasons, Hunt has been playing for the WHL’s Regina Pats. He finished the last campaign with an impressive 40 points, notching 21 goals and 19 assists in 62 games.
This summer, after being overlooked in the NHL draft, Hunt received a call from the Hurricanes, inviting him to train with the squad’s prospects. He went there in July and enjoyed a successful campaign, considering he faced some stumbling blocks.
My gear didn’t show up. The airline lost it,” he told the Nelson Star on Tuesday.
Despite playing with all new gear, Hunt performed well enough to earn an invite to this week’s tournament.
“They said they liked what they saw so I was happy with my performance.”
He left Wednesday to meet the squad in Michigan. Once at the tournament, Hunt will test his skills against other young NHL hopefuls. Teams participating in that event include the Minnesota Wild, St. Louis Blues, Buffalo Sabres, Dallas Stars, New York Rangers as well as the Hurricanes, Blue Jackets and the Red Wings, which have another Nelson native, Jim Hiller, behind the bench as assistant coach.
“I’m just going to go there and play my game, do what I do best,” said Hunt who described himself as a power forward.
MacLeod meanwhile is in his fourth year at Boston College playing in the NCAA div. 1. The talented defenceman grew up in the Nelson Minor Hockey system, played for the Kootenay AAA Midget Ice, the Nelson Junior Leafs as a 16-year-old and then with the Penticton Vees of the BCHL. In 2010, the San Jose Sharks picked MacLeod in the fifth round of the NHL draft.