Ben Hawerchuk, of the Calgary Flames Young Stars battles for position against the Vancouver Canucks in the 2017 Young Stars Classic. The tournament is returning in September but without Calgary or Edmonton.                                Western News file photo

Ben Hawerchuk, of the Calgary Flames Young Stars battles for position against the Vancouver Canucks in the 2017 Young Stars Classic. The tournament is returning in September but without Calgary or Edmonton. Western News file photo

NHL Young Stars return to Okanagan without Calgary or Edmonton

Young Stars tournament returning to Penticton without Calgary and Edmonton.

The Vancouver Canucks Young Stars Classic will be returning under a revised format and without the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers.

Earlier this year there were rumours the tournament itself would not be held in 2018 after reports NHL scouts were “disappointed” in the calibre of the kids taking part.

When that story first surfaced in January of this year, event chair for the Penticton organizing committee Andrew Jakubeit said the tweet from Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal caught him off-guard but added he was confident it would go ahead although he did not know what the format or “scope” of the teams would be.

The Classic is held on a year-to-year basis.

Related: Vancouver Canucks confirm participation in NHL Young Stars

The format this year features two games between prospects from the Winnipeg Jets and Vancouver Canucks as well as a two-game series between the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds and CIS Champion University of Alberta Golden Bears.

The Classic will run from Sept. 7 to 9, one day shorter than last year.

“It’s not a setback and I don’t think there’s jeopardy of the tournament changing direction We’re still continuing and we’re still moving forward and next year will be even bigger and better,” said Jakubeit. “I think every year each team evaluates what’s best for their organization and I think this year Calgary and Edmonton wanted to try something a little bit closer to their market and build on their fan base and you can’t blame them for that.

“And make no mistake the university teams are going to come with some pretty high talent and I think for the hockey fan, they’re going to be pleasantly surprised.”

He added it is the Canucks who liaise with the other NHL teams for participating.

At the inaugural event, in 2010, there were six NHL teams represented including the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks.

The Ducks did not return in 2011 and the Sharks dropped out after that year. The tournament was not held in 2012 due to the NHL player lockout.

“The Young Stars Classic is a fantastic tournament and the City of Penticton does a tremendous job as host,” said Trevor Linden, Canucks President of Hockey Operations in a news release Wednesday. “While the format and participating teams has changed, fans can still expect a lot of excitement and a high level of competition from both top prospects and elite university programs.”

Canucks prospects expected to participate in the tournament include Adam Gaudette, Jonathan Dahlen, Olli Juolevi, Kole Lind, Lukas Jasek, Jonah Gadjovich, Zack MacEwen, Jalen Chatfield, Guillaume Brisebois and Michael DiPietro.

“With the format changing we’re still really excited I think we get to see the Canucks with the best set of prospects that they’ve every had,” said Jakubeit. “If you’re watching Winnipeg right now the nucleus of their talent are players that were here for the Young Stars so their going to bring a lot of exciting players.”

This year there will be two games Sept. 7 featuring all four teams. UBC and the Golden Bears will play the following day with the NHL reps meeting on the final day.

Full tournament rosters and ticket information will be posted on canucks.com/youngstars and SOEC.ca at a later date.

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