OHL star Cole Cassels has emerged as one of the Vancouver Canucks' best prospects

OHL star Cole Cassels has emerged as one of the Vancouver Canucks' best prospects

Young Stars: Canucks take on Oilers, Connor McDavid in Game 1

Hunter Shinkaruk, Cole Cassels, and Jake Virtanen will take first line duties in Vancouver's first game of the Penticton Young Stars tourney

The Vancouver Canucks season begins this evening, sorta, in Penticton – it’s Game 1 of Vancouver’s NHL’s Young Stars Classic in Penticton, pitting the Canucks’ suddenly deep prospect pool against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers.

This summer’s No. 1 pick, the phenom McDavid, is expected to suit up tonight (Friday, puck drop at 7:30 p.m. PST) against the Canucks, although it’s unknown how many games he’ll play over the week. Each team is scheduled to play in three contests, as the Oilers and Canucks are joined by the Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames in South Okanagan.

AHL coach Travis Green will be behind the bench for Vancouver, and is expected to roll a first line of Cole Cassels centering Jake Virtanen and Hunter Shinkaruk. Both Virtanen and Shinkaruk, who spent their WHL careers in Alberta with the Calgary Hitmen and Medicine Hat Tigers, were first round picks in 2014 and 2013, respectively.

Cassels surged to near the top of Vancouver’s prospect pool in the past two years, after the Oshawa Generals two-way star was selected in the 3rd Round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

The Generals won the Memorial Cup last year and Cassels played himself into a national spotlight, strangling the attack of the Erie Otters and McDavid during the OHL playoffs.

McDavid and Cassels should lineup across each other for the opening face-off tonight at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

Vancouver’s Ben Hutton (drafted 5th Round, 2012) will also debut in Penticton tonight, after a couple standout seasons with the NCAA’s Maine Black Bears.

“The guys have told me a little bit about how fun and intense it is so I am pretty excited,” said Hutton, to Canucks.com (link above).

“It’s been a little bit of a wait for me as every year I can go to Development Camp but I can’t come here, but that is part of the NCAA rules, and I am just happy I am here now.”

VIDEO: Young Stars Preview via Canucks TV