The Prince George Cougars training camp is in full swing this weekend at the CN Centre. Some of the top prospects of the club got their first taste of WHL hockey, while nine current players already have their named tied to an NHL team.
Head Coach, Richard Matvichuk says it’s the perfect opportunity for newcomers to the squad to step up. “It’s a time now for the guys to get on the ice and show us what they’re really made of,” he said. “The young kids here at camp that are 15 are getting a chance to play with guys like Jansen Harkins, Jesse Gabrielle, and Josh Anderson so it’s exciting for everyone, but at that time it’s a good time for us to see what we got.”
One of those up and coming players is Taylor Gauthier. The Calgary-born goalie was selected ninth overall by the cats this year. He’s the second highest goaltender to be drafted in the WHL since Carey Price was drafted seventh overall by Tri-Cities in 2002. “It really puts it into perspective just how hard it is to make it in this league,” Gauthier said. “To get drafted up there really means a lot to me and just shows that Prince George has a lot of faith in me coming to their team.”
Matvichuk agrees the 15 year old is a special talent. “He’s special, he’s a goalie that stops the puck, he moves really well side to side and with our goalie coach Sean Murray, he’s put the work in, so far so good.”
Meanwhile, veterans like Jansen Harkins have been keeping busy. The Winnipeg Jets draft pick is building off of his experience at an NHL development camp. “I’m just trying to build on it now and use that going forward and have some confidence,” he said. “I know what I can do on the ice and I just want to go out there and make it happen and prove to myself and everyone that believes in me.”
Harkins racked up 24 goals last season with the Cougars. Now, he’s ready to motivate the younger guys to do the same. “I’m just trying to have some fun with them and keep them loose,” he said. “I’m trying to stay loose myself, I mean it’s still pretty early trying to get game ready and do my best every shift, so I’m trying to get them to do the same as well.”
The cats kick off their pre-season stint next weekend with a pair of games in Red Deer against the Calgary Hitmen on Friday and then taking on the Edmonton Oil Kings on Saturday.