Cougars Rebels Preview
The Prince George Cougars 20th anniversary season officially gets underway on Saturday morning with a preseason matchup in St. Albert with the Red Deer Rebels. Last season the Cougars were 1-1-0-1 against Red Deer defeating them 3-1 on January 19th. It’s the first chance for the Cougars coaching and management staff to truly assess the 13-14 group in an actual game-type scenario, and even though preseason games mean nothing statistically, it’ll be important for the Cougars to build some positive momentum early.
RED DEER REBELS
Brent Sutter’s Red Deer Rebels finished the 2012-2013 season with a record of 39-26-5-2. They finished fourth overall in the very competitive Eastern Conference, and ended up advancing to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. On paper, the Rebels look like a team that could do some serious damage and have strengths in all areas as the 2013-2014 season approaches.
Who’s Up Front:
With the sixth overall selection in the 2012 WHL Draft, the Red Deer Rebels selected big forward Adam Musil. Musil checks in a 6’3” and 193 pounds and will look to do big things in his first full season in the WHL. He’s a big part of Red Deer’s future, but will also be looked upon to provide some offense and some depth for Brent Sutter’s group this season.
Who’s on D:
Defensively the Rebels have a lot of size, skill and balance. Mathew Dumba is the obvious stud on their back-end, but his immediate future with the Rebels is in doubt, because he could very well crack the Minnesota Wild as a 19-year-old. 18-year-old Kayle Doetzel is heading into his third full season in the WHL and is on the verge of breaking out. He won gold with Team Canada at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka tournament and there was a lot of NHL draft chatter focused on Doetzel. With or without Mathew Dumba in the fold, Doetzel will play a major part in Red Deer’s plans this season.
Who’s in Goal:
Patrik Bartosak will be back as a 20-year-old and is the undisputed number one option in goal for Red Deer. That said they’ve got a pretty talented player waiting in the wings in 16-year-old Taz Burman. Burman was drafted 30th overall in the 2012 WHL Draft and no doubt the Rebels are going to want to give Burman a good look this weekend in St. Albert.
Red Deer native Jeff de Wit was selected 14h overall by the Rebels in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft and will look to make a strong first impression in a game setting. De Wit will only be able to play in a maximum of five games this season with his hometown Rebels, but the preseason will offer fans a great glimpse of what this kid is capable of.
PRINCE GEORGE COUGARS
The Prince George Cougars wrapped up the 2012-2013 season with a record of 21-43-2-6. Their 50 points put them ninth out of 10 teams in the Western Conference, and for the second straight season the Cougars were unable to secure a birth in the post season. But my what a difference a year makes. The Cougars have a new head coach, and a bevy of young talent that is ready to make a big contribution to the success of this club. No better place to start than Saturday morning against the Red Deer Rebels.
Who’s Up Front:
Two players that will be under the microscope from the drop of the puck will be 2012 first rounders Jansen Harkins (second overall) and Brad Morrison (seventh overall). Both 16-year-old forwards bring a wealth of skill and talent to the table, and both are going to be a vital part of this organization’s success moving forward. It is not a stretch by any means to suggest that both will crack the opening day roster for this team, and both are skilled enough to contribute on a consistent basis. It will be important for both Harkins and Morrison to make a strong first impression during the preseason games this weekend.
Who’s on D:
With the third overall pick in the 2013 WHL Draft the Prince George Cougars selected big defenceman Josh Anderson out of Duncan, BC. Anderson had a strong first training camp with the Cougars and got progressively better as the weekend wore on. Anderson moves well for a bigger player, and has strong hockey sense, and plays with a notable mean streak. The big key for Anderson this weekend will be to keep things simple and to make the safe play. As he ages he will only continue to mature physically. He’s going to be a real treat to watch over the next handful of years for the Prince George Cougars fans.
Who’s in Goal:
The Prince George Cougars goaltending situation is loaded with promise as well. Last season Brett Zarowny played in 31 games, and finished 9-19 with three shutouts. Zarowny earned CHL Goaltender of the Week honors in mid-December, and could be poised for a breakout sophomore season in the WHL. That said 17-year-old goaltender Ty Edmonds recorded his first ever WHL victory last season as a 16-year-old, and could be ready to challenge Brett Zarowny and 20-year-old Mac Engel for a spot this season full-time. 16-year-old Matt Kustra had a strong camp, and will certainly give the coaching and management staff something to think about as well. The Cougars appear to have an embarrassment of riches in goal, which is never a bad thing in this league, where goaltending plays such an important role.
Mark Holick has made it no secret that there are spots up for grabs on this team. So with that in mind, it will be imperative that the returning veterans lead by example this weekend in St. Albert. When the Cougars decided to ‘go young’ two season ago, they dressed upwards of nine 16-year-olds in their lineup. Well two years later those players in the 1995 age-class are going to be expected to make a major leap forward. It starts in the preseason by establishing themselves as reliable, two-way players. When the veterans lead, the rookies will follow, and if the Cougars can get a solid effort from their older players, they’ll give themselves an excellent chance to start their preseason with a victory against Red Deer.
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