Game Preview: Cougars Wrap Up Road Trip in Kamloops
Prince George Cougars (1-3-0-0) vs. Kamloops Blazers (0-5-0-0)
Sandman Centre 7:00 pm
ROAD TRIP: Prince George picked up their first win of the 2017-18 season on Sunday, shutting out the Portland Winterhawks 3-0 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Tavin Grant made 47-saves for his first career WHL shutout, and those 47 stops is the most by a Cougars’ goaltender in a shutout win in 15 years; the last do it was Real Cyr in 2002. Grant was making just his second start of the season and just his third since 2015. Kody McDonald, Vladislav Mikhalchuk and Jackson Leppard scored in the win for Prince George, with Mikhalchuk picking up his first career WHL goal. Sunday was the first time a Mike Johnston coached Winterhawks team was shutout since December 11th, 2011. Tonight, is the third and final game of the Cougars road trip before they return home for a doubleheader against Kelowna starting Friday. In fact, after tonight Prince George’s next five games are all at home. Calgary is in town on October 10th, before the Blazers make the trip up for two on October 13th and 14th.
COUGARS-BLAZERS: Tonight, is the first of 10 meetings between these two BC Division rivals. Last season the Cougars won five of eight against the Blazers, and picked up at least a point in seven of eight. PG only lost once in regulation to Kamloops last year, that was a 3-0 setback on February 19th at the Sandman Centre; the Cougars were 1-2-1-0 in Kamloops last season. Of the returnees, Kody McDonald led all Cougars with four goals and eight points against Kamloops. Jared Bethune was right behind him with four goals and seven points and Nikita Popugaev had a pair of goals and six points. These two teams have already met, albeit in the pre-season, with the Blazers scoring a 5-3 win at the CN Centre on September 15th.
JA‘C’KSON LEPPARD RANKED BY CENTRAL SCOUTING: NHL Central Scouting published its September Players to Watch List and the Cougars’ Jackson Leppard is rated as a ‘C’ prospect; he’s projected as a fourth to sixth round NHL draft pick. The 17-year-old Leppard has a goal and an assist in four games this season to go along with an even plus / minus rating. In 35 games as year as a 16-year-old, the North Vancouver, BC, product had a pair of goals and four points. Leppard was selected by the Cougars in the first round (8th overall) in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft. He appeared in two games as an under-ager during the 2015-16 season and joined the team full-time in 2016-17. 27 WHL players were named to the NHL Central Scouting List. Spokane’s Ty Smith was the only WHL’er assigned an ‘A’ rating. Five were given ‘B’ ratings and 21 others, including Leppard, were rated as ‘C’ prospects. The ‘A’ rating indicates a first round candidate, a ‘B’ rating indicates a second or third round candidate, and a ‘C’ rating indicates a fourth, fifth, or sixth round candidate.
THREE PROSPECTS AT 2017 WHL CUP: The WHL announced the rosters for the rebranded 2017 WHL Cup Wednesday morning, and the Cougars are represented by three prospects. Forward Tyson Phare will play on Team BC, and forwards Stanley Cooley and Boston Maxwell will play on Team Saskatchewan. Phare was the Cougars’ first round pick, 18th overall, in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft. Cooley was selected in the third round, 62nd overall, and Maxwell was picked in the 4th round, 84th overall. Previously known as the Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup, the tournament features the highest-rated players in the under-16 age category from the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The tournament will take place from Wednesday, October 18 through Sunday, October 22 in Calgary. For more on the WHL Cup, including rosters, click here.
MCDONALD MILESTONE: 19-year-old Kody McDonald played in his 200th career regular season game on Friday in Seattle. McDonald made his WHL debut, as a 15-year-old, in the 2013-2014 season, playing against the Victoria Royals in a post-Christmas double header at Save on Foods Memorial Arena. The Lethbridge, Alberta, native has 41 goals and 90 points in his career with the Cougars. It was also a milestone for Ben Coppinger and Isaiah DiLaura on Friday. Coppinger played in his first WHL game and DiLaura dressed as the back-up to Taylor Gauthier. Both Coppinger and DiLaura signed with the Cougars out of Training Camp.
ROSTER BREAKDOWN: Currently the Prince George Cougars roster sits at 27 players: 15 forwards, 9 defencemen and three goaltenders. Among those 27 players, four are in their 20-year-old season, seven are in their 19-year-old season, six are in their 18-year-old season, nine are in their 17-year-old season and one is in their 16-year-old season. 15 of the 27 players on the roster were drafted by the Cougars in the WHL Bantam Draft, five players were acquired via trade, and eight were players added via the Cougars 50-man Protected List as free-agents.