Game Preview: Cougars open the season at home against the Vancouver Giants

THE SEASON: The Prince George Cougars open their 26th season in the Western Hockey League against the defending Western Conference Champions Vancouver Giants. The Cougars finished fifth in the B.C. Division last season with a record of 19-41-5-3. Prince George is looking to return to the post-season after missing out on the WHL playoffs in the last two seasons.

COUGARS’ CUBS: The Cougars have seven rookies on their roster to start the regular season. Of those seven four are 16-year-olds in Craig Armstrong, Tyler Brennan, Blake Eastman, and Ethan Samson. By comparison, the Cougars had just one 16-year-old on their roster last season in Mitch Kohner.

VERSUS VANCOUVER:  Sep 20th vs. VAN, Sep 21st vs. VAN, Oct 27th at VAN, Nov 16th at VAN, Dec 17th at VAN, Feb 8th at VAN, Mar 6th vs. VAN, Mar 7th vs. VAN, Mar 15th at VAN. Last season, the Cougars were 1-7-1-0 against Vancouver but five of the nine games were decided by just one goal.

MOBERG DRAFTED: Defenceman Cole Moberg was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the seventh-round, 194th overall, in the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver. The North Vancouver product set career-highs in goals (13), assists (27), and points (40) last season. Impressive feat for the defenceman considering he wasn’t drafted in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft. Moberg is the first Cougars drafted player to be taken in the NHL Draft since Josh Anderson was selected by the Colorado Avalanche (third-round, 71st overall) in 2016.

GONE CAMPING: Three Cougars were at NHL rookie camps recently. Taylor Gauthier was on the Boston Bruins’ Prospect roster for their NHL rookie tournament in Buffalo, New York from September 6th-9th. He also attended the Bruins’ Development Camp in June. Josh Maser and Cole Moberg both participated in the Traverse City Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan from September 6th-10th. Maser was an invite on the New York Rangers roster and Moberg suited up for the Blackhawks. Maser had an assist in three games and Moberg had a pair of helpers in the four games he played.

GRIFFIN SIGNED: The Cougars announced Friday the signing of 2002-born forward Davin Griffin. Griffin was acquired by the Cougars from the Prince Albert Raiders earlier this month for a conditional draft selection. The 17-year-old played the last two seasons with the Saskatoon Contacts in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. Last season, Griffin was third in team scoring with 46 points (26g, 20a) in 43 games.

LINE UP: Taylor Gauthier will make his first start of the season in goal. The 18-year-old is now in his third season and is the undisputed number one in between the pipes for Prince George. He played 55 games a season ago and was top five in the WHL in both minutes played and saves. Can he be a workhorse again while also taking his game to another level? The Cougars are counting on it and he’s expecting it from himself. After missing the entire pre-season with a lower-body injury, Ethan Browne will suit up tonight. His presence is crucial, as the Cougars are without Ilijah Colina, who is on the injured reserve with an upper-body injury. Browne will be penciled in as the top-line centre.

COUGARS FOCUS: Putting the pre-season behind them and starting off on the right foot is an obvious key. This is a young group, with a quite a few fresh faces. They need to play with confidence against an experienced Giants squad. How do you get confidence? With a good start and not getting behind the eight-ball early. The Cougars were guilty of more than one slow start in the pre-season. They’ll want to buck that trend tonight. The Giants have two top goaltenders in Trent Miner and David Tendeck. Those two don’t give up many leads, so the Cougars can’t afford to fall behind right out of the gate.

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