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Good Things Come in Pairs: Dowhaniuk and Ziemmer part of a bright future in Prince George

Good things come in pairs.

The Prince George Cougars are betting on that saying ringing true. The Cougars used their two first-round selections in the 2019 Western Hockey League (WHL) Bantam Draft to take a pair of teammates from Alberta.

The Cougars drafted defenceman Keaton Dowhaniuk third overall and his teammate forward Koehn Ziemmer one spot later with the fourth overall selection. The pair were key pieces on OHA Edmonton’s Bantam Prep team last season in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL).

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Keaton Dowhaniuk goes end to end.

Many WHL Draft publications described Dowhaniuk as the top defenceman in the draft and Ziemmer as one of the best goal-scorers. The two had breakout seasons and the Cougars took notice, and now the Bantam teammates are on track to team up in the WHL.

Dowhaniuk had 35 points (8g 27a) from the blue-line for OHA Edmonton. His standout season garnered league-wide recognition, as he was named the Top Defenceman in the Bantam Prep Division. His offensive output falls in line who he looks up to at the NHL level.

“Erik Karlsson is someone who I try to copy. I like how he plays, he’s a great skater.” He did however point out he won’t be trying to mimic Karlsson’s Jack Sparrow-esk moustache and hair.

Dowhaniuk also was named the Top Defenceman and a tournament all-star at the prestigious John Reid Memorial Bantam Tournament in January. He received more accolades in April, being named an Alberta Cup all-star after an impressive showing with Team Black.

Keaton Dowhaniuk (L) & Koehn Ziemmer were named the Top Defenceman & Top Forward respectively at the John Reid Memorial Bantam Tournament.
Keaton Dowhaniuk (L) & Koehn Ziemmer were named the Top Defenceman & Top Forward respectively at the John Reid Memorial Bantam Tournament.

The Sherwood Park, AB product also prides himself on his skating but says his passing and his heavy shot are two strong points n his offensive game. He’s not one dimensional by any means, as DraftGeek’s 2019 WHL Draft Guide called him “A formidable two-way defenceman that plays with the sort of assertiveness physically that intimidates the opposition.”

“I won’t chase a hit, but I like to use my physicality and finish my checks. I won’t shy away.”

He says it was a dream come true to be drafted in May and says he was speechless when he heard his name called while watching the WHL Bantam Draft from his classroom. Dowhaniuk notes it’s a nice perk to go third overall but knows there’s still a lot of work to do to get to the WHL level.

Hockey runs in the family as his older brother Logan just finished his rookie season with the Edmonton Oil Kings. Keaton will have to wait to until the 2020-2021 season to get a crack at battling his older sibling in the WHL. The elder Dowhaniuk is a defenceman too. As Keaton waits for the first chapter in the sibling rivalry, he plans on playing Midget Prep hockey at OHA Edmonton this fall.

At the end of the phone interview from his home, Dowhaniuk was asked what one thing he wants Cougars’ fans to know about him. The answer was simple.

“I’m happy to be in Prince George.”

His teammate Koehn Ziemmer echoed his comments, saying he’s excited about what he’s seeing General Manager & Head Coach Mark Lamb build.

“It’s (Prince George) a really good place to play. I like the culture around the team, and it feels like a hockey town.”

Ziemmer and Dowhaniuk even grew up near each other, as Ziemmer hails from Mayerthorpe, AB 90-minutes northwest from Sherwood Park. The two towns couldn’t be more different though. Sherwood Park, just outside Edmonton, boasts a population of over 70,000 (2016 census) and has a been hockey factory, producing WHL household names like Carter Hart and Sam Steel.

Mayerthorpe has a population just over 1,300 and no real notable hockey names, well outside of the family that is. Koehn’s dad Rob played in the Alberta Junior Hockey League and Division lll college hockey at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, before finishing his career at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in the Alberta College circuit.

Koehn Ziemmer showing off his hands.
Koehn Ziemmer showing off his hands.

Koehn is a natural goal-scorer, example being his 37 goals he racked up in just 29 games at the Bantam Prep level. He led OHA Edmonton in scoring, amassing 76 points which was good enough for second in the CSSHL Bantam Prep scoring race. He too was an all-star at the John Reid Memorial Bantam Tournament and was named Top Forward. He also was the MVP of the Rocky Mountain Tournament in Calgary, after notching a staggering 12 goals and 19 points in just six games, leading his team to a first-place finish.

DraftGeek’s WHL Draft Guide noted he “Owns a versatile offensive package blended with elite execution and quick hands. He is a constant producer who has the shooting abilities to score from anywhere.” 

Ziemmer says he prides himself on his offensive touch, “I have good hands in tight, I guess you can say a natural scorer. I can separate myself from defenders and I’m a shoot-first kind of guy.” That natural scoring ability will be welcomed in Prince George, as the Cougars finished 21stout of 22 teams in goals (152) last season.

With his nice blend of size and skill, you aren’t surprised to hear his favourite player is Winnipeg Jets forward Mark Scheifele. “He’s just an all-around player. Does everything the right way.”

Scheifele checks in at 6’3” and weighs over 200 pounds and just posted a career-high 84 points with the Jets. Ziemmer is already listed at 5’10 and 180 pounds.

Ziemmer’s message to fans maybe comes from his humble roots in small-town Alberta, “Putting the team first and being a good ambassador in the community.”

It certainly does look like good things come in pairs, especially in the WHL Draft for the Cougars.

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