View Park-Windsor Hills is a neighbourhood in Los Angeles, CA that has been known to be home to numerous actors, filmmakers, and musicians but certainly not WHL prospects- until now.
Two weeks ago, the Prince George Cougars selected defenceman Zephyr Tangri in the first-round, 19thoverall, in the inaugural WHL U.S. Prospects Draft. Tangri is from an area known more for stars on the big screen, than on the ice.
Tangri has played for the LA Junior Kings program for the past six years, which competes in the Tier 1 Elite League and the California Amateur Hockey Association. The Junior Kings are based out of the LA Kings’ practice facility in El Segundo. The meat of their schedule consists of showcase tournaments and playing against the top ranked teams in both the U.S. and Canada.
The 15-year-old played in 55 games this past season for the Junior Kings, collecting nine goals, and 19 assists for 28 points to go along with 86 penalty minutes. He said it was exciting to see his name pop up in the U.S Prospects Draft.
“It was pretty cool. Being drafted is something every player dreams about. Going in the first round and to a great organization like Prince George made it special.”
Even though he lives in Southern California, hundreds of miles away from the nearest WHL market, Tangri has done his homework on the league.
“Our team went to a couple of WHL exposure tournaments, including the U.S. Challenge Cup in February. A couple of our coaches on the Junior Kings played in the league too. I think it’s a really good league and the level of hockey is really high. I’ve watched a few games in person and I was blown away by the speed and skill. It’s not far off from pro hockey.”
At the U.S. Challenge Cup in Kent, WA, Tangri and the Junior Kings finished fifth out of 12 teams with a 2-1-0-1 record. The inaugural event was hosted by the WHL and NHL Seattle in Kent, WA for premier Bantam teams from all across the western United States. At that event is where the Cougars’ brass had a chance to get a long look at the two-way defenceman.
“Zephyr is a tall, rangy player well north of six feet. What stands out is his skating ability for his size and age; he gets around the ice quickly and he is still going. He’s got a great stick, he’s physical, makes a good first pass, and he reads and reacts so well. We think the upside for Zephyr is really, really high,” said Cougars’ Director of Scouting Bob Simmonds.
So, how did a kid from an LA suburb get into hockey? His uncle.
“My uncle actually introduced me to it. He played and is really into hockey. There’s a rink down by my school and he took me there one day to skate. I thought it was really cool and from there I started playing house league, then I moved to the Jr. Kings program.”
Despite completing just his second year of Bantam hockey, Tangri and his teammates have grown up together in the LA Junior Kings program, forging strong bonds.
“This was my fifth year on the same team. We have all grown up together and we’re all super close. The Junior Kings have done a lot for me and have been huge for my development.”
Tangri was coached by Jack Bowkus, who was well-known and highly respected coach in the hockey community in Southern California. Sadly, Bowkus passed away at the age of 53 on March 28th after a three-year battle with stomach cancer. Bowkus was Tangri’s coach only for the past two seasons but their short time together left an indelible mark on the young defenceman.
“I owe a lot to him for helping me get to this point. I’ve been working on getting stronger and being more physical because I have good size. Jack was really helping me put my game together and he taught how to use my size.”
When asked who he likes to mirror himself after, Tangri quickly pointed to a defenceman who’s been a staple on the LA Kings blue line.
“Drew Doughty is someone I look up to. I think my hockey IQ is one of my biggest strengths and that’s what Doughty is known for. He’s a little smaller than me but he’s so smart on the ice and he leads by example. That’s the type of player I want to be. I want to put it on the line for my team and be depended on in any situation.”
Tangri says he plans to attend the Cougars’ Training Camp in August and looks forward to the experience. He says his future plans are a bit up in the air with the current COVID-19 pandemic, but he and his family are looking at a few prep schools in the Midwest and back East.
Tangri isn’t rushing any decision when it comes to his future in hockey but looks forward to experiencing his first WHL camp.
“Training Camp will be a great experience for me and my family. Getting to meet the players, the staff will definitely help me get a feel for the organization. I look forward to coming up.”