Saturday, September 20, 2014

Prince George @ Portland Preview 9/20/14

The Prince George Cougars bring their "New Ice Age" to the Moda Center in hopes to get a great start to the season for a franchise that hasn't made the playoffs since 2010/11 and hasn't advanced past the first round since 2006/07.

There is reason to be excited this season for the Cougars, as they have a new General Manger: Todd Harkins and a playmaker in Jansen Harkins, who is primed for a breakout draft year season.

Last Season:
They come into Portland to take on the Winterhawks, who are still missing 9 regulars for the second straight game. Portland has swept the 4 game season series against P.G. for 2 seasons in a row and have not lost to them in regulation since 2/9/2009.  Portland outscored P.G. 28-11 in the 4 games last year.

P.G. lost: Todd Fiddler, Klarc Wilson and Peter Kosterman to graduation and Troy Bourke and Zach Pochiro as over-age, signed NHL prospects. Former #1 Bantam Pick Alex Forsberg was traded away to Saskatoon in the offseason, finally ending the soap opera like relationship between him and management. Also dealt was 19 year old forward Jordan Tkatch (to Prince Albert).

Missing Players
This is the Cougars best chance to take down the Hawks this season and they are likely licking their chops to go at such a young lineup that the Hawks are putting out. Portland is out 7 players at NHL camps and Josh Hanson (broken knuckles) and Blake Heinrich (concussion) are still out.

P.G. is missing 19 year old D-man Marc McNulty (Detroit), who is away at training camp. Out to injury are imports: Martin Bobos and David Soltes, as well as, 18 year old D-man Raymond Grewal.

Players to Watch:
Prince George:
-C Jansen Harkins- He had a fantastic Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament for Canada. netting 2 goals and 4 assists in 6 games; leading Canada to the gold medal. He is listed on the CSS Future Watch list and him having a breakout season could get him picked in the first round. He had 34 points last season and is their second leading returning scorer behind D-man McNulty.

-G Ty Edmonds- 18 year old Edmonds was much better last season then his .887 save percentage indicated, as he faced a lot of rubber for the Cougars. With an improved defense this season, he should face less quality chances and may get some looks in the 2015 NHL draft.

-D Sam Ruopp: With McNulty, Bobos and Grewal out, the 18 year old will get a ton of ice time and will be relied upon to play for the Coougars in every situation.

-G Michael Bullion: The 17 year old rookie will get his first WHL action tonight and has a lot to prove to the coaches as whenever Brendan Burke gets back from NHL camp, he is likely the odd man out.

-LW Paul Bittner: Bittsy did not create enough offense last night as the large Seattle defensemen had an easy time poking the puck away despite his long reach. He will need to get the puck in deep more tonight as this is not the Portland team that's going to be able to score off the rush unless they have 2 on 1s.

-RW Alex Schoenborn: The one drafted guy that is not missing at NHL camp will need to do more tonight then he did last night for the Hawks. Alex needs to realize that the team does not need him to get caught up in after the whistle shenanigans, as others like Jack Flaman or Travis McEvoy can take that role and the more skilled Schoenborn needs to stay on the ice.

-Portland created a lot more then the 1 goal would indicate last night  and I would look for them to create in the same ways (creating traffic in front of the Goalie) and hopefully the puck will bounce their way more this time.
-Portland's D-men need to be much better and not open up odd man rushes as the likes of Harkins, and Chase Witala will bury these.

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