Hard to believe six months have come and gone since the curtains closed on the 2018-19 season for the Prince George Cougars.
The new year is upon us in hopes of an exciting campaign for local fans as the Cats’ begin the 26th season in B.C.’s northern capital at the CN Centre tonight (Sept. 20), 7 p.m. against the Vancouver Giants.
A likely goal for the new squad this time around … get more than 19 wins.
That’s how many the Cougars had last year with a regular-season record of 19-41-5-3, but one of the circumstances is the B.C. Division bringing in some tough competition.
So, instead of going through the questions of why Prince George finished the way they did, let’s look ahead to what we can look forward to.
In today’s Five for Friday, we’ve selected what we believe are five critical players that can step up in a big way in leading the Cats to a successful season.
It’s going to be another youthful roster this year, but among them are talents the Western Hockey League (WHL) is in a real treat for.
Arguably the best player for the Cougars, Gauthier was passed over in the 2019 NHL Draft, which will definitely light a fire under him.
The 18-year-old finished in the WHL’s top five last season for saves and minutes-played, earning three shutouts in the process, and received national and international invites.
“I’ve dealt with lots of adversity over the last two years,” said Gauthier in an earlier interview with PrinceGeorgeMatters. “You know, in Prince George, we weren’t really the best in the league, but I think I have a good head on my shoulders and I’m pretty mentally tough. So I think I’m able to handle adversity maybe a little bit better than the other guys at the camp. I’ll let that take care of itself though and enjoy my time there.”
He’ll once again be the unanimous go-to goaltender for Prince George this new season with eyes focused on the puck and not letting anything get behind him (or in front if he decides to get physical).
Gauthier is the starter for tonight’s season-opener.
Moberg has had quite the off-season after a breakout performance last year in Prince George.
The Chicago Blackhawks’ seventh-round draft pick in the summer was the highest-scoring defenceman for the Cougars, accumulating 40 points in 61 games, and during the NHL club’s time in the Traverse City Tournament, he earned an assist in a game against Detroit.
The thrill of getting picked to the pros is certainly encouraging for the soon-to-be 19-year-old, but his focus is expected to be one of the core leaders on defense and offense, whether he’s given a letter or not.
“It’ll bring a lot of confidence to me and I’ll just put that onto the ice going into next season,” said Moberg to PrinceGeorgeMatters days after getting drafted. “I also want to help the draft-eligible kids this year and help them put them through what they can expect and lift them up and be prepared for the next season.”
This small town B.C. product has got big aspirations coming off an MVP season with the Prince George Cougars.
Maser put up a major junior career-high 30 goals last year and 42 points and his talents were recognized this off-season with an invite to the New York Rangers’ prospects camp.
He too recorded an assist in the Traverse Cty Tournament like Moberg, so his confidence was likely boosted this pre-season in being one of the Cougars’ veterans this upcoming season.
If he’s paired up with Ethan Browne, who had 22 assists and 31 points last year on the same line as Maser, they fill that gap and boost the offensive drive.
He is also likely to wear a letter once again after being picked as an alternate for 2018-19.
You’ll seriously have to ‘Czech’ out this forward on the Cougars’ ice for the 2019-20 season because Koffer’s got game.
The 18-year-old was the 10th overall pick in the CHL Import Draft, carrying several years of international experience in representing his homeland of the Czech Republic.
He scored 38 points in 34 games last season with HC Dynamo Under-19 Pardubice, one step below their Czech Extraliga franchise, a league that Jaromir Jagr currently plays in.
Koffer was on the same ice in Sweden as Gauthier at the 2019 World Under-18 Hockey Championships with the blue, red, and white and nabbed six points in five games, including four goals.
During the Cougars’ pre-season, Koffer scored his first-ever goal on North American ice during the Dawson Creek series against Edmonton.
If there’s one thing Prince George has experienced in the past, it‘s skilled Europeans making an impact on offense and we should expect Koffer to make no less of the same effort.
He may be 16 years old, but don’t look away if Craig Armstrong gets a hold of the puck.
Prince George’s first pick in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft got to play five games with the Cougars last year and in the training camp finale, he got two points (one goal, one assist) for Team Black in their 5-3 victory over Team White.
He also managed to light a lamp in the pre-season against a nitty-gritty Vancouver team.
The Airdrie, Alberta product is among seven rookies on Prince George this season and he’s likely to lead the freshmen in an offensive movement.