Brady Stark | Contributor
After 24 games, the Cougars are in the middle of the pack in the standings and looking poised to make a statement on their march to what should be a post-season berth. Whenever you have a decent start like the Cougars are enjoying right now, one wonders how certain players have fared when breaking down the season into more minute details. Since Over the Edge is a school newspaper by students for students, it is only fair to give other people in our community report cards for a change. Here are five Prince George Cougars that have been sized up for their play in the first quarter of the season.
Ty Edmonds: Despite having a 5-4-1 record to start the season, Edmonds has picked up where he left o last season with very strong play. On the physical side of the game, Edmonds has made sure that his team is in the game no matter the struggles with the offense. Edmonds is cutting off his angles better than ever before and controlling the rebounds that plagued him for the first half of last season. Edmonds has improved on his puck handling skills, which shows in the quick transitions from offense to defense during line changes. The most important aspect of Edmonds physical game is his ability to be more stable in the net. With a WHL goalie, you want to preach smaller movements in net because of how fast the play develops. Edmonds’ lateral movement has been noticeably better and the opposition are less likely to catch him out of position. On the mental side of the game, Edmonds looks more confident than he did last year, especially when handling the puck outside his crease and when facing the shooter on an odd man rush. Edmonds stellar play and impressive .934 save percentage has earned him top marks. Grade: A
Tate Olsen: Fresh o a memorable training camp with the Vancouver Canucks, Tate Olsen has brought that experience and confidence into the 2015-16 season for the Prince George Cougars. With a style that is reminiscent of a Mike Green, Olsen has shown that he has a are for the offensive with 12 points in the first 24 games, but has not let his defensive responsibilities dip as much as others on the team. He has bolstered the power-play with a well-placed shot that seems to nd its target more often than not. Clearly taking points from the likes of Edler, Hamhuis, and Weber were a priority and were heard loud and clear because Olsen is all over the ice and has Coach Mark Hollick a very viable option when looking at defenseman that should be put out in crucial situations. One aspect of the game that Olsen still has to work on in order to help him get to the next step in his development is his decision making skill. Often fans are left wondering why Olsen takes the shot at the point when there is passing options deeper in the o ensive zone or why he doesn’t let the puck y towards the net. Instead he tries to make the extra pass that might get intercepted by the opponents. Grade: A-
Jesse Gabrielle: Since acquiring Gabrielle from the Regina Pats for Lane Zablocki during the off-season, Cougars fans have been nothing but impressed with his play. It is clear to all the see Gabrielle play why he was drafted by the Boston Bruins in the 4th round of the 2015 draft. He is a big body presence with soft hands that reminds people of Rick Nash. Gabrielle has amassed an impressive 14 goals, with a couple of them being shorthanded (5 SHGs already this year). When you see Gabrielle out on the ice, one cannot help but notice that he tries his heart out on every play and is all over the ice. He has already eclipsed his point total from last year and is poised to best his career high of 69 points when on the Brandon Wheat Kings a couple of years ago. His play has probably come as a relief as he has carried the weight of some of the players that were expected to play a little better than they have thus far. One aspect of the Gabrielle’s game that needs some attention would be his consistency. As evidenced from the point production, Gabrielle has the ability to take this league by storm, but there are times that Gabrielle seems a little invisible on the ice. Everyone has peaks and valleys in their season, Gabrielle just has to make sure that his great start carries through the whole season. Grade: A
Brogan O’Brian: Probably the surprise of the season just based on the fact that he was in the BCHL last year playing for the Spruce Kings. O’Brian has 18 points in the rst quarter of the season and has been all over the ice with a great o ensive are as well as a responsible defensive game as he leads the team with a +5. Coach Mark Hollick is the type of coach to juggle his lines a lot throughout the game depending on who is struggling in order to get them going. He often relies on Brogan O’Brian for secondary scoring if the first line is struggling or to give someone like Brad Morrison an option to pass to whenever he decides to rip down the wing with his head down. O’Brian has complimented the likes of Morrison, Gabrielle, and Jared Bethune throughout the season because of his balanced attack. With 9 goals and 9 assists through the first 22 games of his WHL career, O’Brian is making the best of his chances to impress NHL scouts that frequent the CN Centre. One aspect of O’Brian’s game that needs to be worked on is using his body to create more space for his teammates. With a frame of 6’2” and 195 lbs, O’Brian has the ability to crash the net or use his size to give his teammates a skating lane. With a great and surprising start to the season, he deserves a top quality grade, now he has to prove that he can carry his strong play through the whole season.
Jansen Harkins: Harkins single handedly was the reason that the New Ice Age worked as well as it did last year. The ownership did a top notch job in making the Cougars hockey experience as a fan better than it has been in over a decade, but it was the play of Jansen Harkins that kept people coming back game in and game out last year; but that was last year. With even more expectations that come with being a 2nd round draft pick, Harkins was expected to carry this team from the rst puck drop, but that has not happened. Harkins has been the target of the other team’s’ defense when he is on the ice, which has limited his space that he has to work with. This lack of space has become a blessing for teammate Chase Witala, whom has continued his impressive point production from last year. Harkins has the opportunity to work on di erent parts of his game that have been seen as weak throughout his development. With a team worst – 7, Harkins has shown that frustration is creeping into his game as he is trying too hard to force certain plays that may have worked last year, but no longer. Another aspect to his game this year that is rather surprising is the amount of penalties that he has taken at crucial times in the game. Harkins only has 19 minutes in penalties this year, but those penalties have come at inopportune times. Harkins needs to realize that the points will come to a high talent such as him, but in the meantime, he needs to focus on other aspects of his game so that when his offensive touch does come back in spades, his other parts of his game elevate his value to the Jets to a whole new level. It is not a time to press the panic button on Harkins just yet, but he needs to find his groove that made him the highest drafted Cougar since Brett Connolly went 6th overall to the Lightning. Grade: C