It may seem like a long time off but if all works out for the Prince George Cougars, they should be an elite team by the 2022-23 WHL season.

The goal is obviously not to wait that long, but general manager Mark Lamb has kept to his plan to build through the Bantam Draft.

The Cougars currently have no 17-year-old players ranked by Central Scouting for the 2020 NHL Draft set for June 26th and 27th in Montreal.

(Taylor Gauthier is listed 27th among goalies but is 18)

In other words, the real re-build begins with 16-year-old players that were born in 2003.

This season the Cougars are carrying a roster of four 16-year-olds.

They are forwards Craig Armstrong and Blake Eastman, defenceman Ethan Samson and goalie Tyler Brennan.

After acquiring a first-round pick from Saskatoon in the Rhett Rheinhart deal, a day before the January 10th trade deadline this year, Lamb has put Prince George in position to have a bright future.

The key will be having the scouts, led by Bob Simmons, make the right choice at the draft table, something much easier said than done.

Because of a variety of deals, the Cougars had two first-round bantam picks in 2018 (Armstrong and Brennan).

Prince George also had two more first-round selections in 2019, defenceman Keaton Dowhaniuk, picked third overall, and forward Koehn Ziemmer, taken fourth overall.

Both were chosen from the OHA Edmonton Bantam Prep team and have already been called up for limited action this season as 15-year-olds.

Come May of this year, the Cougars will have three more first-round picks, including their own, Portland’s and Medicine Hat’s.

(They acquired Medicine Hat’s in that Rheinhart trade with Saskatoon).

Add this up and that’s a whopping seven first-round selections in just three years.

While the Cougars are hoping that their young talent will blossom quickly, realistically the team should be in the upper echelon of the league when Armstrong and Brennan (plus Eastman and Samson) are 19, Dowhaniuk and Ziemmer are 18 and the three first-rounders this year are 17.

That season is 2022-23.

The Cougars are a longshot to make the playoffs in 2019-20 as they sit eight points out with just 26 games left.

While the short-term goal will remain to qualify for the 2020 post-season, the Cougars would get a much better pick by missing the playoffs for a third straight year.

Teams that are playoff bound can not select higher than seventh.

Prince George currently has the third-worst record (11-24-3-4) in the league meaning once the lottery is complete, they would have a good chance at a top-three selection.

How things work in theory doesn’t always come to fruition but Lamb, in his second year calling the shots, has the support of ownership in building long-term.

Plenty of heartaches may come along the way, however, if Lamb and the scouts get it right, and that’s a BIG if, then the rewards should not just be playoffs, but actually competing for a title.

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This is season two of Hartley’s Cat Scan, a weekly podcast show that primarily features the Prince George Cougars.

My guest on the 18th Cat Scan in year two is former PG Cougars Captain Dan Gibb.

Dan talks about his role as captain of the Cougars during his final year of junior hockey, special friendships that were built during a 12-win season and the unique differences of hockey and culture in France.


FROM THE QUOTE RACK:  

The L.A. Dodgers were told not to comment on the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal. Instead, a spokesman gave one finger, pulled his ear, touched his nose and gave two fingers.

*Comedy writer Jim Barach http://jokesbyjim.blogspot.ca/

Well, at least the New York Mets were undefeated in the Carlos Beltran era.

*Comedy writer Janice Hough of Palo Alto, California www.leftcoastsportsbabe.com

The Vegas Golden Knights fired Gerard Gallant, despite his leading them to the Stanley Cup finals in his first year, a tough playoff loss in his second year, and a winning record and tie for the second wild card this year. In an unrelated move, coach Rich Kotite (4-28 record with NY Jets in 1995-96) was just elected to the NFL Hall of Fame.

*Contributor Marc Ragovin of New York

Again, after a great regular season, the playoff Lamar Jackson got feet of clay —as in Clay Kershaw.

*Contributor Bill Littlejohn of South Lake Tahoe, California

According to a study conducted by four universities in Ireland, the average doctor visit there lasts 14.1 minutes, or roughly the same as an NFL video-replay review.

*Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times http://www.seattletimes.com/author/dwight-perry/


IN CASE YOU MISS
ED IT:

A New Zealand lobby group has reportedly wanted sheep shearing to be an Olympic demonstration sport. I’m thinking they’d be the team to bleat.

*Canadian comedy writer RJ Currie www.Sportsdeke.com

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Hartley Miller is the news and sports supervisor and morning news anchor for 94.3 the GOAT and Country 97.
He also is the 94.3 radio colour commentator for P.G. Cougars home games.
His column appears Fridays on myprincegeorgenow.com.
Send along a quote, note, or anecdote to hmiller@thegoatrocks.ca