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HomeSportsHart AttackHARTLEY’S HART ATTACK – (Why are the PG Cougars better this season?)...

HARTLEY’S HART ATTACK – (Why are the PG Cougars better this season?) March 3rd, 2023 EDITION 930

With still 11 games remaining before playoffs, the Prince George Cougars already have nine more points in the 2022-23 season than they did in 2021-22.

The Cougars finished sixth in the Western Conference last year but with a dismal record of 24-39-4-1, good for 53 points, only one more than 9th place Victoria.

This season the Cougars have a winning record of 29-24-4, good for 62 points and fourth in the conference, although just a point ahead of the Tri-City Americans and the Everett Silvertips.

If the Cats can stay fourth, they will have home-ice advantage in the first round of the post-season, something that has not happened in six years.

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There are a few reasons why the Cougars are so much better this season; in my mind at the top of the list is improved production from the 20-year-olds.

Let’s take a look.

Last season while wearing the “C”, Jonny Hooker only put up 29 points (17 goals) in 63 games.

His spot as a scorer has gone to Chase Wheatcroft, who has 88 points (40 goals) in 57 games, good for third in WHL scoring.

Wheatcroft, who has a shot at 50 goals this season, was named WHL Player of the Month for February with 28 points (12 goals) in just 12 games, leading his team to a 10-2 record.

Another 20-year-old last season was Connor Bowie, a hard-working centre from Fort. St. John, who excelled in the faceoff circle by winning 55.7 % of the draws.

Bowie though only notched 28 points (15 goals) in 64 games.

Taking his place (following a trade with Edmonton) is Jaxsen Wiebe, who in a P.G. uniform has 27 points (11 goals) in just 28 games.

Wiebe recently had a 10-game point streak and has solidified the team’s number-two line and number-two power-play unit.

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His physical toughness (49 penalty minutes or nearly two per game) is an intangible that was badly needed on this team that has several skilled players.

In addition, Wiebe knows what it is like to be on a winning team and grind it out in the playoffs as he was part of the Oil Kings WHL championship team in 2021-22, and had a hat trick at the Memorial Cup – which included an overtime winner.

The Anaheim Ducks have taken notice and signed him to a three-year entry-level contract.

The third P.G. 20-year-old from last season (following a late December trade for goalie Taylor Gauthier) was defenceman Jonas Brondberg.

The import from Denmark was steady on the back end, but there was little offence with six points (one goal) in 35 P.G. games.

To be fair, Brondberg was not acquired to go end to end and rack up points.

He has been replaced (following a trade with Regina) by speedy winger Cole Dubinsky, who has 24 points (15 goals) in 27 games since putting on a P.G. uniform.

Nothing against Hooker, Bowie, and Brondberg, but the Cougars massively upgraded in the three 20-year-old spots.

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GM Mark Lamb, also the team’s head coach, deserves credit for acquiring Wheatcroft, Wiebe, and Dubinsky while not sacrificing the team’s future.

Lamb may be hunted down by the authorities for “theft” when it comes to the Wheatcroft deal.

All he gave up in return to the Ice was a 4th round pick in the 2023 Prospects Draft.

To acquire Wiebe, the price was forward Noah Boyko (02), a third-round draft pick this year, and a conditional third-round draft pick in 2026.

(In an off-season move, the Cats obtained Boyko from the Saskatoon Blades for the 72nd overall pick in the 2022 draft)

To land Dubinsky, the Cougars sent forward Zackary Shantz (05) and a 2023 third-round pick to the Pats.

Shantz has zero points in eight games in a Pats uniform.

Yes, Prince George gets the services of Wheatcroft, Wiebe, and Dubinsky for just this season, however, it only came at a cost of draft picks (none in the crucial first or second round) and a couple of players that were not in the Cougars’ plans.

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In another deal, Lamb on the January 10th trade deadline day got 19-year-old Zac Funk from Calgary in return for 18-year-old  forward Carter MacAdams, a 2023 2nd round pick, a 2024 2nd round pick, and a 2024 4th round pick.

Funk has 13 points (five goals) in 20 games with P.G. and he has often been on the top line with Riley Heidt and Koehn Ziemmer.

This trade is beneficial since Funk will likely be back in Prince George in the 2023-24 season as a 20-year-old.

Heidt and Ziemmer are the P.G. players that scouts are drooling over, and rightfully so since they could be first-round picks in this year’s NHL Draft.

While they are arguably the backbone of the team and remain a good part of the future, the Cougars are benefitting from outstanding play from their elder statesmen.

If playoff success is to follow, those three in their last year of junior hockey will have to play a key role.

They not only know it but will welcome the challenge.


Cat Scan podcast:


Taking Note:



Joe Montana’s jersey which he wore in two Super Bowls sold for $1.2 million, passing the $480,000 for Tom Brady’s 2021 jersey, which makes Joe the GOAT in jersey sale price. Joe’s wife, Jennifer, however, says she has no plans to leave him.

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*Contributor Bill Littlejohn of South Lake Tahoe, California

The Dallas Mavericks had a 27-point lead Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers… and ended up losing. They’ve been named honorary Atlanta Falcons.

*Comedy writer Janice Hough of Palo Alto, California

An online Canadian company was reportedly being sued for selling counterfeit drugs. Also named in the suit are the Maple Leafs, for constantly pretending to be Stanley Cup contenders.

*Western Canadian comedy writer RJ Currie

Hartley Miller is the news and sports director/supervisor plus morning news anchor for 94.3 the GOAT and Country 97fm. He is in his 10th season as the radio colour commentator for Prince George Cougars’ home games. Hartley has been on the airwaves in PG since 1979 and is the author of You Don’t Say (sports quotes).


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