All WHL and BCHL teams have a major decision to make by Wednesday, the January 10th trade deadline.

There are three options:

  1. Do little or nothing to tinker with the roster
  2. Upgrade the 2017-18 team (at least on paper) by becoming a buyer and acquiring impact player(s) in exchange for future picks and/or prospects
  3. Opposite of choice two by becoming a seller and dealing older impact players that likely will not be in the league next year in return for picks and skilled prospects

As an older team in the 2016-17 season, the Prince George Cougars were buyers.

The acquisitions helped them win their first BC Division banner, however, it can be argued the move backfired because the team again came up empty in the playoffs, losing in the first round, in six games, to the Portland Winterhawks.

As a younger team in 2017-18 (rookies make up half the roster), the Cougars have two choices:

  1. Stand pat and hope the team can escape the cellar and make the playoffs, or they can become sellers
  2. By selling, the indication will be to the fans that have written off this season and have already started the process of looking ahead to future years

The Cougars have three or four players that should attract interest from contending teams.

Photo Courtesy of the Prince George Cougars & James Doyle Photography

Topping the list is their best all-around player and captain Dennis Cholowski.

The 19-year-old defenceman is averaging a point per game (12G, 23A) over 35 games).

Others that may get a worthy return from are leading scorer Kody McDonald (36 points), third leading scorer Jared Bethune (33 points), and their second best defenceman, and fourth-year veteran, Josh Anderson (six points and 42 penalty minutes in 24 games).

I’m not sure is there is much of a market Bethune because he is a 20-year-old, who is finishing up his junior career.

The other three are 19 years old.

There’s a chance that McDonald, in particular, and possibly Anderson, could be back as over-agers, so the Cougars have to weigh if they really want to part with either one of them unless they get highly sought after prospects in return.

This leaves Cholowski, who in his first season in the WHL, has shown why he was picked by the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft, 20th overall.

He has been as good as advertised, and despite playing on a last place team, was given a try-out for Canada’s national junior team (although he failed to land a spot).

His chances of returning to the WHL in the 2018-19 season are extremely remote.

The Cougars need a first round bantam selection this year because they dealt that pick to the Prince Albert Raiders in November, 2016 as part of the Brendan Guhle trade to Prince George.

Photo Courtesy of the Prince George Cougars & Brett Cullen Photography

My guess is the Cougars will deal Cholowski to the highest bidder and start the process of looking beyond the next couple of months.

I would speculate that a highly skilled leader like Cholowski should be able to net the Cougars at least a first round bantam pick, a prime 16-year-old defenceman (or forward) and a third round pick.

Sound familiar?

That’s what the Cougars gave up to the Raiders in the Guhle deal (with Max Martin being that 16-year-old defenceman at the time).

The Cougars have just 34 games left and will be down to 31 remaining come Wednesday morning.

They have to realistically ask themselves, even with Cholowski, can they make the playoffs in March?

They are seven points out, not insurmountable, but they have to catch two teams.

Kamloops is one they can pass, however, leapfrogging one of the American teams or another BC Division team is a longshot.

This is always an anxious time for junior players, management, coaches and even the fans.

We know there will be many impactful moves.

It’s a waiting game to see what the Cougars do and how those decisions will affect the franchise moving forward.



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Hartley Miller is the sports director and morning news anchor for 94.3 the Goat.
He also is the 94.3 radio color commentator for P.G. Cougars home games.
His column appears Fridays on
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