NHL resolution could lead to junior confusion
The combination of NHL training camps and the WHL trade deadline means we could see a lot of roster moves in junior hockey over the next few days.
But don’t expect the Prince George Cougars to be among the most active teams. Although 1995-born forward Alex Forsberg is on the market, the asking price has to be right in order for the Cougars to deal him by the deadline of Thursday at 2 p.m.
“There’s been some interest. I think by Alex choosing to stay home, that’s kind of scared some teams off here,” Cougars general manager Dallas Thompson said on Monday. “That makes it a lot more difficult than it certainly would be if he was here. But there’s interest in him. Whether we get a deal done here remains to be seen.”
Forsberg was midway through his second season in the WHL when he asked for a trade. The request came last month. After returning to Saskatchewan for the Christmas break, he never reported back to the Cougars.
The Cougars selected Forsberg with the first overall pick in the 2010 WHL Bantam Draft. While skating with the Cougars, he was a streaky player who scored in bunches but also went through offensive droughts.
Forsberg is one of 10 1995-born players on the Cougars roster. With such a young team and the squad sitting ninth out of 10 teams in the Western Conference, it’s unlikely they’d sacrifice their future to make a playoff push. Thompson noted that most of the 1995-born players also have no-trade clauses.
It’s also a safe bet that the Cougars won’t lose anybody to the pro ranks. The only NHL-drafted members of the Cougars are 1994-born forward Troy Bourke (Colorado Avalanche, 2012) and 1993-born forward Colin Jacobs (Buffalo Sabres, 2011).
Among the WHL teams which may feel the impact of the NHL’s return is the Portland Winterhawks, who the Cougars opened a two-game set against on Tuesday. Thompson noted that it’s business as usual with the Cougars, although he made it clear they aren’t satisfied with their position in the standings.
“But certainly we’ve had some injuries play some key roles,” he said. “We had 10 regulars out of the lineup against Kelowna on the weekend, which makes it very hard to compete.”
The four-month NHL lockout ended early Sunday morning when the NHL and NHLPA came to terms on a tentative Collective Bargaining Agreement. The deal was reached after a 16-hour negotiation marathon involving federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh.
On Monday, the NHL announced a tentative season-opening date of Jan. 19. The league is looking into a 48-game schedule.
“I’m happy the lockout is ending,” Thompson said. “I’m happy that the two sides finally agreed to come together.”