The leaders of the Western Conference Prince George Cougars vs Vancouver Giants saw a slew of top prospects come to the Langley Events Centre. Some of them on the ice for Vancouver, but a majority of them were dressed in a Prince George sweater. There’s plenty of reason they’re arguably one of the best teams in the CHL right now.
Scouting Report: Prince George Cougars vs Vancouver Giants
Prince George Cougars
Sam Ruopp – 5th Round Pick, Columbus Blue Jackets 2015
Ruopp is a good player, but sometimes gets overshadowed a bit on a very talented Prince George team. He’s a decent skater, but nothing to write home about. He’s also not the strongest player you’ll likely see, but that doesn’t mean he’s afraid to get stuck into battles or lay a check when it’s necessary.
Ruopp is, however, a very sound defenseman in his own end of the ice. He cuts down angles quite well, and shuts down passing lanes on a regular basis. Ruopp times his pokecheck well, but he doesn’t need to rely on it all that often as he’s usually in a great position to stop any play coming towards his net. He’s a smart defenseman, but with the prospect pool that Columbus has it will be a while before he ever sees ice time in the NHL, if ever.
Jansen Harkins – 2nd Round Pick, Winnipeg Jets 2015
Harkins is fairly shifty when moving side to side, but isn’t lightning fast in a straight line. Harkins is surely not slow, but won’t be anything worth writing home about. He’s a solid player overall, but will likely need time to develop to ever see the ice at the NHL level.
The one thing that Harkins does with the best of them is in regards to the forecheck. He’s aggressive and smart, and this resulted in multiple takeaways for Prince George. He is positionally very aware, and this makes him a valuable asset. If he can get his offensive abilities to match his defensive, he will be a quality NHLer in the future.
Brendan Guhle – 2nd Round Pick – Buffalo Sabres 2015
Guhle is a very good offensive player, with his passing ability being one of his best attributes. He’s a very smart and efficient passer, and his passes are almost always on the tape of his teammates. Due to his good vision and passing of the puck he regularly operates on the first powerplay unit, and rightly so.
To add to his offensive ability, Guhle is also a very disciplined player in his defensive zone. He uses his keen awareness and high hockey IQ to his advantage when operating on the penalty kill, being on the first unit for the Cougars. Guhle isn’t going to light the world on fire, but he is an extremely well-rounded player.
Radovan Bondra – 5th Round Pick – Chicago Blackhawks 2016
Bondra is a good player at the WHL level, but that definitely doesn’t ensure success at the next level. He’s a relatively average stickhandler, but he uses his size of the boards to win battles to make up for that at times. His passing is also something that needs a bit of improvement.
Bondra is a relatively quick skater, but much like Harkins he isn’t the fastest on the ice at any given time. One of his biggest strengths, aside from his physical strength, is his ability to operate on the first powerplay unit. He moves the puck well on the man advantage and has a firm wrist shot. Both of these qualities make him a serviceable player to put on the ice for the powerplay.
Josh Anderson – 3rd Round Pick – Colorado Avalanche 2016
Anderson might very well be the living, skating definition of grit. Anderson is a very physical player, and he uses his impressive stature (6’2″, 224 lbs) to his advantage. If there’s one thing that can be said, he brings a physical presence to the ice and does a good job of doing just that.
Defensively he cuts down angles well, much like the aforementioned Sam Ruopp. He isn’t the greatest skater on earth, but makes up for it by taking a good angle and using his size and strength to his advantage. Anderson is good on the boards, mostly due to the recurring theme of his apparent strength and physicality.
Anderson isn’t much of a threat on the other end of the ice, but he does his job well enough in his defensive zone to get away with that. Plays the part of a solid 3rd round pick, and could project to be a decent top six defenseman when he makes the jump to the next level.
Jesse Gabrielle – 4th Round Pick – Boston Bruins 2015
Gabrielle is a smooth skater, and quick as well. He was one of the faster skaters on the ice for this respective game, that’s for sure. Gabrielle has a nice firm, and accurate, wrist shot. He sees the ice well, and moves it just as efficiently as anyone else.
One of the main knocks on Gabrielle would be his work ethic when out there. It become more and more evident during the course of the game that he is not an end-to-end type of player. Gabrielle definitely prefers to put in his work with the puck on his stick, and even more so in his offensive zone.
Nikita Popugaev – 2017 NHL Entry Draft Eligible
Popugaev was very obviously one of the best, if not the best, player on the ice without Tyler Benson dressing for Vancouver. Popugaev has a relatively average first step, but once he gets going is an exceptionally smooth skater. His long strides and smooth skating ability allows him to regularly beat opposing skaters with the puck on his stick.
Another major positive is that he has noticeably good positioning in his offensive zone. He is a very good passer of the puck, with the puck almost always landing on the tape. He’s a good stickhandler, and he shook multiple Giants players off throughout the night. Due to all of these strong offensive qualities he regularly operated on the powerplay.
On top of the first step, his other major downside would be his rather average ability at the other end of the ice. Popugaev is not a liability in the defensive zone, but that’s surely not his strongest quality. And despite his large frame (6’5″, 202 lbs) he doesn’t prefer to get into physical battles, seeming to prefer to use his skills and skating ability first. However, he will lay a check when necessary.
Popugaev is a sure-fire first rounder, but looks to be a player floating around the early to mid-20’s. At this point in time he is not an elite prospect, but he has some major upside and would be a solid selection in the middle to latter part of the first round this summer.
James Malm – 2017 NHL Entry Draft Eligible
Malm is one of the stronger skaters on the Giants roster, especially when Ty Ronning isn’t on the ice. He is also one of the smarter players on the roster, also when Ronning and Benson aren’t dressed. He is creative, and made multiple good scoring chances against a very stoic back end for Prince George.
Malm is strong in comparison to the current Giants roster, and especially so when the latter two players aren’t on the ice. This is, however, one of the weaker rosters the Giants have had in some time. If he gets picked up in the draft, he’ll likely be a late round pick that will take a few years to develop. Nothing is certain at this point.
Alex Kannok-Leipert – 2018 NHL Entry Draft Eligible
Kannok-Leipert is a promising young player, but is likely too young to tell how he’ll develop in the coming years. One of the downsides to the young blueliner is that he is currently only 5’11” and 185 lbs, which is relatively small for a defenseman. This might change with time and age, but that’s not something you can say for certainty.
The young defenseman played in his sixth game for the Giants against Prince George, and he really didn’t look out of place skill-wise. For a young player he is calm and composed, seeing the defensive zone relatively well. Kannok-Leipert is also a good skater, which helps him make up for his lack of size.
On top of playing a few games for the Giants he plays for the Regina Pats Canadians Midget AAA team. For the Pats he has eight goals and 28 points in 33 games in the 2016-17 season, which is relatively solid offensive production for a defenseman.