The Vancouver Giants vs Prince George game kicked off a weekend full of WHL action. The Giants have stars Ty Ronning and Tyler Benson at their disposal, as well as promising prospect Tyler Popowich.
As for the visiting Cougars, there is a plethora of already drafted players. The three to keep an eye on will be looked at in more depth below.
Scouting Report: Vancouver Giants vs Prince George Cougars (10/27/17)
Both teams came into the game floating around .500, with the Giants at 5-5-1-1 and the Cougars at 4-5-2-2. This is better than expected for the former, and well below expectations for the latter.
This doesn’t, however, mean that there isn’t some top notch talent on display when these two teams meet.
Prince George Cougars
Dennis Cholowski, Defense – 1st Round, 20th overall (Detroit Red Wings)
After a disappointing season last year in the NCAA with St. Cloud State it looks like Cholowski has found his game again in Prince George. He came into the game with four goals and seven assists over 11 games. A point-per-game pace for a defenseman is always something worthy of praise.
He also left the game staying at a point-per-game pace after getting himself his fifth goal of the season. He slung a firm wrist shot at net from the blue line, the goaltender was shielded, and it snuck in. This would also end up being the game-winning goal on the night.
Cholowski showcased a smooth skating stride that helped him win multiple races throughout the night. On top of being a strong skater his strength and his 6’1″, 200-pound frame helped him to win multiple battles on the boards.
Offensively he is a solid contributor. He isn’t afraid to join the rush, doing it with regularity to consider him a two-way defenseman. While he is certainly a pass-first player, he does have a nice shot overall. His distribution of the puck is strong, and he sees the ice well in every zone.
Defensively he has a strong stick and is discipline, hence why Prince George deploys him on the first penalty kill unit. His skating, physical strength, and intelligence make him a strong defenseman, and he was arguably the best player on the ice.
Jonas Harkins, Defense – 2019 Draft Eligible
Harkins is the younger brother of Winnipeg Jets 2nd round selection Jansen Harkins. Along with this he is the son of Prince George general manager and former professional player Todd Harkins. A player coming from a family of hockey always plays in their favor.
Aside from his family, Harkins is a decent player in his own right. He is an okay skater with a decently smooth stride. His skating isn’t necessarily a weakness, but it is definitely something he is going to have to work on if he wants to be more than just a possible late round selection in the future.
He sees the ice relatively well and seems to be fairly intelligent as well. He also plays a simple game, rarely forcing play and not regularly making bad decisions.
One downside to Harkins defensively is he is not overly strong or physical. While this isn’t a necessity, it does help. He makes up for this by having a decent stick and having good angles defensively.
While he doesn’t pop out immediately on the stat sheet, he is a player to watch over the next two years.
Tyler Benson, Left Wing – 2nd Round, 32nd overall (Edmonton Oilers)
Arguably the most talented player on the ice, between him and Cholowski, but he didn’t look 100% ready to go. Whether it is a minor injury or what is not known, but Benson looked to be only half there.
Regardless, Benson is a strong and physical forward who isn’t afraid to get in the dirty areas at times and play a gritty style of hockey, if he needs to. He has a good hockey IQ and he sees the ice well. If he can stay healthy on a consistent basis, there is every reason to believe he can be an NHL player in 2018-19.
Benson topped off his return to the ice with scoring the lone Giants goal of the night. He received the puck in the middle of the zone, twisted his body and released a wicked wrist shot across goal and above the goaltenders stick hand.
Ty Ronning, Right Wing – 7th Round, 201st overall (New York Rangers)
As always, Ronning was involved in a good deal of the scoring chances for the Giants. His skating stride is looking better than last year, and he isn’t defaulting to his wide stance when in a race as often, showing he has made strides even in the last month.
He has a strong wrist shot and sees the ice well. This allowed him to have a few dangerous scoring chances during the game against Prince George.
Tyler Popowich, Center – 2018 Draft Eligible
Everything with Popowich is starting to look a bit more crisp and he is starting to look more comfortable. While the point production hasn’t come just yet, there is reason to believe it soon will.
There has been no significant increases in strength or skating ability in the last month. And while he is by no means a bad skater, it is something that there is room for improvement for in his game.
He has a good stick and is an intelligent player. Something that was a criticism against him was his lack of effort in an end-to-end style of play, something that looks to be getting better. This is shown by his willingness to get into the dirty areas and make plays, something he used to avoid.
Bowen Byram, Defense – 2019 Draft Eligible
Byram is starting to shake things up and move up draft boards everywhere. This is a less than surprising occurrence. Byram is a quality defenseman with many strong qualities and characteristics.
He is a smart player who has really good angles defensively. He has a good stick, regularly relying on it to poke the puck away rather than using his body.
The two things that Byram needs to improve on to live up to the hype that is starting is his skating and he needs to add some meat to his frame. In regards to his skating ability, it is not bad, but there is plenty of room for improvement. He has a smooth stride, but needs to be more powerful.
Being more powerful goes hand-in-hand with the other thing he needs to work on: his strength. If he can add a bit of strength and size, and improve his skating ability a bit, there is reason to believe that Byram could develop into a first or second round selection.