Sunday CHL preview: Cougars vs. Royals

Chase Witala of the Prince George Cougars averaged 0.915 primary points per game according to Prospect-Stats.com. (Marissa Baecker/Getty)

The second of back-to-back games between the Prince George Cougars and Victoria Royals is the CHL on Sportsnet feature Sunday. Thanks to the time change and a 3 p.m. ET start, this game will technically start at 11 a.m. locally. Get your bacon and eggs, settle in and get ready for a B.C. Division battle.

Prince George went up early on the Royals Friday night only to have Victoria storm back with four third-period goals to cap a 6-2 win. Victoria has picked up points in 10 straight games, while Prince George has won just four of its past 17. This game does have playoff implications as Victoria tries to wrap up top spot in the division, conference and league. As for Prince George, third spot is still up for grabs in the B.C. division, at the very least a wildcard spot has already been secured.



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Prince George Cougars
36-28-3-2 (15-16-2-1 on the road), 4th B.C. Division, 6th Western Conference

Prince George is back in the playoffs for the second straight season. The Cougars play big and heavy and don’t mind running up the PIM as the league’s most penalized team. In fact, No. 2 is well over 200 minutes in arrears. You have to be tough to play in Prince George because the travel is daunting.

In goal, the Cougars feature a formidable duo in Ty Edmonds and Nick McBride. Edmonds is a Cougar through and through. He played in the BMO Top Prospects game two years ago, yet never got drafted. He is on NHL Central Scouting’s radar as the 20th-ranked goalie. Nick McBride asked out of Prince Albert and a trade to Prince George has worked out well for both sides. He played in the 2015 BMO Top Prospects Game and also went undrafted. McBride is ranked by NHL Central Scouting at No. 29 among North American goalies.

Defensively, the Cougars will be without the services of NHL Draft-eligible blueliner Josh Anderson for the rest of the season thanks to a cracked vertebrae discovered at the end of February. But there’s still plenty to like about Prince George’s defencemen. Sam Ruopp is a Columbus pick with good size and upside. Tate Olson was taken with the second to last pick in the 2015 NHL draft by Vancouver. Shaun Dosanjh has been a nice addition from Vancouver. Joseph Carvalho is undersized, but has produced well. And Shane Collins is also part of the mix.

Chase Witala is getting rewarded for his loyalty to his hometown team. He played his 300th game Friday night and is the franchise’s leading goal and point scorer. His shot is off the charts. Boston prospect Jesse Gabrielle is the prototypical power forward who can beat you with or without the gloves on. He’s well travelled, but has settled in nicely in Prince George, the town that most appreciates his brawn. Brad Morrison is also a local product, who is property of the New York Rangers.

Jansen Harkins is amongst the team leaders in point production, but the Winnipeg Jets prospect has taken a step back in production from a season ago. Brogan O’Brien has had an outstanding rookie year, getting looks on special teams. Colby McAuley and Kody McDonald have similar point and PIM combinations. Luke Harrison is just happy to have spent more than seven games in the same place. Prince George marks his fourth team this season. In fact, Harrison is the last Chilliwack Bruin in the league. He transitioned when the Bruins moved to Victoria for the 2011-12 season.

Individual Stats            
Top Scorers GP G A PTS Note  
Chase Witala 69 40 38 78 14th WHL Pts  
Jesse Gabrielle 69 40 34 74 18th WHL Pts  
Brad Morrison 69 26 34 60    
Jansen Harkins 66 23 33 56    
Brogan O'Brien 68 18 37 55 4th WHL Rookies  
             
In Goal            
Nick McBride (12-10-1-1, 2.95, .905%)            
             
Team Stats     Rank      
PP 51/277=18.4%   17th      
PK 56/317=82.3%   3rd      
GF/gm 3.42   7th      
GA/gm 3.12   11th    

NHL Drafted/Signed Players
Jansen Harkins (WPG, 47th 2015)
Jesse Gabrielle (BOS, 105th 2015)
Brad Morrison (NYR, 113th 2015)
Sam Ruopp (CLB, 129th 2015)
Tate Olson (VAN, 210th 2015)

NHL Central Scouting
Josh Anderson, No. 76 (injured)
Brogan O’Brien, No. 94
Ty Edmonds, No. 20 (goalies)
Nick McBride, No. 29 (goalies)

Under The Radar
Chase Witala embodies what it is to be a Cougar. He’s a local kid who has seen the good, the bad and the ugly in the organization and he deserves to finish out his career on the best Cougar team he’s been on in five years.

Victoria Royals
46-16-3-3 (24-6-1-3 Home), 1st B.C. Division, 1st Western Conference, 5th BMO CHL Top 10

The Royals have it locked down at just about every position. The netminding duo of overager Coleman Vollrath and undrafted 18-year-old Griffen Outhouse is the best in the league. Head coach Dave Lowry has no issues playing one or the other regardless of wins or losses in previous appearances. While the overall minutes favour Vollrath, the overall numbers favour Outhose.

Defensively, there’s no question the Detroit prospect and world junior gold medalist Joe Hicketts is the man. He logs mega minutes and plays in every situation, embodies what the Royals are all about and has personality, which has become a big asset in the dressing room.

Joe Hicketts; WHL; Victoria Royals; CHL; Sportsnet; Detroit Red Wings; Team Canada; WJC
According to Prospect-Stats.com, Hicketts averages 0.491 primary points per game. (Derek Leung/Getty)

L.A. pick Chaz Reddekopp is big and physical and he’s producing as he did at the start of the season. Ryan Gagnon doesn’t put up big point totals, but he is a team and conference best plus-47. Ralph Jarratt and Marsel Ibragimov are effective shutdown guys. Scott Walford has become a mainstay, while Brayden Pachal and Jordan Wharrie get swapped in and out of the lineup.

Up front, overage Alex Forsberg leads the way on Victoria’s top line with his pro style game. If it weren’t for several near misses on Sportsnet, Tyler Soy might have 50 goals as opposed to 41, which is still a franchise record. Jack Walker has been on an unreal run, having scored in five straight and seven of eight.

Vladimir Bobylev has 12 points in his past nine games, and doesn’t look anything like the spare part he was in Vancouver. Rookie Matthew Phillips is the league’s leading freshman scorer and Dante Hannoun has missed just one game despite his 5-foot-5, 154-lb. frame. Role players such as Keith Anderson and Regan Nagy are tailor made for depth. Logan Fisher adds size down the middle of the ice. On the whole, Lowry is getting the most out of just everybody in his lineup.

Individual Stats            
Top Scorers GP G A PTS Note  
Alex Forsberg 67 27 56 83 12th WHL Pts  
Tyler Soy 68 41 35 76 3rd WHL G  
Jack Walker 68 32 43 75 17th WHL Pts  
Matthew Phillips 68 36 36 72 1st WHL Rookies  
Vladimir Bobylev 68 25 33 58    
             
In Goal            
Coleman Volrath (30-13-0-2, 2.35, .915%)            
             
Team Stats     Rank      
PP 68/311=21.9%   9th      
PK 37/249=85.1%   2nd      
GF/gm 3.85   3rd      
GA/gm 2.29   1st    

NHL Drafted/Signed Players
Joe Hicketts (DET, signed FA)
Chaz Reddekopp (LA, 187th 2015)

NHL Central Scouting
Ty Westgard, No. 176

Under the Radar
Vladimir Bobylev is big, physical and plays with great energy. He puts up points and is not afraid to drop the gloves. Bobylev has benefitted from a system that doesn’t allow players to take shifts off.