It was a historic day for the Prince George Cougars who added nine more players to the fold on Thursday at the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft. For the first time ever the Cougars selected ninth overall, and for the first time ever the Cougars selected a goaltender with their first round pick.
Taylor Gauthier (Calgary, AB) was heralded as one of the top goaltending prospects in recent memory, and the Cougars couldn’t pass up the chance to draft him with their first round selection.
“It was probably one of the best moments of my life,” said Gauthier shortly after the selection was made. He says that he tries to model his game after Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens. A fitting comparison considering Carey Price is the only WHL goaltender to have been selected faster in a WHL Bantam Draft (7th Overall, 2002).
“We felt that Taylor was the best player available at the time of our selection,” adds Cougars General Manager, Todd Harkins. “When you watch him play he’s exciting to watch. He makes saves that you don’t think he’s going to make. He’s so athletic and agile and he plays with a real fire, wanting to keep the puck out of the net and win hockey games.”
With their second round selection (31st overall) in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft, the Prince George Cougars chose defenceman Cole Beamin (Saskatoon, SK).
Beamin is 6’3”, 189 pounds and is a right handed shot who scored 10 goals, 12 assists and registered 64 penalty minutes in 30 games with the Saskatoon Outlaws Bantam AA program. He added one goal in five playoff games in 2016. His October birthday makes him eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft.
“Cole Beamin was a player that we had ranked far higher than where he ended up,” said Prince George Cougars Scouting Director Bob Simmonds. “He uses his size effectively, he’s got a tremendous shot from the point and he’s certainly a player that we feel will be a top tiered defenceman for us for many years to come. We couldn’t be happier to draft a player of Cole’s caliber and character.”
The Cougars grabbed another Saskatoon-born defenceman in the third round when they snagged defenceman Jack Michell.
In 2015-16, Michell (6’1”, 170 pounds) scored six goals, added 12 assists and added 60 penalty minutes in 30 games with the Saskatoon Stallions (Bantam AA). He also dressed in seven games as an underager for the Saskatoon Contacts of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA League.
“Jack Michell was too good an option to pass up at this point in the draft,” comments Cougars Saskatchewan scout Jason Gordon. “He’s tenacious. He moves the puck well, can handle himself physically and has some definite offensive upside. He’ll be a big piece of our puzzle on the back-end moving forward and we’re excited to have him.”
Michell and fellow Cougars 2016 draftee Cole Beamin have both committed to playing Midget AAA next season with the Saskatoon Contacts.
Starting in the fifth round the Cougars picked their first of four consecutive forwards. For their fifth pick they went to B.C. to draft Keegan Craik (Richmond, B.C.).
Craik stands 5’11”, weighs 150 pounds and registered 16 goals, six assists and 50 penalty minutes in 25 games with the Delta Hockey Academy Wild Bantam Prep Team. He added a goal and an assist in three playoff games.
“This is a great pickup for our organization,” said Prince George Cougars British Columbia scout Trevor Sprague. “Keegan plays the game with a lot of energy and physicality. He’s got a nose for the net and isn’t afraid to go to the tough areas to score goals. He’s got loads of upside and we were very happy that he was still available to us in Round Five.”
In Round 6 the Prince George Cougars further bolstered their forward corps with the selection of Jesse Mistelbacher (Iles Des Chenes, MB).
Mistelbacher is 5’11”, 150 pounds and finished the 2015-16 season with 16 goals, 25 assists and 18 penalty minutes with the Eastman Selects (Bantam AAA Manitoba). In two playoff games he added two goals and an assist.
“He’s a solid two-way player with strong offensive instincts, but he will also do anything to prevent a goal being scored against him,” said Bob Simmonds. “He’s thrilled to be selected by the Prince George Cougars.”
In the seventh round the Cougars had two picks close together and used them both on forwards. With the 142nd overall selection the Cougars were happy to select Edge Lambert (Grande Prairie, AB).
Lambert (5’10”, 160 pounds) played with the Notre Dame Hounds Bantam AAA team in 2015-16 and had 20 goals, 24 assists and 26 penalty minutes in 38 games. In three games with the Notre Dame Hounds Midget AAA team, Lambert registered two goals and one assist.
“Cougars fans are going to love the way that Lambert competes,” comments Cougars Alberta scout Lyle Feser. “He’s the type of player who can break open a game offensively due to his speed and his skill. This is a great pick for us.”
Two picks later the Cougars drafted forward Zachary Bolton (North Vancouver, B.C.).
Bolton checks in at 6’0” and 161 pounds and tallied 34 goals and 23 assists for 57 points in 46 games and was a +23 with the North Shore Winterclub Winterhawks. In 13 playoff games he added eight goals and seven assists for 15 points.
“Bolton is a talented and responsible forward that can put the puck in the net,” said Trevor Sprague. “He can be trusted in all situations and will be a big-time asset to our depth up front as we forge ahead.”
In Round 9 (163rd Overall) the Cougars went back to the blueline when they selected defenceman Eric Parker (Calgary, AB).
Parker is 5’9” and 135 pounds and had a goal and 19 assists for 20 points in 35 games with the Calgary Bisons (teammates with first round pick Taylor Gauthier). In nine playoff games he added two goals and three assists. He also played one game as an underager with the Calgary Rangers (Minor Midget AAA).
“Parker is a mobile defenceman who sees the ice very well,” said Bob Simmonds. “With Parker it’s all about upside and we feel like he’s got all of the tools to become a steady and reliable defenceman in the Western Hockey League.”
With their 10th round selection (207th Overall) the Cougars drafted defenceman Francis La Roue (Surrey, B.C.).
La Roue dressed in 25 games with the Delta Hockey Academy Wild Bantam Prep team where he registered one goal and three assists along with 12 penalty minutes. He played on the same team as forward Keegan Craik who was selected by the Cougars in Round 5.
“We feel very good about grabbing La Roue in the 10th Round,” adds Bob Simmonds. “He defends well, he plays the game with an edge and is another player that we had ranked much higher than where he was selected.”
Overall the Cougars made nine selections in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft: Four forwards, four defenceman and one goaltender. The Cougars chose three players from both B.C. and Alberta, two from Saskatchewan and one from Manitoba.
Harkins adds, “I can’t say enough good things about our staff and the leg-work that they did to get us ready for this draft. They are so detailed and it makes my job easy as a General Manager. I am so proud of them and am so thankful that they are a part of this organization.”