Prince George Cougars forward Chase Wheatcroft, with a high of 12 goals before this season, is one of those happy 20-year-old occurrences that happen in major-junior hockey when previously pedestrian players suddenly explode against 16- and 17-year-old opposition.
The previously unheralded Wheatcroft is second in scoring in the Western Hockey League behind some guy named Connor Bedard. All that the Cougars had to give up to get Wheatcroft from the Winnipeg Ice this season was a fourth-round draft pick in the 2023 WHL prospects draft. That seems like a pretty good deal. Some would call it a steal.
“It was Baily Peach for us last year and it’s Wheatcroft for Prince George this year season,” said Victoria Royals head coach and GM Dan Price, about exploding 20-year-olds.
One team that has been particularly victimized by the Wheatcroft breakout season has been the Royals. Wheatcroft had a goal and two assists in the 7-1 victory over Victoria on Friday night at the CN Centre and has 21 points on 10 goals and 11 assists in eight games against the Royals and has 47 goals and 103 points on the season behind Bedard’s 134.
The Cougars’ dynamic duo of Koehn Ziemmer and Riley Heidt, the respective 20th and 26th ranked North American skaters for this year’s NHL draft, were again also factors. Heidt had a goal and two assists and Ziemmer a goal.
The Cougars are also tough in the net with Tyler Brennan, a fourth-round NHL draft pick of the New Jersey Devils, needing only 14 saves for the victory on Friday. Braden Holt made 21 saves for Victoria.
Matthew Hodson, with his 16th on the season, recorded Victoria’s lone goal. Team leading-scorer Jake Poole returned to the lineup only to leave again in the third period.
Victoria is winless this season against the Cougars (35-24-6) at 0-7-1. The teams close out their account tonight at CN Centre. Friday was contentious so tonight could be, too.