They're part of the future, just not part of the present.
Defencemen Jordan Harris and Sam Ruopp, selected by the Prince George Cougars in the 2011 WHL bantam draft, have been sent back home to play midget hockey this season. Harris was chosen in the first-round, 10th overall, and Ruopp was a fourth rounder, 76th overall. Both players are Saskatchewan products, Harris from Prince Albert and Ruopp from Zehner, a small town northeast of Regina.
"They are two 16-year-olds that had great camps and probably could have played here," said Cougars general manager Dallas Thompson. "We did send [Joe] Carvalho and [Marc] McNulty and [Raymond] Grewal back last year to play midget and saw how they came along during the year. They developed and will be able to step in here this year so we wanted to do the same with Harris and Ruopp. I don't think it will hurt them to go back and play big minutes instead of being here and being in and out of the lineup."
With Harris and Ruopp out of the picture, the Cougars have eight blueliners left on their roster as they prepare for their final pre-season game Friday in Kamloops. Those eight -- Dan Gibb, Dallas Ehrhardt, Rinalds Rosinskis, Michael Mylchreest, Tanner Lishchynsky, Carvalho, McNulty and Grewal -- will start the regular season with the club, Thompson said.
"Hopefully we're good enough on the back end to go with what we have," he added. "We'll see how it goes early -- we may have to go out and get a guy, too."
Gibb and Ehrhardt are overagers and Rosinskis is an 18-year-old Latvian import. Together, they are expected to form the backbone of the defence. The other five d-men are in their 17-year-old seasons.
Grewal, a hometown boy, has spent the past two seasons with the Cariboo Cougars of the B.C. Hockey Major Midget League. In 77 regular-season games with the Cariboo club, he had eight goals and 40 points. Now, he's going to get his shot in the WHL.
"He's been pretty good," Thompson said. "I thought the last game he played [a 4-1 home-ice loss to the Edmonton Oil Kings on Saturday] he maybe struggled a little bit. But he was real good in St. Albert two weekends ago so we'll see where it goes. He's worked hard and was very good last year with the Cariboo Cougars and got into nine games with us. It's just a matter of getting eight guys in the lineup and keeping them all happy. At some point if we have to make a move then obviously we're going to have to make it with one of those eight and then go from there."
Thompson said no further roster moves will be made in advance of Friday's game against the Blazers. But, cuts will happen before the Cats play their regular-season opener Sept. 22 in Everett.
Currently, 25 players are still in the mix for jobs. That number includes goaltenders Devon Fordyce and Brett Zarowny and 15 forwards.
The Cats have a 3-1 record in the pre-season. The Blazers, a B.C. Division and Western Conference rival, have gone 4-0 so far.