For Zach Pochiro cracking the Prince George Cougars lineup was anything but a roll of the dice.
The 18-year-old from Las Vegas prepared for his leap into the WHL by playing for the Witchia Falls Wildcats (Texas) of the North American Hockey League last season where he led the 20-35-5 team with 18 goals and 34 points in 52 games.
"I wanted one season just to get used to junior hockey and then come and play some real hockey in Canada in the WHL, hopefully, I keep progressing and improving," said Pochiro.
Before signing with the Cougars last May, Pochiro had the option to head to the United States Hockey League (USHL) and play for the Lincoln Stars. He was drafted into the junior league - equivalent to the BCHL - twice, in the sixth round in 2011 by the Fargo Force and in 2012 by the Stars in round 19. But he chose the major junior hockey route in Canada.
One of Pochiro's goals this season is to continue his development as he works to show NHL teams it's worth the gamble to sign a player from Vegas.
"The odds are not in favour for the Vegas kids," said Pochiro. "We've already got one in there so hopefully we can get a couple more."
The lone player from Vegas in the NHL these days is the Minnesota Wild's Jason Zucker.
The Cougars right-winger said he'll be working at keeping his emotions under wraps.
"Yes, I have lost my head a couple times," said Pochiro. "It was more when I played midgets because I talked to the refs a little bit too much and they didn't like that very much. I feel that I've controlled that a lot better.
"One way is coach won't play me if I do anything stupid so I've got to learn to control that and another thing is it hurts the team and I don't want the guys to get mad at me for something I did selfishly when I should've put the team first instead of myself," he added.
In his first two games with the Cougars, Pochiro played on a line with Jake Mykitiuk and Carson Bolduc, and notched his first WHL assist.
"We just bring a lot of energy," said Pochiro. "We try to go out there and keep teams from scoring and if we can score it's always a plus."
Cougars head coach Dean Clark said it appears Pochiro will continue the scoring touch he had in the past.
"So far he's done a lot of good things," said Clark. "I like what he's done so I look forward to him being a little bit better and being a little more comfortable now after being in a couple of games."
Pochiro said he's excited to see where this season leads and he's even looking forward to a different climate than the desert one he's accustomed to.
"It's hot, much different then what I'm going to get into this year," said Pochiro. "I'm excited, bring on the cold weather. I just need to get some winter clothes."