Alex Forsberg delivered a knockout blow to his Prince George Cougars teammates and friends when he decided not to return to the team after the holiday break.
Cougars head coach Dean Clark said the news that the 2010 Western Hockey League's top overall bantam draft pick wasn't returning caught him off guard.
"I was surprised," said Clark. "I worked with him as far as trying to get his effort and some things a little bit better. He was obviously frustrated with the fact that he wasn't ranked with [NHL] central scouting and he's chosen to maybe blame us for the fact that he's not there."
When the NHL central scouting preliminary rankings came out in November, Forsberg's name was nowhere to found among the top North American skaters.
"I don't know what the situation is, but the family is very adamant that he would be better off somewhere else, which is fine," added Clark. "We don't want guys here that don't want to be here. It's their decision and we'll move forward."
It's the second time in less than six months a member of the Forsberg clan has asked for a trade out of Prince George. During the summer, the Cougars traded 19-year-old Jesse Forsberg to the Seattle Thunderbirds in exchange for fellow 19-year-old Colin Jacobs.
"I think the family has an opinion of the organization and that's their opinion," said Clark. "I've been in Calgary, Brandon and Kamloops and the players are treated here just the same as they were in all those organizations. [The Forsbergs] assume that it's different, whatever, I'm not going to comment on what they think or feel."
Clark said he hasn't spoken with Forsberg, who celebrated his 18th birthday today, though he did text him and didn't receive a response. Not surprising, considering the Cougars' organization was informed their top recruit from the 1995 class wouldn't be returning through an exchange of emails between his father Blaine Forsberg and Cougars general manager Dallas Thompson during the holidays.
"They just indicated that he wasn't coming back and they wanted a trade," said Thompson, adding an emphatic "No" about the rumour the Waldheim, Sask., product would be playing for the Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
In 87 games with the Cougars, Forsberg accumulated 24 goals, 59 points and was a minus 26 but injuries, notably a hip flexor last season that limited him to 51 games, slowed his development.
Thompson said he's had conversations with almost every WHL club about a trade but added he won't move the disgruntled forward before the Jan. 10 trade deadline if the price isn't right.
"It's very difficult with him not being here," said Thompson, adding his request Forsberg return until a deal could be worked out was ignored. "I'm just working with what I have here. We've been put in a very difficult situation and now we're going through the process.
"We will make a deal if it's a good deal for the Prince George Cougars," he added. "It's the only way that a deal is going to get done and right now it's proving very difficult."
Thompson said the majority of 1995-born players have no-trade clauses in their agreements with WHL clubs and acquiring a talented 1994-born player is proving difficult. He hinted that he talked with the Medicine Hat Tigers about forward Jayden Hart - who informed the Tigers last week he would no longer play in Medicine Hat - but those talks obviously were unsuccessful due to the fact Hart was dealt to the Prince Albert Raiders on Tuesday. Hart, who turned 18 on Dec. 14, played bantam and midget hockey in the Edmonton area alongside Cougars forward Troy Bourke.
"It will be very interesting to see if we could get something done," said Thompson.
Repeated attempts by The Citizen to contact Forsberg over the telephone and through social media for his comments were ignored, while his Twitter account was shut down last weekend.