At the start of the Major Midget League season, Bryan Allbee barely cracked the roster of the Cariboo Cougars.
Four months later, he's a legitimate Western Hockey League prospect.
Allbee, a rookie defenceman for the Cougars, has been added to the 50-player protected list of the WHL's Kootenay Ice. Teams had been showing interest in the 15-year-old blueliner for the past several weeks but the Ice secured his rights after they saw him play at the prestigious Mac's tournament in Calgary during the Christmas break.
"He's a guy that has come a long way," said Cougars head coach Trevor Sprague. "He was a bubble guy at the beginning of the year and he got better every practice and every exhibition game. We saw his potential and he has probably been our best-developed d-man since the beginning of the year."
Through his own commitment to excellence, and the encouragement of his coaches and teammates, Allbee has become one of the Cats' most reliable all-around defenders. He's especially good in penalty-killing situations and during five-on-five play. He's not counted on for his offensive production but does have one goal and five points in 24 league games.
At nearly six feet and 160 pounds, Allbee also has decent size for a player his age. In the past two years, he has grown four inches and gained 25 pounds.
At the 25-team Mac's tournament, Allbee helped the Cougars to a 3-1-1 record. The Cats won their pool and qualified for the playoff round, where they lost 3-2 in overtime to a squad from the Czech Republic.
During that game, Kootenay scout Garnet Kazuik had a chat with Allbee's parents and told them the good news. A few days later, Kazuik and Allbee spoke over the phone.
"He asked me what kind of player I think I am and if I was excited," said Allbee, a Grade 10 student at Prince George secondary school. "He was happy for me, and I'm very excited, obviously. It's a big accomplishment but there are still a lot of things that can happen. I can get dropped just as easily so I have to work hard and try to get better every time I get on the ice."
Allbee wasn't selected during the 2012 WHL bantam draft but being overlooked didn't bother him.
"I didn't see it as a big thing," he said.
Allbee, who is also one of the best young baseball players in Prince George, is the third Cariboo player to be listed by a WHL team in recent weeks. The others are high-scoring forwards Liam Blackburn (Victoria Royals) and Braiden Epp (Vancouver Giants).
The Cougars will resume their MML schedule today at CN Centre when they face off against the Valley West Hawks at 1 p.m. The teams will also meet Sunday on the same ice surface at 10:15 a.m. The Cats won both previous meetings, 5-4 on Sept. 29 and 4-3 on Sept. 30. Both those games were played in Langley.
The third-place Cats enter the doubleheader with an 18-6-0 record. The Hawks, in sixth place, have a mark of 9-9-6.