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Cougars first-rounder Wotherspoon lit up Saskatchewan league in playoffs

Cats restock their talent pool in WHL Prospects Draft
Bob Simmonds, the Prince George Cougars director of scouting, talks about selecting Dade Wotherspoon in the first round of the WHL Prospects Draft Thursday morning.

The Prince George Cougars went back to the prairie fields of Saskatchewan to select their first-round pick on Thursday’s WHL Prospects Draft.

With the 21st overall pick the Cougars chose centre Dade Wotherspoon of Martensville, Sask., who played this past season for the Martensville Marauders U-15 double-A team.

He averaged three points per game to lead the Saskatchewan U-15 double-A Hockey League in playoff scoring with 10 goals and 23 assists for 33 points in 11 games. That came after a 53-goal, 103-point regular season of 27 games.

Wotherspoon, who turns 15 on Aug. 4, stands five-foot-11 and weighs 179 pounds.

Cougars director of scouting, Bob Simmonds, said Wotherspoon’s goal-scoring ability put him on the team’s radar and his playoff showing convinced the Cougars he was too talented not to have him on their first-round list.

“His performance in the playoffs just really built on what we saw during the regular season and his performance was off the charts, we thought,” said Simmonds. “Dade is a point-producer and an offence generator and he’s much more than a one-trick pony, he understands that you’ve got to defend and  get back deep.”

Wotherspoon will be limited to playing just five games next season for the Cougars until he’s finished with his U18 team, but if he keeps improving the way he has shown, Simmonds predicts he will soon be a regular in the Prince George lineup.

“We  look at Dade down the road as obviously a top-six forward for us,” Simmonds said. “He has that innate ability that you can’t teach and that’s to score and create offence. So whatever deficiencies he might have, you can coach.”

As expected, the Everett Silvertips took defenceman Landon DuPont with their first-overall pick. DuPont, a Calgary native who had 62 points in 30 games with the Edge School U-18s, was granted exceptional status by the WHL which allows him to play in the league a  year earlier as a 15-year-old.

The Silvertips obtained that first-overall pick in a January 2023 trade with the Kamloops Blazers that sent Olen Zelweger to Everett.

The Cougars traded their second-round 44th pick to Calgary as part of the Zac Funk deal but moved up to 41st spot in the order as a result of trade last summer when they sent Caden Bown to the Silvertips for Oren Shtrom and Everett’s second rounder in 2024 and fifth rounder in 2026.

The Cats used that 41st pick to select defenceman Cooper Bratton, a six-foot-one, 172-pound native of Moosomin , Sask., who played last season for the Saskatchewan East Oilers U-15 double-A team. Bratton had 22 goals and 52 points in 27 games in the Saskatchewan Hockey League.

“Cooper plays a well-rounded game, he can defend but at the same time he’s able to activate and get up ice. He can make quick reads and hit the forwards on the fly to allow them to run that quick transition game. Think of Bauer Dumanski-like. He’s a hard guy to play against but he’s got very high skill and can nail you into the boards as well.”

The Cats traded their third-round pick to Saskatoon.

In the fourth round, 88th overall, they picked a B.C. boy, right winger Ollie Reid, who comes from Coldstream, Funk’s hometown. The five-foot-11, 149-pound Reid played at Yale Hockey Academy with U15 prep, where he scored 22 goals and had 30 assists for 52 points on 27 games this season.

“I’m not going to put the expectation on Ollie that he has to beat Zac’s record of 67 goals,” said Simmonds. “Ollie played at Yale Academy and he’s smaller player at this time but very highly skilled, very strong skater, very imaginative with the puck. I was really surprised he was there in the fourth round, he fits the style we like to play to a tee.”

Defenceman Tatum Fouquette, fifth round, 110th, was next to join the Cougars’ draft list. The six-foot, 165-pound native of Prince Albert played for his hometown Pirates U-15 double-A. He put up 28 goals and 42 points in 27 games.

“Tatum is a little more blue collar,” said Simmonds. He created offence rather effectively for the back end but if you’re an opposing forward coming into our end and Taum is there, he’s the type of defenceman you have to be aware of at all times. Otherwise  he’s going to out you into the second row, he plays a hard physical game. He could become a fan favourite.”

Prince George-born-and-raised defenceman Connor Feeney was also selected in the fifth round, picked 91st overall by the Calgary Hitman. The five-foot-nine, 155-pound Feeney collected 17 points and eight goals in 20 games playing for his hometown Cariboo Cougars U-15s.

“Connor really has progressed all season long and certainly at the BC Cup in Salmon Arm three weeks ago he was really good,” said Simmonds. “We had him on our list and Calgary grabbed him before we were in a position to do it and I wish him nothing but the best. I know he’s playing for Tyler Brough (with the Cariboo Cougars U18s) next year and he’s going to be a good one.”

In the seventh round, 154th, the WHL Cougars picked centre Dixon Hartwich, a five-foot-nine, 176-pounder from St. Andrews, Man., who played 28 games for the Winnipeg Thrashers U-15 triple-A Blue and had 24 goals and 43 points.

Goalie Davin Chyld went to the Cougars in the eighth round, 176th overall. The six-foot-two, 178-pound Chilliwack native played in the BC Elite Hockey League and led the league with a 1.12 goals-against average and 13-2 record with the Fraser Valley Chiefs U-15s.

The Cougars had two picks in the ninth and 10th rounds to close out their draft.

They used the 179th pick they got from the Tri-City Americans to select left winger Keenan Fox, a five-foot-nine, 169-pound Edmonton native who played for OHA Edmonton U15 Prep. He put up 15 goals and 24 assists for 39 points on 26 games.

With their 198th pick, Prince George added left winger defenceman Ryder Schnitzler to the fold. He’s from Sherwood Park, Alta., and played for the Sherwood Park Flyers U15 triple-A squad, scoring five times with 24 assists in 30 games.

In the 10th round, with the 212th pick acquired from Lethbridge, the Cougars took centre Gus Rustebakke. The five-foot-seven, 150-pounder from High River, Alta., averaged nearly a point per game with nine goals and 17 assists in 27 games in the Alberta Elite Hockey League with the Okotoks Oilers U15s.

The Cougars named defenceman Reeve Waugh as their 220th pick. The five-foot-10, 143-pounder from Calgary had six goals and 15 assists in 21 games for Edge School U-15s.

The complete WHL Prospect Draft list is online.