Mark Lamb will be watching this week’s draft in Nashville, knowing there’s a good chance a Cougar family member will be there to put on an NHL jersey.
The head coach and general manager of the Prince George Cougars has been bombarded with phone calls and personal interviews with NHL scouts wanting to know more about his top two draft prospects – 18-year-old forwards Riley Heidt and Koehn Ziemmer.
But that’s not all.
NHL teams are also interested in a pair of Cougar defencemen, Hudson Thornton and Viliam Kmec, who could get snapped up in the later rounds of the draft on Thursday.
“You know you have the two highly touted players, Heidt and Ziemmer, that everyone talks about and they’re well-deserved of everything they get, they’re so talented and such a big pat of our team now moving forward,” said Lamb.
“Every team in the NHL likes those two guys, and the other two D, Kmec and Thornton, just keep getting better. It’s an exciting time.”
Heidt is ranked by The Hockey News 19th on the list of draft prospects, while Ziemmer is ranked 54th.
Heidt led the WHL with 72 assists (tied with Connor Bedard) and also scored 25 goals to finish with 97 points, second in team scoring behind Chase Wheatcroft’s 107 points. After the playoffs, Heidt went on to help Canada win bronze at the World Under-18 Championship in Switzerland.
Ziemmer put up 41 goals and 89 points and like Heidt proved his durability, playing in all 68 games. Listed at six-foot, 210 pounds, Ziemmer plays the game with an edge and constantly proved his ability to get to the net with the puck to create scoring chances.
In his second full WHL season, Thornton rewrote the Cougars’ record book, setting single-season record for points (74) and goals (23), while playing all 68 games. Thornton, who turns 20 on Nov. 4, was fifth in scoring among WHL defencemen and his 12 power-play goals was second among WHL blueliners.
Kmec, 19, was one of the most consistent Cougar defencemen and his ability to block shots and break up offensive plays earned him a spot on the Slovakian world junior team.
Two local hockey products, Prince George native Nico Myatovic of Prince George and defenceman Tanner Molendyk of McBride have shot making an NHL team’s list this week.
Myatovic, 18, held a key role this past season as defensive specialist who also posed a scoring threat for the Seattle Thunderbirds in their run to their second-ever WHL championship. In his second WHL season, Myatovic scored 30 goals and added 30 assists for 60 points in 68 games. In 19 playoff games he also contributed seven points and four goals, including the championship winner in Game 5 of the final against Winnipeg.
Molendyk also had a breakout season, playing for the Saskatoon Blades. He scored nine goals and had 28 assists for 37 points and helped the Blades reach the third playoff round, scoring three goals and eight points in the postseason.
Molendyk, Myatovic, Heidt and Ziemmer all played in the 2023 NHL/CHL Top Prospects Game in January.
The draft gets started Wednesday at 4 p.m. PT with the first round. Rounds 2-7 are on Thursday, starting at 8 a.m. PT. Live coverage will be on Sportsnet.