CHL on TSN: Five players to watch — Cougars @ Giants

A pair of WHL Western Conference teams meet tonight on TSN as the Vancouver Giants (21-26-6) host the Prince George Cougars (26-23-4).

Despite owning the 11th best record in the WHL, the Cougars possess a ton of offence as their 211 goals are the fourth most this year. Riley Heidt, Chase Wheatcroft and Koehn Ziemmer have combined for a staggering 86 goals and 218 points as all three sit in the top eight of league scoring. Prince George sits sixth in the West as they seek a playoff spot for the second straight season.

On the flip side, the Giants are the second lowest scoring team in the WHL with 147 goals. However, the recent return of Samuel Honzek to the lineup will provide a boost to a club that has seen just one player pass 50 points this season. Vancouer has a 12-point buffer to ninth-place Victoria as they look to lock down a playoff spot for the fourth straight year.

Ahead of tonight’s 10:30pm ET / 7:30pm PT puck drop, here are five players to keep an eye, three of which will have their name called at the 2023 NHL Draft in June.

Riley Heidt — Prince George

In his NHL Draft year, Heidt has taken a serious step in 2022-23 with 71 points (21 goals) in just 53 games.

His playmaking ability has really shined this year as his 50 assists are tied for the sixth most in the WHL while his 29 power play assists are the second most in the CHL. He is also seven assists shy of 100 for his WHL career where he’ll become just the 16th Cougar in team history to achieve that feat.

He sits eighth in WHL scoring as a whole while he has won 50.4 per cent of his faceoffs this year and is one of just 13 players to have taken more than 1,000 draws.

The Saskatoon, SK., native was a member of Canada’s 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup gold-medal team where he had six points (three goals) in five games last summer.

Ahead of the 2023 NHL Draft, Heidt is the 26th ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting and at the 2023 Kubota CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game last month, was named Team Red’s Jim Gregory Player of the Game.

Samuel Honzek — Vancouver

Honzek returned to the Giants lineup Feb. 18 after he missed 15 games due to a lower-body injury sustained at the 2023 World Juniors.

The Slovak, who made the decision to come to the CHL for his draft year, was exceptional in the first half of the WHL season and in 33 games this year, has 19 points and 45 points.

While his injury prevented him from competing in the 2023 Kubota CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on home ice, the 18-year-old was ranked as the ninth best North American skater, the fourth highest among CHL players, by NHL Central Scouting ahead of the 2023 NHL Draft.

Ethan Samson — Prince George

In his fourth WHL season, Samson has continued to prove why he is in the upper echelon of WHL defencemen.

He is currently on pace for a career high in all three major offensive categories and currently sits 14th in WHL scoring among d-men with 42 points. The 19-year-old is four games shy of 200 as he looks to become just the 14th Cougars blueliner to hit that landmark in team history.

The Cougars captain was a sixth-round draft pick by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2021 and signed his entry-level contract with the club Dec. 31.

Ty Thorpe — Vancouver

Not to be confused with teammate Tyler Thorpe, Ty Thorpe leads the Giants in scoring this year with 57 points and is two goals shy of 30.

If he gets to the 30-goal landmark, Thorpe will be just the fifth different Giants player to achieve that feat in the last decade.

After the team traded Zack Ostapchuk to Winnipeg ahead of the WHL Trade Deadline, Thorpe was named the franchise’s 20th captain Jan. 13.

Koehn Ziemmer — Prince George

The other half of Prince George’s NHL Draft eligible dynamic duo, Ziemmer sits tied fifth in WHL scoring with 75 points.

A year after he scored 30 goals as a rookie, Ziemmer has 31 in 2022-23 while his 41 assists are also a new career best.

Thirty-two of his points have come via the power play (13 goals) and while he won’t hit the mark this year, Ziemmer is just 30 goals shy of 100 where he’d eventually become just the fourth player in team history to reach the milestone.

NHL Central Scouting ranked Ziemmer the 20th best North American Skater ahead of the 2023 NHL Draft.

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