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Prince George Cougars start new era under Todd Harkins

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The PG Cougars named Todd Harkins their new GM. (Cougars)

The Prince George Cougars’ new ownership group, EdgePro Sports and Entertainment, made their first big move since buying the team in May as they named Todd Harkins the club’s new general manager.

Harkins spent the last year and a half within the Cougars organization. He joined the team in December 2012 as an assistant coach before being promoted to head scout and director of player personnel the following offseason. He also held the interim GM title during the Cougars' architect search.

Prior to joining the Cougars, Harkins won back-to-back provincial major midget championships as the coach of the Vancouver Northwest Giants and played professional hockey for 12 years, including 48 games in the NHL.

The 44-year-old hockey architect is the father of Cougars forward Jansen Harkins, who was the team's second overall selection of the 2012 bantam draft. He joked at the press conference that his son now has a no-trade clause.

Even though the deal between EdgePro Sports and Entertainment, which consists of local businessman Greg Pocock and NHL defencemen Dan Hamhuis and Eric Brewer, and former owner Rick Brodsky went through in early May, the Cougars' new ownership group has been looking at GM options since January.

"The process began January 2," said Pocock. "We took the time needed to make sure that we got the best person for the job. We had 17 candidates, talked to eight, interviewed five and hired the best one - Todd Harkins. I have been very impressed with his colloberation with other people in our staff and in the hockey community. He is the guy that can build long-term relationships, and he has a proven track record for identifying talent, recruiting players, fostering a winning culture and building a team with an identity. I expect you will notice change when we hit the ice in September."

It was inevitable that Dallas Thompson wouldn't be retained as Prince George's architect. Not only was Thompson hired by his father-in-law, Rick Brodsky, but he also had a poor track record during his 10-year reign. The cougars missed the playoffs six times under him even though eight out of 10 teams crack the second season in the Western Conference. His only notable success as a GM came in 2007 when Prince George made it to the Western Conference finals.

How Thompson handled the Alex Forsberg situation will stand out as one of his biggest blunders. After Forsberg asked for a trade roughly two weeks before the 2013 trade deadline, Thompson could have dealt the top pick of the 2010 bantam draft to a number of teams that made fair offers for him. But since he didn’t think any of the proposals were up to snuff, he held on to him knowing Forsberg would finish out the year with the SJHL’s Humboldt Broncos. Then in the following offseason, he practically gave Forsberg no other option than to return to the team because he wouldn’t guarantee him a trade.

Harkins, while the interim GM, granted Forsberg his trade request at this past bantam draft by sending him to the Saskatoon Blades for a third-round bantam pick and Haydn Hopkins, a package that pales into comparison to what Thompson was offered before the 2013 trade deadline when his value was much higher.

Thompson did, however, leave his successor a full cupboard of young talented players such as 17-year-old forwards Brad Morrison and Jansen Harkins, 17-year-old defenceman Tate Olson and 16-year-old blueliner Josh Anderson. Therefore, Harkins doesn't have to build the team from the ground up.

If Harkins can continue to add pieces to the team and head coach Mark Hollick steers them in the right direction, the Cougars could be a quality playoff team in 2016-17 when Harkins, Morrison and Olson are in their 19-year-old seasons.

In addition to naming their fifth general manager of the franchise's history, the Cougars extended Hollick's contact and hired Michael Hengen as an assistant/strength conditioning coach.

Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen

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