All signs point to Jansen Harkins becoming the Prince George Cougars’ next franchise player. The 16-year-old centre not only appears to have the skill and character to take on this role, but the opportunity is also up for grabs with the Cougars’ No. 1 pick of the 2010 draft, Alex Forsberg, asking for a trade last December.
Harkins, however, isn’t sure if he’s ready for the term ‘franchise’ to be put on his shoulders just yet. He's fully aware he has some hurdles to overcome before being ready to anchor a major junior club.
“I know it takes a lot of hard work to become a star in this league, so I don’t want to be known as a franchise player before I earn it on the ice,” says Harkins, who is the second overall pick of the 2012 WHL bantam draft. “In the future, I definitely would like to take on that role if the Cougars feel I’m that type of player, though. I’m just going to play my game, a two-way game, and keep on working out there.”
Despite only having five games with the Cougars under his belt, some in-the-know reporters believe Harkins is Prince George’s future captain.
“Jansen is extremely mature and demonstrates great character,” says Allan Bristowe, the sports director at Prince George’s CKPG TV. “I think he’ll be a future captain of the Cougars. At 16, he’s mature as some 20 year olds who have been in the league for five years.”
Harkins is coming off an outstanding rookie season with the Vancouver NW Giants in the British Columbia Major Midget Hockey League. He started the season on the third line, and it ended it on the first line, racking up 14 goals and 59 points in 37 games along the way.
“I’m very happy with how my season went,” says Harkins. “I went into the year kind of knowing what to expect because I was called up for some games the year before. We were an older team. I got to learn from some of the older players and I had to earn my ice time. As a team, we also had a good season. We won the Mac’s Tournament in Calgary and played some great hockey.”
The 5-foot-11, 161-pound Harkins will see a familiar face in Prince George. His father, Todd Harkins, was recently named the Cougars’ head scout and director of player personnel. Although it was ‘kind of strange’ at first when he heard his father was going to join the Cougars, the North Vancouver native views playing for a team his old man is involved in as business as usual.
“At first, you could say it was kind of strange to hear my dad was going to join the Cougars’ hockey staff,” says Harkins. “But I’m pretty use to playing for teams that my dad coaches or is doing some type of role for. He was my coach when I played for the North Shore Winter Club. It’s practically back to normal to my younger minor hockey days with my dad apart of the team.”
Before getting into coaching and scouting, Todd Harkins played professional hockey, spending short stints with the Calgary Flames and Hartford Whalers. The younger Harkins believes he plays similar to how his father did, but feels he has the edge on his old man in the talent department.
“My dad was a tough player and I play like that in some ways,” he says. “I’m not afraid to get into the dirty areas and get my nose dirty. But I think, and my dad would tell you the same, that I’m a bit more talented. I think I play a more skilled game.”
1. How would you describe yourself as a player?
“I think I’m a highly skilled player who plays a smart two-way game. I often start my shifts in the defensive zone and rush the puck up into the offensive zone. I like to score, but I’m also a playmaker. I’m a hard work worker and I think I have good strength.”
2. Do you model your game after a player in the NHL?
“I try to play like (Detroit Redwings star) Henrik Zetterberg and (Vancouver Canucks centre) Ryan Kesler. They are good leaders and play smart two-way games. They are also guys who can be put into any situation.”
3. Your father, Todd Harkins, played in the NCAA. Why did you choose the WHL route?
“I looked at all of my options and decided the WHL was the right league for me. You play more games here and they have such a great track record. And the Prince George Cougars organization has treated me with respect and has been great to me and my family since they drafted me. With them owning my rights, it was an easy decision to play in the WHL.”
4. If you weren’t playing hockey, what other sport would your pursue?
“Hockey has always been my favourite sport, so it’s hard to imagine not playing it. But If I wasn’t playing hockey, I’d be heavily involved in sports like baseball, football and golf. I’ve played those sports before and love playing them.”
5. What’s your favourite movie and TV show?
“My favourite movie is Miracle. It has a lot of inspirational quotes in it and it is a real favourite of mine. My dad also was an actor in the movie. He was one of the players for Russia. My favourite TV show would have to be a show like Friends. I like the classics.”
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen