Ol­son also on bub­ble as Cats weigh over­ager op­tions

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The Prince George Citizen - - SPORTS - Ted CLARKE Cit­i­zen staff tclarke@pgc­i­t­i­zen.ca COLLINS

or the past two years, de­fence­man Shane Collins has proven him­self the most fit Prince Ge­orge Cougar player in train­ing camp. Guess that has some­thing to do with the fact Collins grew up as the only son on the fam­ily farm near Rose­town, Sask. When he hasn’t been play­ing hockey or go­ing to school he’s spent a good chunk of his 20 years try­ing to keep on top of the chores that come with work­ing 4,000 acres of land to help feed the coun­try.

And when it came to sports, Collins was a nat­u­ral. Com­bine that ath­leti­cism and farm­boy work ethic with three years of sea­son­ing in the Western Hockey League and it’s easy to see why he has be­come such a valu­able com­mod­ity for the Cougars.

So why is he a man on the bub­ble, not sure if he’s go­ing to fin­ish his ju­nior ca­reer in Prince Ge­orge? As one of six re­main­ing 20-yearolds on a team that’s al­lowed to keep just three for the sea­son, bar­ring a trade, Collins won’t likely know for sure un­til the Oct. 15 over­ager dead­line if he will stick with the team that picked him in the third round of the 2012 WHL ban­tam draft.

Be­tween now and the dead­line, the Cougars will have to move out three of their six overagers to pare their ros­ter to just three 20-year-old play­ers. Todd Harkins has been spend­ing a lot of time on his phone talk­ing to other WHL gen­eral man­agers about po­ten­tial trades and Collins’s name comes up of­ten in those con­ver­sa­tions.

“Ev­ery­one wants Shane Collins, a smart kid who plays hard and makes a great first pass – those type of de­fence­men are hard to find,” said Harkins. “He would be an as­set for us or for any team.”

It’s hard for Collins not to think about the num­bers game and how that could force the Cougars’ hand.

“It sucks be­cause we’re all good friends and the re­al­ity hasn’t set in quite yet un­til moves are made and guys are leav­ing,” said Collins, who could be in the lineup tonight when the Cougars fin­ish out the pre­sea­son at CN Cen­tre against the Kam­loops Blaz­ers.

“It’s nerve-wrack­ing be­cause all the 20-year-olds are play­ing well. They look re­ally good – the guys who came back im­proved a lot.”

Collins is a weight room an­i­mal and loves to set the ex­am­ple for his team­mates dur­ing dry­land work­outs af­ter prac­tice. He knows be­ing fit is an as­set when it comes time to try­ing to keep up to the fastest for­wards in­vad­ing his turf on the ice.

“I’m re­ally good at power move­ments, the clean-and-jerk Olympic lifts, I seem to have explosive hips and my jumps are pretty good,” said Collins. “I think it helps my stride a lot – I have a very pow­er­ful stride, it’s the best part of my skat­ing, I think. It’s tough to re­ally build strength in the year, you have to put in a good sum­mer and try to main­tain it through the year so that come Fe­bru­ary you’re still strong.”

Next Fri­day, prior to the sea­sonopen­ing game against Spokane at CN Cen­tre, the Cougars will raise their first WHL ban­ner for win­ning the B.C. Di­vi­sion reg­u­lar-sea­son ti­tle last year. While that will be a proud mo­ment for Collins, he’s hop­ing to stick around Prince Ge­orge this sea­son to try to im­prove on the club’s dis­ap­point­ing play­off per­for­mance, losing out in the first round to Port­land.

Collins joined the Cougars full­time in 2014, the year the cur­rent own­er­ship group took over the team, and he’s seen how they have trans­formed a one-mori­bund fran­chise that was strug­gling to sur­vive into a de­sir­able des­ti­na­tion for ju­nior hockey play­ers. Above all, he wants to re­main a part of it.

“I’d love to stay here, I want to play for this team this year and just hope­fully it works out,” Collins said. “It’s been un­real to see how far this or­ga­ni­za­tion has come, I’m su­per-proud of it. I was drafted when I was 15 and I came up and there were 1,000 fans in the seats and it wasn’t a very ex­cit­ing place to be go­ing to. But the new own­er­ship has made changes every year and it keeps get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter. I see the com­mu­nity get­ting back be­hind the team and it just comes from the top and man­age­ment chang­ing the cul­ture.

— see OL­SON, page 8

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