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Caden Brown follows father's footsteps, joins WHL's Cougars

A 2nd generation Cougar

When 16-year-old Caden Brown lines up this season to play his first Western Hockey League game, he will become the first second-generation Prince George Cougar.

Chosen by the Cougars in the first round, 17th overall in the 2020 WHL draft, Brown did not get to play last season as a 15 year-old, unlike Cougars forward Riley Heidt, who suited up for all 22 games. With hockey league cancelled because of the pandemic, the WHL made an exception to allow each team one underaged player in the 2021 season and Brown did not get to play for the Cougars.

He’s making up for that lost time, however, and has shown in training camp why the Cougars picked him so early in the draft after seeing play for two seasons with the Delta Hockey Academy U-15 prep team. Brown scored the Cougars’ third goal in a 5-3 preseason loss Friday in Kamloops and also played in Saturday’s rematch, a 7-6 shootout win over the Blazers at CN Centre.

“It’s different playing games, it’s almost been a year for me,” said Brown, who played just a few games for the Cariboo Cougars last year before the pandemic shut down the league. “I’ve put in the work (in practice) and I’ve gotten a lot better and I’ve worked on my skating a lot, working with Steve O’Rourke. My stride is so much better, it’s more smooth and I feel more confident now.

“The Cougars have done a great job bringing in guys and obviously Riley did well in the bubble and was fun to watch. I just hope I can come in this year and do the same and contribute and play a role on the team. I wanted to come to P.G. and I was super-happy that got to go. I have tons of family here on my dad’s side.”

Brown was born and raised in Fort St. John but Prince George has always been his second home. He’s related to the Martin clan that built many of the city’s ball fields and for the past year has been living in the city where his father Ryan played, as one of the original Prince George Cougars.

“There’s something to be said for playing in a community that you know around people that you know and he has plenty of support systems around him,” said Ryan Brown.

“One of the things we looked at before we came to Prince George was opportunity and what the team is going to look like in the future. They’ve had some really strong drafts and have a lot of good young talent so in our opinion they’re going to have a really strong team for years to come, so it was obviously high on our list of places for Caden to go.”

Caden is slotted at right wing for the Cougars and plays the position with an edge. He loves the physical side of the game and while he has a bit of growing to do, at five-foot-11, 190 pounds, he knows how to take hit. He also has great hands with the puck on his stick and the Cougars are confident he’ll develop into a prolific scorer in the WHL, just as he showed a couple seasons ago in his draft year. As captain of his Delta Academy team in 2019-20 he scored 35 goals and had 30 assists in 30 games.

“He’s a different player than I was,” said Ryan. “He’s got a grit level to him and there’s not as big of an emphasis on that as it used to be but it’s still a very important part of the game. He plays a hard heavy game and he’s got a talent level that I never had. He has a nose for the net. I think by the time he was in pre-novice he’d already outscored me for my lifetime total.

“He loves to score and he’s tenacious around the net. He always has his head up reading the play and that’s one of those things that’s not easily taught. He’s one of those kids who has good vision around the ice.”

Having as his guide a father who played pro hockey has given Caden a step up on his peers and he loves having him around to discuss how to become a better athlete and get the most out of his hockey skills.

“He’s been great helping me so far, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am without all the helpers,” said Caden. “He’s been through it all and lets me know and lets me know what going to come next for me and it’s really nice to have that.

“He played a little differently, he was more of a fighter and didn’t typically need his stick too much. He’s really implemented into my game to play the body because it’s kind of a lost art in hockey today. I think that’s one thing I have on lots of guys is I like to play the body a lot, and it helps my game a lot.”

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