Prince George Cougars' Jansen Harkins eyes WJC, WHL playoff run

Kelly Friesen
Jets prospect Jansen Harkins has 16 points in 13 games this year in the WHL. (Larry MacDougal, The Canadian Press)
Jets prospect Jansen Harkins has 16 points in 13 games this year in the WHL. (Larry MacDougal, The Canadian Press)

From the world junior championship to a WHL playoff run, Prince George Cougars centre Jansen Harkins has no shortage of prestigious opportunities ahead of him this season.

The Winnipeg Jets second-round pick hopes to use a couple of strong showings in the 2016 CIBC Canada Russia Series to find favour from Hockey Canada’s world junior brass. He suits up in his first Canada-Russia game tonight in Prince George.

“Every time I’ve played for Hockey Canada it has been a great experience,” says Harkins. “It is always a lot of fun and an honour to play in games like this. I am looking forward to the series and see it as a good opportunity. The world junior tournament is a big event and growing up watching it you always dream of playing in it.”

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Harkins would be an option for Team Canada as either a top-six forward or a shutdown specialist. He has solidified himself as a sound two-way forward who has the skill to produce offensively at the major junior level.

“I’ve worked to become a 200-foot player,” says Harkins, whose father, Todd Harkins, formerly played pro and is currently the GM of the WHL’s Cougars. “I feel if I’m good defensively then the offense will come with that.”

Despite enhancing his overall game, Harkins, 19, saw his point production drop last year from his sophomore season. He tallied 24 goals and 57 points in 69 games after producing 20 goals and 79 points in 70 games in 2014-15.

“I started off slow, took some time to get my game going last year,” he says. “Sometimes the puck wouldn’t go in and it took me time to get going… I thought I played better as a player at the end of last year… We were also a better team last year and there wasn’t as much opportunity than the year before. We had a lot of good players who could score and the opportunity was spread out.”

The North Vancouver, B.C., native has elevated his points-per-game ratio this season. He’s netted four markers and 16 points in 13 contests.

“Every year is a bit different,” says Harkins. “I’ve tried to step it up and feel good about where I am. I feel I’m in a good place physically and mentally and just want to keep on helping my team.”

Harkins credits the experience he gained with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose for some of his success this season. He notched a goal and three points in six games with Winnipeg’s farm team at the end of last year.

“It was a really cool experience in the AHL,” he says. “Playing my first pro games were great and that’s the best hockey I’ve played. I tried to carry that over to this year and just keep on playing like I did there.”

With Harkins being eligible to play fulltime in the AHL next year, it seems this will be his last year in the WHL. He hopes to end his major junior career on a high note by helping the 14-3-2-0 Cougars make some noise in the post-season.

“We have an exciting team this year and we’ve all came together,” says Harkins. “We are confident and are working together as a team. We want to keep it up and have a great season.”

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