When the Prince George Cougars drafted Alex Forsberg with the first pick of the 2010 WHL bantam draft, the hockey world expected him to turn the northern B.C. franchise back into a contender while developing into one of the top prospects of the 2013 NHL draft class.
Three years later, the Cougars aren't a playoff team, let alone a contender, and Forsberg isn’t even listed by NHL Central Scouting Service. Instead, the 18-year-old is waiting on Prince George to deal him after walking out on the team in late December.
“It is tough that things didn’t work out as I hoped them to,” says Forsberg. “I can’t focus on it, though. It won’t help me at all by thinking about it. If I’m drafted, that’s great. But if I’m not, it’s not the end of the world. I’ll have more opportunities in the future.”
Forsberg decided to ask for a trade from the Cougars after the Christmas break because he ‘stopped having fun in Prince George.’
“I felt I needed a change and I had to ask for a trade to get that,” says Forsberg, who scored nine goals and 19 points in 31 games this year before walking out on Prince George.
The 5-foot-11, 184-pound forward expected a trade at the Jan. 5 trade deadline, but Cougars GM Dallas Thompson chose to hold on to him. Then the 2013 bantam draft came and went in May without Forsberg finding a new WHL home.
“I didn’t expect this process to take this long,” says Forsberg, who is the younger brother to Seattle Thunderbirds defenceman Jesse Forsberg. “I thought they would trade me at the trade deadline when I asked for a trade. When they didn’t I thought then they would trade me at the bantam draft, but that didn’t happen either.”
When Forsberg wasn’t dealt at the trade deadline, he finished the season with the Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. He scored seven goals and seven assists in 14 regular-season games.
Heading into the bantam draft, Thompson told Prince George Citizen reporter Sheri Lamb he wasn’t happy with the trade market and the team was just fielding offers at that point.
“It’ll all be dependent on how things go prior to the draft if anybody wants to make a move and give up something,” said Thompson. “We’ll take a look at it but right now we’re just fielding offers.
“We don’t have to do a deal right now if we don’t feel we’re not getting anything that helps us down the road,” he added. “[We haven’t received an offer for] anywhere close to what we think he’s worth.”
It is not surprising that Thompson feels Forsberg’s trade value is higher than what he has been offered. He did after all select him over Edmonton Oil Kings star Curtis Lazar, Regina Pats skilled winger Morgan Klimchuk, and Prince Albert Raiders slick puck-moving defenceman Josh Morrissey. It would look bad if he doesn't acquire a talented young player for Forsberg after he invested such a prized pick on him.
The consensus, however, is Forsberg’s trade value isn't even close to what most would expect a former No. 1 pick at 18-years-old to be. Most general managers are worried about his work ethic and drive after coming up short in both categories in Prince George. This lack of urgency was also evident in Humboldt, despite posting strong numbers in the Broncos’ playoff run.
Forsberg is aware of these concerns and is currently in the midst of a vigorous offseason workout to silence his naysayers next season.
“I don’t believe I ever lacked drive, but I can’t stop people from saying what they feel,” he says. “I’m working out in Saskatoon right now to get in great shape. I work with a trainer that has worked with a lot of NHL players. I’m getting stronger and I feel that will really help me out next year.”
The Regina Pats are pegged as one of the frontrunners for Forsberg after coming close to working out a deal at the trade deadline. It is believed the two clubs couldn’t work out a trade because of Pats GM Chad Lang’s unwillingness to part ways with highly-touted defensive prospect Brady Reagan.
The Saskatoon Blades could undoubtedly use Forsberg up front. At least half of their forward group from their 2013 Memorial Cup-host season won’t be returning next year. There is also a connection between the two teams as Rick Brodsky, the owner of the Cougars, is the brother of Blades owner Jack Brodsky.
Playing for one of the five Saskatchewan-based clubs would be a ‘dream come true’ for Forsberg, who grew up in Waldheim, Sk. But after nearly six months of waiting for a deal, he would welcome a trade to any of the other 21 Dub clubs.
“It would be great to play for a Saskatchewan team,” says Forsberg. “It would be a dream come true to get to a play for a team where my family can easily drive to for my games. I just want to be traded, though. I just want to be able to move on with my hockey career from Prince George.”
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen