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Jansen Harkins has a unique situation with the Prince George Cougars — his father is also his general manager.
In the inner sanctum of a junior hockey team, having a family tie between a standout player and front office can create some awkwardness. However, the 17-year-old centre says he and his father, Todd Harkins, have a good understanding about where father-son and GM-player relationships begin and end.
"My dad's always been there throughout my hockey career," says Jansen Harkins, who is NHL Central Scouting's 18th-ranked domestic skater. "For some people it would be a little bit weird but the fact he's always been there, it's pretty much like normal. Growing up playing hockey in North Shore, he was always there. Obviously some guys like to tease, but it doesn't bother me, I can block it out.
"He knows what to do," the Vancouver native adds. "There's some boundaries obviously. I'm not going to tell him everything that's happening in the room and that's to be expected. He knows that and has done a good job blocking that out and being my dad."
Harkins, listed at 6-foot-¾ and 177 pounds, has emerged as the Cougars' main offensive catalyst, helping the team push for a playoff berth in its first season under a new ownership group that includes NHL defenceman Dan Hamhuis. Harkins has had two three-assist games in the past two weeks and is up to 10th in Western Hockey League scoring with 19 goals and 76 points across 61 games.
"It's really turned around this year," Harkins says of the atmosphere at Prince George's CN Centre. "Last year and the previous couple when I was going up to games, it was not the most exciting atmosphere. The organization's done a great job filling seats and working to get everyone excited for games."
1. How would you describe your style of play?
"My hockey IQ is something I try to use to my advantage. I'm more of a playmaker than a shooter. Pretty good defensive forward. I try to play a well-rounded game and a complete game."
2. When you break the game down into specific components, where do you see an area in need of improvement?
"I need to get stronger, that's a main thing for every player this age. And continue to grow and develop as a player and improve in every area, because I'm still young and have lots to learn. My explosiveness is also something I've been working on a lot."
3. Which NHL players do you study closely?
"Definitely Jonathan Toews and Anze Kopitar are two guys I look up to. Their leadership and they kind of lead by example, they play every game like it's their last. That's what I try to do, compete and be a smart player and a good defensive player, which they both are."
4. You were the Cougars' academic player of the year last season; did you ever think about pursuing college hockey?
"It was kind of a question. Everyone goes through that after the draft, I think. My dad played NCAA at Miami [of Ohio]. That perspective definitely exists in the family. But being out west, the main thing is WHL and the CHL is a great league, the top league in the world for junior players. My goal is to be in the NHL and this was the best way, I thought, to do so."
5. Any personal meaning behind wearing No. 12?
"Actually kind of a funny story. I was always 26 growing up. My dad was that number when he played. Come bantam year, we already had jerseys made up and all the older guys picked and I was a first-year guy. Eventually, it was me and one of my teammates in Prince George, Cal Babych, and there was 17 and 12 left. We both wanted 17. Ryan Kelser was big with the Canucks. We did rock-paper-scissors and he won, so I got 12 and I've had it ever since. Jarome Iginla and some pretty good guys have worn 12."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.