Pats boost overage situation with acquisition of Gabrielle from Cougars

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The Regina Pats added some familiar firepower ahead of Wednesday’s WHL Trade Deadline, announcing the acquisition of 20-year-old forward Jesse Gabrielle from the Prince George Cougars on Friday.

Joining Gabrielle on the road to Regina is defenceman Jonas Harkins (2000). In exchange, the Cougars receive forward Kjell Kjemhus (2001), defenceman Ethan McColm (2002), a third-round pick (2018) and a fifth-round pick (2018).

“We are really excited to add a scorer of Gabrielle’s caliber,” said John Paddock, general manager and head coach of the Pats, in a team release. “He had a really productive last two seasons in the WHL and now brings some experience at the pro level to our team.”

Gabrielle, a 5-foot-11, 205-pound product of Moosomin, Sask., is a prospect of the NHL’s Boston Bruins (4-105, 2015) and to this point in the campaign had been playing the club’s AHL farm team in Providence, where he posted four points (1G-3A) in 21 games.

A scoring left winger with an agitator’s edge, Gabrielle enjoyed two outstanding seasons in Prince George, posting back-to-back years of 75 points and 64 points, respectively, in 2015-16 and 2016-17.

His name is one that should be familiar to the Pats Regiment. After being selected in the fifth round (100th) by the Brandon Wheat Kings at the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft and beginning his career in Brandon, Gabrielle was dealt to the Pats where he finished the 2014-15 season, tallying 19 points (10G-9A) in 33 games in the Queen City.

Over 250 career WHL regular season contests, the pesky forward has 209 points (110G-99A) to his credit. He has also added another 15 points (6G-9A) in 27 career WHL Playoff games.

Aside from Gabrielle, the Pats add a quality young 17-year-old defenceman in the likes of Harkins. A 6-foot-3, 209-pound product of North Vancouver, he was originally a second-round pick (29th) of the Cougars at the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft. Harkins is in his first full WHL campaign, having suited up in 14 contests with the Cougars thus far, notching one assist along the way.

“Jesse was a great player for us in his two seasons in Prince George and now he and Jonas get a great opportunity to play for a Memorial Cup in Regina,” said Todd Harkins, general manager of the Cougars, in a team release. “Kjell and Ethan are two players that we’ve coveted since their Bantam Draft year, and will be a big part of our future going forward.

“Kjell already has invaluable playoff experience going back to last year.”

Meanwhile, the retooling Cougars add a promising youngster with WHL Championship experience in the form of Kjemhus. A 16-year-old product of Grande Prairie, Alta., Kjemhus was selected by the Pats in the fourth round (77th) of the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft. While he only has six career WHL regular season games to his credit, the 5-foot-10, 161-pound forward suited up in 13 WHL Playoff games last year as the Pats advanced to the WHL Championship, falling to the Seattle Thunderbirds in six games.

Kjehmus has spent the bulk of 2017-18 with the Pursuit of Excellence Prep team in the Canadian Sports School Hockey League, where he has tallied seven points (4G-3A) in 18 outings.

The final piece to the puzzle is McColm, a 15-year-old product of Oakbank, Man. Selected in the eighth round (176th) of the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft by the Pats. Standing 6-foot-2 and weighing in at 157 pounds, the blue liner has notched an impressive 20 points (6G-14A) in 21 games with the Eastman Junior Selects of the Winnipeg City Midget League.

“Ethan continues to develop as an elite defenceman,” Todd Harkins said, “and one day will be a regular on our blue line.”

The Pats head into the weekend sitting two points ahead of the Saskatoon Blades for the first wild card position in the WHL’s Eastern Conference. Within the East Division, the third place Wheat Kings hold an eight-point edge on the Pats with three additional games in hand.

Regina returns to action Saturday evening with a trip to Speedy Creek and a date against the Swift Current Broncos at 7 p.m. ST. Dependent on travel conditions, the Pats hope Gabrielle will be with the team this weekend.

As for the Cougars, they’ve taken an expected step back from their 2016-17 B.C. Division banner season. With a younger squad learning the ropes, Prince George is fourth in the B.C. Division and seven points behind the Seattle Thunderbirds for the second wild card position in the WHL’s Western Conference.

The Cougars will host the Tri-City Americans on Friday evening (7 p.m. PT) at the CN Centre in Prince George.

The WHL Trade Deadline is scheduled for Wednesday, January 10 at 3 p.m. MT.

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