WHL Next Generation is a 23-part series highlighting a handful of the future stars of the Western Hockey League. From first-round bantam draft picks to later-blooming selections, get to know the names of players set to establish themselves as the newest crop of exciting talent to grace the WHL. From August 1 through August 31, get the inside scoop on the incoming rookie class of 2018-19.
Team: Prince George Cougars
Position: Right Wing
The Prince George Cougars will be looking to return to the post season after failing to qualify in the 2017-18 season. They have a young core that is highlighted by goaltender Taylor Gauthier, who played the majority of the season as a 16-year-old. Tyson Phare will look to follow in his footsteps of playing in the WHL as a 16-year-old.
As a 15-year-old, Phare had already suited up for two games with Prince George.
“I played my first game in Kelowna and that was really nerve racking,” stated Phare. “I don’t think that I played my best game there but the second game in Spokane when the nerves went down I played a lot better. The guys were great at helping me through it and I learned a lot that I can take with me heading into this season hoping to make the team.”
While his first game may not have resulted in the outcome he was hoping, the opportunity to play in the WHL was like something from a storybook.
“Heading into my first game all I could think about is when I was a kid, sitting up in the stands watching the Vancouver Giants play and how excited I was to go to the games and now to be in the league and to know that kids are excited to watch me play is something special. It was surreal.”
Making it to the WHL was not without dedication. Phare has been working hard during his previous seasons, and it has paid off. In his Bantam year, he posted 40 points (18G-22A) in 28 games. He followed that up with posting 39 points (20G-19A) in 27 games during his Midget season.
“Last season had its ups and downs like most seasons,” explained the Cougars prospect. “We didn’t get the results we wanted as a team. Personally, I think I learned a lot and got a lot better as a player and worked on preparing to hopefully make Prince George this season.”
While he has found personal success in Bantam and Midget, Phare attributes a lot of his success to his teammates.
“I played with a lot of good guys. No one would be successful without their line mates, they create space for you and as the year goes on we find out what each other are good at and try to create space for them to do what they are best at.”
While that works over a long season, it is less effective in a tournament setting, yet Phare and Team BC were able to put together a solid performance and take home the gold medal, despite many of them not playing together before.
“The WHL Cup was one of the best experiences of my life so far,” stated Phare. “It was so much fun, and we had such a good group of guys and a great coaching staff. We had a rough start, but we got back to our game and finished the way we hoped. It was an honour to represent and win for my province.”
With training camp around the corner, Phare has been training hard.
“I’m on the ice five or six times a week and then in the gym five or six times a week also,” explained Phare. “I’ve been working on my strength and conditioning and getting some sleep in as there is a long schedule in the WHL.”
It is likely that Phare will be on the roster for the majority of this season, and he already has expectations of where he can help this club reach in the next couple seasons.
“I think we are a really young team,” said Phare. “There will likely be some growing pains, but playoffs are very well within reach. As the team matures, we will become a very hard team to play against, and I think the way management has built this team we will be contending for the [Ed Chynoweth] Cup very shortly.”
With big dreams on the horizon, Phare hasn’t forgotten that he is still a teenager, and he is making the most out of what could be his last stretch living at home before making the move to Prince George.
“We have a lake close to our place, so my friends and I have been up there quite a bit and we’ve been playing stick and puck and hanging out before everyone takes off in their own directions for the season.”
Phare and the Cougars will kickoff their pre-season against the Kamloops Blazer at 7:00 p.m. on Friday August 31st at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops, B.C.
What is your favorite food?
What is a hobby of yours that not many people know about?
I used to collect hockey card and I have a collection of probably over 5,000 cards now
Is there a song you could sing solely based of memory with no lyrics in front of you?
All of Me by John Legend
What fad or trend do you wish would come back?
Mohawks, I could never pull one off, but I loved seeing the crazy ones some people had
Who was your favorite hockey player to watch growing up?
Until I was 11 or 12 it was always Ryan Getzlaf but recently I’ve started to like watching Marchand, Scheifele and Barzal whenever I get a chance to