Nagy enjoying WHL experience

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Prince Albert Raiders forward prospect Cole Nagy suited up for the team at the Art Hauser Centre Monday in his second Western Hockey League game.

Heading into the start of this season, Cole Nagy had no idea what his hockey future was as he prepared for his final year in the midget ranks with the Saskatoon Blazers.

The 17-year-old forward from Saskatoon would get an answer to that question in January, as the Prince Albert Raiders signed Nagy to a standard player agreement.

“To be able to know where I could be potentially playing in the future after not knowing what was in store for me when the season started was a great feeling,” Nagy said. “Hopefully I can start playing with the Raiders at the start of next year.”

Nagy, who stands 6’4” and weighs 195 pounds, made his Western Hockey League debut for the Raiders last Wednesday in Swift Current against the Broncos.

He would then suit up at the Art Hauser Centre on Monday to take on the Moose Jaw Warriors.

“It’s a lot different out there but it’s been a lot of fun and I’ve really enjoyed it,” Nagy said. “The speed of the game is probably the biggest difference here compared to midget hockey. Everyone’s moving out there and there’s not as much stick handling.

“I felt like I played better in my second game. I was more aggressive out there and I was harder on the puck.”

A sixth round pick of the Moose Jaw Warriors in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft and a second round selection by the Nipawin Hawks in the 2016 SJHL Bantam Draft, Nagy made the jump up to the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League last season with the Blazers.

After putting up 15 points in 37 games in his freshman campaign, Nagy increased his production this year with 25 goals and 38 assists in 40 games.

He is currently second in the league scoring race behind 15-year-old Medicine Hat Tigers prospect Cole Sillinger, who has 69 points in 37 games

“I’ve been able to get more of a role this year compared to last season and it’s been a pretty fun year so far,” Nagy said.

Heading into a home game with the Pat Canadians on Thursday, the Blazers had a 29-9-2-0 record to sit in third place in the SMAAAHL standings as they trailed the Pat Canadians and Tisdale Trojans by six points in the race for the top seed in the post-season.

“We’ve all come together as a team this year,” Nagy said. “No one’s playing as individuals out there.”

With two games of WHL experience under his belt thus far, Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid hopes that Nagy can build on that as he prepares to make a full-time leap to major junior hockey next fall.

“Cole’s a big guy and he’s a smart player out there,” Habscheid said after Monday’s game. “It’s good for a guy like that to get a chance to play in the league as it really gets you ready for the upcoming season.”

The 47-8-1-2 Raiders, who remain second in the Canadian Hockey League’s Top 10 rankings behind the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, are at the Art Hauser Centre this weekend for a pair of games.

They will welcome the Kootenay Ice to town Friday and will battle it out with the Brandon Wheat Kings for the third time in a nine-day span Saturday.

Both games will get underway at 7 p.m.

Pre-Game Notes

In addition to being the 1,000th time that Marc Habscheid has stepped behind a WHL bench, Friday’s matchup marks the final time that Kootenay will visit Prince Albert as the Ice will be moving from Cranbrook, B.C. to Winnipeg following this season.

Parker Kelly is the Raiders’ all-time leading scorer in head-to-head matchups with the Ice, as his 16 points has him one ahead of Simon Stransky and two markers in front of Reid Gardiner, Milan Kraft and Mark McNeill.

Sam Reinhart’s 22 points is the most by an Ice player against the Raiders, with his brother Max close behind him with 21 markers.

After a 5-4 shootout loss to the Regina Pats Wednesday, the 11-37-7-2 Ice have lost six straight games and will be missing out on the WHL playoffs for the fourth consecutive campaign.

Former Raiders netminder Curtis Meger joined the Ice in January after starting the season with the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Lloydminster Bobcats.

The 20-year-old from Regina has a 1-4-0 record with a 4.52 goals against average and a .868 save percentage.

On the health front, Raiders goaltender Ian Scott, defenceman Max Martin and forward Brett Leason are all listed as day-to-day heading into this weekend.