Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Young standout rising fast

WHL's Chiefs see exciting potential in Cougars' Gow

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From bantam C hockey to the Western Hockey League in just a few months -- hard work still works, if you ask Reid Gow of Killarney.

The 15-year-old defenceman, now with the Southwest Cougars of the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League, was playing for the Killarney Stars at the bantam C level last season when he was suddenly scooped by the Spokane Chiefs in the first round, 16th overall, of the 2009 WHL bantam draft and was the top Manitoba player selected.

"I always believed that if you work hard, everyone gets a chance. Scouts will see if you're good or not; it doesn't matter if it's an AAA league or a C league like I was playing in," said Gow.

"We didn't have very many kids in the area, but we had a lot of good guys on the team and we won quite a bit last year. But I was not expecting to get drafted so high."

Most top picks in the WHL's bantam draft are highly-touted, much-scouted players like the 2008 first-round pick from Manitoba, Michael St. Croix, a former Winnipeg Wild midget AAA player who is now with the WHL's Edmonton Oil Kings.

Gow just returned Wednesday from a 10-day call-up with the Spokane Chiefs, where he played in five games, the maximum for a 15-year-old in the regular season, and got a taste of the next level.

"The Spokane Chiefs treated me unbelievably," said Gow, a Grade 10 student at Killarney School. He also attended Spokane's training camp last summer. "It was awesome -- high-paced, really fast, hard to keep up with sometimes, but the older guys helped me out and I felt like I got better towards the end."

Gow was also selected last fall for Manitoba's 2009 under-16 provincial team, coached by Billy Keane, which won the silver medal in November at the inaugural Western Canada Under-16 Challenge Cup in Blackfalds, Alta., where Gow was named to the tournament all-star team.

"Reid sees the ice extremely well and moves the puck extremely well. He jumps into the play and creates offence," said Troy Leslie, Gow's head coach with Southwest Cougars.

With the Southwest team, Gow is one of 10 who are first-year midget players at 15 years old (born in 1994). That can be a gamble in the AAA league, which features some teams that go the other way, with plenty of 17-year-olds.

"We have a lot of young guys picked as rookies this year, but I think (coach Leslie) picked a great team, a lot of young guys who work hard and work together," Gow said of the Cougars who have 22 wins in 32 games played so far.

A good season with the Cougars would help Gow make himself part of the future plans of the Chiefs, who believe he is a solid prospect. He is just the second defenceman Spokane has taken in the first round in the 20-year history of the WHL bantam draft.

"For us, Reid was highly regarded and we had him as one of the top four defencemen in the draft," Chiefs director of player personnel Chris Moulton said on www.spokanechiefs.com.

"We were excited to get him 16th overall. He is a great skater and makes plays. He is the leader of his team and makes everyone around him better."

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 8, 2010 C5

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