Trevor Cox became the first player to crack the WHL’s 100-point mark, picking up his 75th assist on Saturday in 1-0 win over the Kootenay Ice.
Cox, who’s from South Surrey, B.C., leads by three points over Portland’s 52-goal scorer Oliver Bjorkstrand and the Wheat Kings’ Tim McGauley, and by 11 points over teammate Cole Sanford, who’s potted 48 goals this year on Cox’s line.
“I think about it for a bit, but not too much,” Cox told the Surrey Leader‘s Rick Kupchuk in February, back when he had a healthier eight-point lead. “It’s more important the team wins.
“Obviously it would be nice to win it… But if you think about it too much, you put yourself under more pressure and more stress. It’s more important we maintain first place, then do well in the playoffs. Everyone wants to win the Memorial Cup.”
Weird thing is, Cox is 19 years old. And he doesn’t have an NHL team.
Meaning, one of Canada’s most prolific point-pilers may have to sift away from the CHL without being drafted – he’ll get a second and final chance this summer and, while you’d think a 100-point junior would be an easy selection somewhere from Rounds 1 to 7, somewhere in a sea of 210 drafted teenagers, in the late rounds where picks are used like flicks of paint through a screen door, or on the sons of great goaltenders… but of course, this kind of thing has happened before.
And it happened to Cox, specifically. He wasn’t drafted in June, 2014, even though he had 82 points in 70 contests last year. And McGauley – who has 97 points this year in Brandon – also wasn’t selected in 2014, with 60 points in 68 games on a lower-end Wheat Kings team.
Cox’s size is what’s working against him – he’s 5’8 and just 164 pounds, maybe smaller than that in reality.
“Obviously, one of the knocks against me is my size, and it’ll always be a knock,” Cox told Monte Stewart (CP) last month. “But I’ve just got to work on, I guess, proving people wrong — and keep improving every day.”
There will also be some who discount his 100-point season because he’s playing his fourth year with the Tigers – they’ll argue a 19-year-old should up his points every season, and they’ll loft that lazy critique they always do, saying he doesn’t have an NHL game. (They won’t really explain it, they’ll just repeat the phrase, “I just don’t see him translating to the NHL level.” And then we’ll just have to accept it.)
Cox’s achievements this year also fade next to headliners like Bjorkstrand, who has 52 goals in just 50 games with the Winterhawks, and the Ontario league’s Connor McDavid, who has every small-town central Canadian scribe reaching for his or her thesaurus seven nights a week.
“(Bjorkstrand is) averaging more than a goal-per-game and you have to wonder how 88 players were selected before him in the 2013 NHL Draft,” wrote Sportsnet‘s Andrew Eide on Monday (link above). And while that’s certainly true, you also have to wonder how 210 players were selected instead of Cox in 2014.
There are real reasons, of course, and size is a big one. Cox also doesn’t have the shifty, explosive game of a guy like Johnny Gaudreau – although in that reel above, his on-ice vision and hockey IQ is clearly superior to maybe anyone in the WHL.
Scouts know what they’re talking about, but they’re also very careful with what they talk about. They won’t be wrong about Cox, after all, if they just ignore him.
It’s easy to ignore Cox, too, since you can’t even find a highlight package of him on YouTube, the platform that’s turned every fan into Craig Button. Searching ‘Trevor Cox NHL’ on Google brings you hardly a return – there are a couple article scattered over the search engine, mostly just speculating or shallow think pieces like this one.
If you’re an NHL team that passes on Cox for whatever reason you might, you’re just hoping his following stays small – a crowd’s equivalent of 5’8, 164 pounds. You’re hoping another gifted prospect is left to wind around the pole in the wind, like Cox’s teammate Curtis Valk was in his junior career.
Valk, who went undrafted and is currently playing for the Vancouver Canucks’ ECHL affiliate Kalamazoo Wings, one level lower than the Utica Comets, has also fought height discrimination. Valk is 5’9 and 175 pounds and had an excellent tryout camp with the Canucks this preseason, which followed up a tremendous career with Medicine Hat, with 183 points in his final two WHL seasons.
But it’s easy to omit Valk from your franchise’s plans, just like it was easy for UBC’s athletic czars to let women’s softball slip off the varsity map – it doesn’t really matter it’s right or wrong or deserved. It only matters that you can.
“If you said before the season started that I would be leading the scoring race, I wouldn’t have believed you,” he told the Leader. “Not a lot has changed, it’s just I’m a year older and more experienced… I don’t worry about my size, I just know I’m a good player.
“It doesn’t bother me. I just go out and play, and I’m putting up good numbers.”