Saturday, September 28, 2013

Derrick Pouliot Coming Back to Portland Because of Cap Issues?

With the Hawks having their share of defensive woes so far this year, many Hawks fans have turned a wandering eye to Pittsburgh where 19 year old 2012 First Round Pick Derrick Pouliot is currently residing

Pouliot has played fantastic in the preseason action that he has seen including a goal last Tuesday in a win over Chicago. Unfortunately, he has not seen any action since in the 3 other preseason games. He did score a goal in a scrimmage the other day but the fact that he has not gotten into any of those games and was even scratched for practice earlier today (Pit only wanted to skate 8 D-men and they have 9 still in camp), does not bode well for his hopes of sticking with the Penguins this season.

An interesting piece was  published the other day in which an argument was put forth that both Pouliot and the London Knight's Olli Maata will be sent back to their junior teams because the Penguins are right up against the salary cap. If they chose to keep either of them, their 3 year entry level deal with go against the cap and possibly even put them over.

News was also released this evening that Pen's D-man Kris Letang is out with a lower body injury. They have not released how long he will be out, though Pittsburgh has no more preseason games and opens their season next Thursday against New Jersey. If it is not a major injury, which I do not think it is, I do not see him missing much, if any time.

My thought is that Pouliot could see some regular season action but most likely will be sent back sometime this week by the Pens.

Game Four: Seattle @ Portland

Seattle (3-0-0-0, 6 points, 1st in the U.S. Division and Western Conference) @ Portland (1-1-0-1, 3 pts, Last in U.S. Division, 5th in the West)

Seattle comes into the Moda Center to face off against the Portland Winterhawks and the two teams are moving in very different directions.

Seattle beat Portland last Saturday in a shoot-out behind 2 goals from Roberts Lipsbergs. They then took down Vancouver on the road 6-0 on Wednesday night behind 31 saves from Goalie Danny Mumaugh (getting his first WHL shut-out) and 2 goals and 2 assists from Russian Alexander Delnov. They then closed out the perfect week last night with a 5-4 shoot-out victory at home vs. Tri City. The Americans forced the extra session and circus, after scoring a power play goal with their goalie pulled with 27 seconds left from Beau McCue. Lipsbergs was the only player to score in the shoot-out.

 Notes for Tonight's Game:
-Alexander Delnov leads a balanced Thunderbird attack with 7 points through 3 games this season.
-Coach Steve Konowalchuk switched up the lines this season, splitting up the potent line of Lipsbergs, Delnov and Connor Honey from last season, choosing instead to give his team two solid lines with Lipsbergs, Seth Swenson and Matthew Barzal on one line and Delnov, Honey and Branden Troock on the other. The Honey line has responded with 19 total points over 3 games.
-These two lines created all kinds of issues for an in-experienced (at the WHL level) blue line for the Hawks last Saturday.
-Justin Myles played in last night's game, meaning the Hawks will most likely see Danny Mumaugh tonight.
-Mumaugh played 4 games against the Hawks last season (one time was in relief) and gave up a total of 16 goals against.
-Seattle was plagued a bit by their youth last night as 16 year old Scott Eansor flipped the puck out of play, late in the 3rd period, setting up McCue's heroics.
-I may have been a little over-sighted in saying that Seattle's Defense would be a major weakness as they showed on the road Wednesday in Vancouver. They have a solid combination of height and overall size that Portland's smaller Forwards really struggled with last Saturday.
-Brendan Leipsic (who had just returned) will miss his first game of a 3 game suspension tonight. Look fora mix up of the top lines to try to get some offense created.
-Seattle's 3-0 start is their first since 1995.
-Justin Hickman will return tonight in Portland for Seattle, who got Shea Theodore back into the lineup last night in Seattle.
-In further analyzing the game from Tuesday, I noticed that Portland's Defense seems to want to force the play up the middle when trying the clear the puck out of their own zone. This led directly to 2 of the the goals against. Forcing play in that direction makes it a lot easier for the other team's Forwards to create a quick scoring opportunity the other way, that playing the puck up the boards would not.
-Hopefully Brendan Burke can get a little confidence back after getting yanked from Tuesday's game. Most of the goals were not his fault, but Burke was noticeably frustrated, especially off of the strange goal off of Josh Hanson's stick.
-Getting a win in a game like tonight, where you are missing a lot of key contributors, would go a long way this season, as the U.S. Division figures to be a lot tougher this year.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Brendan Leipsic Suspended 3 Games

The WHL announced that Portland LW Brendan Leipsic has been suspended for 3 games for a hit to the head of Tri City Amerians LW Taylor Vickerman on Tuesday night, late in the second period.

Leipsic was only given a 2 minute penalty for Charging on the play as he appeared to take a run at Vickerman. Vickerman did a great job of trying to avoid the traumatic hit to his head and took it mostly on the shoulder, but the WHL obviously did not like his intention.

I think that the WHL is only giving the 3 game suspension because of Leipsic's history of border-line hits. They are obviously trying to send a message to all players around the league by levelling such a heavy suspension on one of their star players.

Leipsic was trying to energize his team that, at the time, had fallen behind 5-1 and was showing a real lack of energy. As was the case among most of the Hawk's players Tuesday night, he was trying to do too much on his own and stopped playing a smart, team oriented game.

Leipsic should be back for next Saturday's second tilt in 2 nights up in Kelowna.

Keegan Iverson Wins Player of the Game Award at the All American Prospects Game

The Portland Winterhawks came to play at the 2nd annual All American Prospects Game in Pittsburgh last night. Keegan Iverson walked away with the hardware (as player of the game) and Team Mark Johnson defeated Team Joe Mullen 5-2 behind a goal and an assist from Iverson and a goal from Chase De Leo.

Iverson used the chemistry that he developed while playing with Dylan Larkin (from the U.S. Development Program) during the 2012 Quebec Challenge last year to set up 2 of the goals for Team Johnson for the victory in the showcase for American players eligible for 2014's NHL draft.

De Leo, who scored the insurance goal to make it 4-2 in the 3rd, was one of only 3 "A" rated draft eligible players playing in the game for the U.S. The other two are Larkin and U.S. Development Team Forward Sonny Milano.

Dominic Turgeon was invited to play in the tournament as well, but had to bow out due to ongoing injury issues.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Winterhawks Drop from 3rd to 6th in CHL Top 10 Poll

The Portland Winterhawks, after suffering two straight defeats to U.S. Division rivals, were bumped down from 3rd to 6th in the BMO CHL Top 10 this week (week 2 of the poll).

The OHL's London Knights, having only played one game and won, stayed in the top spot overall despite not having 2013 drafted Forwards Bo Horvat and Max Domi back from the Vancouver Canucks and Phoenix Coyotes camps.

The Blainville-Boisbriand Armada of the QMJHL made the largest jump from not being ranked at all in the top 10 to number 2 after winning their first 4 games, including 2 wins over Sherbrooke. The Armada is led by 5th round 2013 Florida Panthers draft pick Christopher Clapperton and 6th round 2011 St. Louis Blues pick Ryan Tesink.

The Prince Albert Raiders, after starting the season at 6th, switched places with Portland as they took over 3rd place after two victories over Saskatoon over the weekend. Top 2014 NHL draft prospect Leon Draisaitl paces the Raiders with 4 points in the two games.

Other WHL teams in the top 10 are: Edmonton (8th) and Red Deer (10th). The Koelowna Rockets were an honorable mention.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Portland Drops Second in a Row; Loses to Tri City 6-2

Home cooking was not the answer for the Portland Winterhawks on Tuesday night, as they dropped to 1-1-0-1 on the season with a 6-2 home loss in the Moda Center.

Brian Williams led the way for the Americans with a hat trick as the line of Williams, Phil Tot and Connor Rankin accounted for 5 of the American's 6 goals. Tri City was able to withstand early pressure by the Winterhawks, buoyed no doubt by the return of Brendan Leipsic to the lineup  After the up-tempo start has the Hawks, let up just a bit and gave up a crushing goal. This time it was a bouncing puck that bounced right onto the stick of Tot who buried it past Brendan Burke.

After the first, Tri City led 4-1 and after the second 6-1, pretty much ending any hope of a Hawks comeback. Brendan Burke was yanked after the second period, even though a majority of the goals could not be blamed on him solely. Some did not even come off of Tri City sticks. He stopped 26 of 32 and Eric Comrie, had a stand out performance stopping 30 of 32.

Observations from the Game:
-The Winterhawks Defense has been god-awful the last two games for the Hawks, failing to clear loose pucks from in front of Burke and being unable to get the puck past their blue-line in the worst situations.
-Layne Viveiros had a game to forget as he had horrible positioing on an entry pass in the first period that led to a Brian Williams break-away goal. He also left the game after blocking a slap shot. He did return late in the game. His return was highlighted by William's third goal, which went off of his stick and ended Burke's night.
-Portland went with a top line of Keegan Iverson, Nic Petan and Brendan Leipsic and they had a ton of great opportunities early. Look for Coach Johnston to stick with these three for as long as Paul Bittner is out.
-Oliver Bjorkstrand has been the most consistent Winterhawk so far as he had a brilliant feed to Taylor Lier from behind the net, cutting the score to 2-1 and giving Portand life in the first.
-Josh Hanson has been a bit of an enigma in the early going this season. When confident, he can force play into the opponents zone and he has been marvelous at times in cutting off lanes to the net (something most of the other D-men are not doing). He had a confidence wrecking gaffe last night though as while Burke was retrieving his stick from behind the net, Hanson tried a cross ice pass that deflected off the fore-checking Lucas Nickles' stick and into the empty net. This wrecked the Hawks as it was the eventual game winner and destroyed all the momentum they had been building.
-Shaun MacPherson was another awful Defenseman tonight, as he served up a pizza right onto the stick of Brian Williams, with little pressure coming at him infront of Burke.
-Alex Schoenborn was a bit of a bright spot for the Hawks as he danced around 2 Tri City defenders, and beat Comrie short side with 1:45 left, ending the score at 6-2 Ams. I have been one of his most frequent critisizers and I have to admit that he shows a little offensive upside from time to time. He definitely needs some work at retrieving the puck on the fly as the play dies on his stick too often, but he seems to be getting better.
-Jarrod Schamerhorn was excellent in relief of Burke, stopping all 8 shots he faced including a flurry of shots in the early 3rd period.
-Leipsic's return to the lineup could not have gone worse for him as he was held off of the score sheet and committed 3 minor penalties.
-Tri City was 2/6 on the power play and Portland was 0/7, despte creating many scoring chances.
-Portland's Forwards have got to do a better job of back-checking as the Defense seems overwhelmed any time the opponent rushes the puck.
-Portland hopes to end the 2 game skid Saturday night at home vs. Seattle.

3 Stars:
#3- Mitch Topping- 2 assists on the night and bailed the Americans out on the penalty kill countless times.

#2- Eric Comrie- He has not played well vs. the Hawks in the past at all, but certainly was one of the biggest reason they pulled this game out.

#1- Brian Williams- Hat trick for Tri City was his first since January 6th of 2012 vs. Seattle.

Former Winterhawk Profile: Colton Sceviour

Colton Sceviour made news yesterday when he scored a hat trick and added an assist in the Dallas Star's 5-3 preseason victory over the Colorado Avalanche. Colton is pressing for a spot in the every-day roster of the Stars for the first time in his career and just may make the team.

Colton was a first round (#10 overall) WHL Bantam Draft pick for the Winterhawks in 2004. Unfortunately for Colton, this was during one of the worst eras for Winterhawks hockey. Colton played 6 games as a 15 year old on the 2004-05 Hawks, notching the first goal of his WHL career. He even played in 4 playoff games that season, as the Hawks were bounced in the first round. In 2005-06, Colton scored 3 goals and added 6 assists on a team led by future NHL players Brandon Dubinsky and Jannik Hansen. In 12 playoff games, Sceviour scored one assist as the Hawks lost in the 2nd round. He struggled for much of the season, but showed some potential as a play-maker for the Hawks. As a 17 year old in 2006-07, the Red Deer Albertan became a key contributor adding 9 goals and 20 assists to his numbers for a total of 38 points. Unfortunately for the Hawks, he was their 3rd leading scorer on a team that only won 17 games that season. Sceviour was drafted in the 4th round by the Dallas Stars after his breakout season.

Entering the 2007-08 season the Hawks knew that they were going to really struggle, but were probably still shocked when they limped out to a 3-15 start to the season. This meant that they needed to shake things up in their minds. They made 2 large trades on November 8th 2007, sending Forward Frazer McLaren (now with the Tonronto Maple Leafs) and D-man Ty Ariss to Moose Jaw for D-man Travis Ehrhardt and Forwards: Keith Voytechek and Jason Grecia. The other trade sent Sceviour and D-men Nicholas Hotson and Lucas Alexiuk to Lethbridge for Travis Bobbee, Ryan Kerr and Forwards Jacob and Nick Dietrich.

These trades have always seemed puzzling to me as they were not really made for the future because they sent out one 20 year olds, one 19 year old, two 18 year olds and one 17 year old, receiving two 20 year olds, three 18 year olds and two 17 year olds in the 2 deals. They did not even acquire any Bantam Draft picks in the last full season under Richard Kromm. Portland ended the season with only 11 wins and Sceviour made it all the way to the WHL Final with Lethbridge, before they were swept by the Spokane Chiefs. Colton was the 5th leading scorer in the playoffs for the Canes.

Sceviour led the Hurricanes in scoring in his 19 year old season with 80 points, but the Canes disappointed by getting swept by the Calgary Hitmen in the 2nd round.

Sceviour was signed and played as a 20 year old on the AHL affiliate for Dallas: the Texas Stars in 2009-10, potting 31 points in his first professional season. As a 21 year old in Texas, Colton made significant improvements in his game putting up 41 points and even gettin a call up to play in his first NHL game.

Colton has spent most of the last 2 seasons with Texas, scoring 53 and 52 points resepctively. He has only played in two NHL games over his 4 professional seasons and has yet to score his first NHL regular season goal.

Sceviour's hat trick and excellent all around preseason play in both ends, helps him out greatly in his hopes to make the team. Compile that with the fact that Dallas probably only has 10 for sure forwards locks and it looks like Sceviour will get to play with Dallas this season.

When Rich Peverly comes back, however, it is anyone's guess as to whether he will continue to see the ice or, if sent back to the AHL, have to clear waivers.

One thing is for certain it will be good to see another former Winterhawk have significant playing time in the NHL.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Game 3: Tri City @ Portland

Tri City (0-2-0-0, 0 pts) comes to Portland (1-0-0-1, 3 pts) tonight for a match-up of U.S. Division rivals. The Americans hosted both Spokane and Prince George last Saturday and Sunday night, dropping both contests to teams widely believed to not be playoff teams. Spokane rode 3 goals and an assist from Mitch Holmberg to ruin Tri City's home opener 6-2 on Saturday and then the lowly P.G. Cougars edged the Americans 2-1on 2 goals from Troy Bourke. Needless to say, not a great start for the Americans this season and they hope to right the ship on the road tonight.

Tri City Preview
Last Season:
The Americans were led by Western Conference MVP Justin Feser to a 40-27-0-5 record for 85 points and 5th place in the Western Conference. They then lost to arch-rivals the Spokane Chiefs in 5 games in the first round. The team that went all the way to the Western Conference Final in 2011-12, lost a lot of key contributors and relied heavily upon Feser and Goalie Eric Comrie. Comrie lost half of his season to an injury and the Americans had to scoop up free agents Troy Tombley and Luke Lee-Knight in hopes of saving their season. Trombley and Lee-Knight performed admirably posting 2.92 and 2.90 Goals Against Averages respectively, but the team just did not have enough depth up front for this to be enough to carry them past the first round. Feser scored 40 more points then the next highest scorer Malte Stromwall (who is also gone now as he left to play in Sweden) and an experienced defensive unit just was not consistent enough for the Americans. Now that Feser has played out his eligibility, Coach Jim Hiller, in his 5th season, is hoping that Comrie and company still have enought to get Tri City to the playoffs for the 11th season in a row.
Connor Rankin

With the loss of Feser, Stromwall and '92 born power forward Jess Mychan, Tri City is hoping that they can get enough scoring from the likes of '94 born Connor Rankin (58 points last season)and a trio of '95 born Forwards: Parker Bowles (44 pts), Brian Williams (36 pts) and Beau McCue (29 pts). They should also benefit from a full season from '93 born Phil Tot, who was acquired last season from Lethbridge but missed a majority of the season with an injury. Tot is joined as a 20 year old over-age up front by Jessey Astles who was one of the many over-agers that Saskatoon unloaded in the off-season. Astles has only 18 points over 4 seasons between Kelowna and Saskatoon, but should play an enforcer role for the Americans this season. While there is some talent in this group of forwards, they are definitely lacking in the proven scoring punch department, proving this by only mustering 1 goal against young Cougar's Goalie Ty Edmonds Sunday. Joining this unproven bunch this season are '97 born: Center Ty Comrie (Brother of Eric and NHLer Mike) and LW Braden Purtill. Comrie and Purtill were both 3rd round selections in the 2012 Bantam Draft.
Mitch Topping

The first round selection from that draft is someone whose last name will be familiar to Winterhawk's fans: Parker Wotherspoon. That's right, the younger brother of soon to be former Hawk Tyler. Parker is a 16 year old rookie with Tri City, who showed a lot of potential running the power-play in the preseason. He may actually see more time then Tri City fans would hope for as Drydn Dow was lost as an over ager  and  last week the Toronto Maple Leafs sent '93 born Zach Yuen to the Marleys of the AHL It is very likely that means the 5th leading scorer from last year's team is also gone. Tri City does have fellow '93 born D-man Mitch Topping returning and the new Captain will have to do a lot of the heavy lifting with a young back end. '94 born D-men Wil Tomchuk and Justin Hamonic, both defensive D-men with not much offensive upside, will have to play more prominent roles on both ends of the ice for Tri City this season. Another '97 born D-man 6'5" Brandon Carlo gives them another young guy to choose from.

Having to backstop behind this young unit is Eric Comrie. Comrie posted a 2.62 GAA and a .915 Save %, before his injury lost him the last half of the season. Despite his injury, he was still drafted in the second round by the Winnipeg Jets and by all reports impressed them in training camp. Comrie has all the potential in the world but will be stuck in a difficult situation all season behind a mostly inexperienced team. He still has the talent though to steal a game here or there and should Tri City get improvement from their D-men, this could be a tough team to score on. Comrie is backed up this season by '97 born Evan Sarthou. The Americans seem to have made a decision to give Comrie Marty Brodeur in his prime type numbers as far as games played this season. For their sake, I hope Comrie holds up, otherwise they will be searching for additions like Trombley and Lee-Knight again this season.

Tonight's Game:
-Puck drops at 7:00 pm tonight in Portland as the Hawks hope to rebound from a lackluster performance in Seattle last Saturday.
-Portland does get Brendan Leipsic back for this game, needing him desperately as a rash of injuries have taken out Shane McColgan, Dominic Turgeon and Paul Bittner, leaving only enough forwards to start 11 in Seattle.
- Leipsic also figures to be a shot in the arm of the lineup as his type of play should pace the Hawks to a much better start then Saturday.
-Tri City also has a lot to prove in this game as They were outscored 8-3 this weekend and outshot 66-46 in the 2 losses.
-Though he also scored 6 points over 2 games, Oliver Bjorkstrand missed out on play of the week to Swift Current's rookie D-man: Julius Honka.
-Keegan Iverson and Chase De Leo leave the team for Pittsburgh on  Thursday to compete in the All American Prospect Game.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Hawks Run Out of Gas; Lose to Seattle in a Shootout 4-3

In their second game in as many nights and missing 4 players from the lineup, Portland looked sloppy early, recovered in the 3rd period and escaped with a point during a mostly forgettable night in Seattle Saturday.

The Hawk's Defense made countless mistakes in the first and second periods creating odd man rushes and breakaways the other way and putting themselves in a 2-0 hole, which really should have been worse if not for a stellar performance by Brendan Burke.

Burke stopped 37 of 40 in preserving Portland's chance at getting at least one point out of the night. Seattle had all of the energy early in their season opener and were powered by 2 goals by Latvian sniper Roberts Lipsbergs in the 4-3 win.

Observations From the Game:
-Oliver Bjorkstrand ended the weekend tied for the WHL lead in points with another goal, giving him 6 points in 2 games.
-Seattle picked up over-ager Eric Benoit off of Waivers from the Saskatoon Blades before the game and he got into the game, playing a pivotal role as a top penalty killer and power play guy.
-Portland dressed only 11 forwards as Paul Bittner, whom had left Friday's game early, was scratched.
-Portland is getting back Brendan Leipsic, who was sent down by Nashville, but did not receive him in time for the game.
-This meant that Leipsic, Bittner, DominicTurgeon, Shane McColgan and Derrick Pouliot were all missing from the lineup in this one.
-Seattle was missing Shea Theodore, who had just been sent down by the Anaheim Ducks, but did not get to Seattle in time to start the game.
-In Theodore's place, '97 born Ethan Bear was the power play quarterback and did an excellent job, showing potential for the Thunderbirds.
-Seattle was 1/4 on the power play while Portland was 0/5.
-Oliver Bjorkstrand's goal was just seconds after the power play expired in the 2nd  however.
-Ethan Price got his first WHLgoal off of a face-off in which he got a hold of a loose puck and sniped it over Justin Myles' right shoulder. Price has a wicked shot that should only get better for the 16 year old.
-Garrett Haar and Shaun MacPherson were two of Portland's more egregious offenders in the D-men turning the puck over category, but by my count almost all of the Hawk's D-men were offenders.
-Zach Paterson got into his first action of the year, but only skated a few shifts all game as the 7th D-man.
-Layne Viveiros and Keoni Texeira were paired together all game and just did not seem comfortable at all. Adam De Champlain and Presten Kopeck came back and bailed them out on a couple occasions.
-Matthew Barzal and and Branden Troock were successful in the shootout for Seattle, while Burke was able to stop Alexander Delnov. Troock's eventual winner just barely slid over the goal line and past Burke's left pad.
-Nic Petan scored a beauty for Portland in the shootout, while Bjorkstrand and Chase De Leo both failed trying to go five hole.
-Chase DeLeo did score the goal that forced overtime off of a rebound of a Anton Cederholm shot.
-For the second game in a row the Hawks had a goal called back when Bjorkstrand's deflected goal late in the 3rd period, was called back after it was ruled his stick was above the cross bar (this was a good call).

3 Stars:
#3- Oliver Bjorkstrand- 1 Goal and was the best Hawk's skater on the ice. He had the one goal called back and created several more opportunities that were not converted by other Hawk's players (Alex Schoenborn was one of those).

#3- Brendan Burke- One of the only reason the Hawks escaped with one point, as he made saves on 3 different break-aways and several more on odd man rushes. He was hung out to dry by his D-men 6 or 7 times in the first period alone and somehow kept the score at 1-0 Seattle.

#1- Roberts Lipsbergs- Obviously it worked, but I was shocked the Seattle did not send him out for the shootout as he is their most talented forward, in my opinion. However, he dd pot the 2 goals and could have had a couple more if not for Burke.

Portland's next action comes Tuesday at home vs. Tri City.

4 Hawks Make Central Scouting's "Ones to Watch," List for 2014 NHL Draft

De Leo
This morning NHL Central Scouting released their preliminary list for the 2013 draft. They rated the top North American eligible players as "A", "B", or "C."

They listed a total of 33 WHL skaters and 2 WHL Goalies. Of the 33 skaters listed; Chase De Leo was one of seven given an "A" rating. Josh Hanson, Keegan Iverson and Dominic Turgeon were all given a C rating. This would usually equate to being picked late in the draft, if at all.
De Leo seems likely to benefit from a late birthday (October 25th) as it is difficult to imagine him getting selected in the first two rounds last draft as this rating would seem to almost guarantee. De Leo could even improve upon that rating as both Nic Petan Oliver Bjorkstrand did, should the Hawks make another deep run in the playoffs leading to more exposure to NHL scouts.

Hanson was eligible for last year's draft but was not taken. His lack of ice time behind a talanted unit last year could be a reason why he was not chosen.

Turgeon and Iverson are two that really have a lot to prove this season before an NHL club takes a chance on them, even though they have the size, that a lot of scouts love.

Also, the news that Dominic's injury will keep him out of the All-American Prospect Game on Thursday in Pittsburgh cannot help his draft stock.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Hawks Trade Joe Mahon to Calgary for Two Draft Picks

The WHL announced today that Portland has sent 1994 born, 6'5" 223 lb Joe Mahon to the Calgary Hitmen for a 4th round pick in the 2014 Bantam Draft and a conditional 6th round pick in the 2015 draft.

Mahon played in 41 games last season for the Hawks, potting 2 goals and 1 assists and 133 penalty minutes.

Joe was signed on August 30th of 2012 and played the enforcer role last season. Calgary recently traded an enforcer in Defenseman Peter Kosterman to the Prince George Cougars and were in the market for someone with Joe's abilities.

Mahon is still a few weeks away from recovering from off-season shoulder surgery and may have become expendable in management's opinion due to the addition of Steven Alldridge (who will play a similar role) to the lineup this season. Joe is 19 years old and would most likely have not made the team as a 20 year old irregardless next season, so Portland getting a pick or two out of it is a coup for them.

Here's a video of a nice take down of his on Mitch Elliot:

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Game Two: Portland @ Seattle

The format will be a little different this year, as instead of a large season preview, I will just preview individual games, with what I expect from the opposing team as well as how they match up with the Hawks.
Matthew Barzal

 Seattle Thunderbirds (24-38-7-3, 58 points, 7th place in the Western Conference) 
Last Season:
-Seattle, in their second season under former Winterhawk's player Steve Konowalchuk, made the playoffs, after missing out the previous 3 seasons. They then took the first 3 games over the 2nd seeded Kelowna Rockets, before finally losing in over-time of the 2nd game. Konowalchuk returns for his 3rd season behind the bench and is hoping that he can lead the, potent looking on paper, T-birds to a much higher seed. Seattle was 13th in the WHL in goal scoring last season but 21st (only Vancouver was worse) in goals allowed last season (286). They just could not keep the puck out of the net, especially against the elite teams in the league. The bad part for Seattle is that it could get worse as their experienced Goalie from last season: Brandon Glover is too old to play in the league after playing out his eligibility. Also, their best penalty killer and defensive forward Luke Lockhart is gone as well for the same reason.

Seattle returns 7 of their top 8 scorers from last season led by their trio of '94 born top-liners: Latvain Winger Roberts Lipsbergs (he of the way too many s'es) who was a 30 goal scorer (58 points total), Connor Honey (54 points) and Russian Alexander Delnov (49 points). The 3 played together for a large portion of last season and proved to be a potent scoring threat every time they took the ice, when they were all healthy that is. That should continue this season for the T-birds. The top trio is joined by a couple '97 born forwards that should make an immediate impact in 2012 top overall Bantam pick: Matthew Barzal and Keegan Kolesar (another first round bantam pick from 2012). After having Barzal play in 3 preseason games, it's not too much to say that this kid will have an immediate impact in the WHL. He is a play-maker who loves space and his vision on the ice is incredible. One thing Portland did in one of the pre-season games that he will need to adjust to, is play him physically and eliminate the space that he loves. Another player that will make an impact is '94 born Branden Troock, who is still recovering from off-season shoulder surgery.

The Thunderbird's had a player taken in the first round in the 2013 NHL draft when Anaheim selected Shea Theodore with the 26th pick. I believe he is still in camp with the Ducks and should miss tonight's game, but there is little doubt that he will be back soon as he had a really poor showing last Tuesday in a win over the Phoenix Coyotes. Theodore is a play-maker from the back-end that any WHL club would love to have. He makes mistakes in his own end too often for any coaches liking but the ability he has to set up or score goals is enough to compensate for that by a large margin. Another big part of the Blue-line for the Birds is '95 born, 6'5" Jared Hauf, who with his reach creates problems for small forwards. Hawk fans love Jesse Forsberg and he will be back for his over-age season to annoy and pester opponents. One player to keep an eye on is '97 born Ethan Bear, who got himself into one game last season with the Hawks, not looking out of place at all at 15 years old. Improvements will need to happen on the blue line, as the Goalie situation is perhaps the teams largest question mark.
Devon Fordyce

The Birds are carrying 3 goalies: '94 born Devon Fordyce (claimed off waivers from Prince George after only getting into 18 games over 2 season with the Cougars), '95 born Justin Myles (played in 8 games as a rookie last year for Seattle) and Danny Mumaugh (played in 18 games last season). It would seem they are going to give the nod to Myles, due to him getting the start in tonight's game, but Fordyce and Mumauch will be in the mix unless he proves himself. Combined the 3 Goalies have only played in 44 WHL games, meaning that it is a very in-experienced unit that Seattle really does not know what they are going to get out of. There could be a diamond in the rough, somewhere among the threes, but it remains to be seen, to say the least.

Tonight's Game:
-7:05 pm at the ShoWare Center. It is Seattle's home-opener, so there should be a packed house. Portland spoiled Seattle's opener last season with a 6-2 drubbing and hopes to do the same tonight.
-Portland owned Seattle last year with the combination of  a potent scoring attack and Seattle's inability to keep the puck out of their net. Seattle should be better this season, but could be held back by very in-experienced Goalies.
-Should be the same lineup for tonight with the possibility that Jared Schamerhorn gets his first start for the Hawks.
-Portland will get a look at the #1 pick from 2012's Bantam Draft a day after holding the 2nd overall pick from that draft: Jansen Harkins off the score sheet.

Portland Annihilates Prince George 9-2 in First Game of the Season

The Portland Winterhawks were simply too much for the Prince George Cougars last night and they started their defense of the WHL Championship trophy with a bang; winning 9-2. After unveiling their championship banners from last season, Portland did not suffer a hangover in the slightest bit, no doubt energized by the 9,139 present watching in adoration. The Hawks were powered by a 5 goal second period in which they made a 1-1 hockey game 6-1 and all but warmed up the bus for the Cougars to head up I-5 to Everett for their next game.

Observations From Last Night's Game:
-Presten Kopeck, who missed the Edmonton series and the Memorial Cup last season with a hand injury, scored the Hawk's first goal of the season and another, ending the night with 2 goals and an assist. Kopeck had 10 career WHL goals coming into the game.
-Portland chased Cougar's Goalie Brett Zarowny after the second period, due to the onslaught of scoring in the period. They then scored 3 more on his replacement Ty Edmonds in the 3rd.
-The 9 goals was only halfway to Portland's team record for goals in a game (18) set in 1980 against the Spokane Flyers.
-The game started to get a little messy in the 3rd period, with the scoring out of hand, the Cougar's Zach Pochiro threw an elbow/hip at Garrett Haar's head as he was skating past him. Haar was down on the ice after being tripped. Haar did not suffer an injury on the play, but Pochiro was tossed from the game with a 5 minute charging penalty and a game misconduct. He may hear from the WHL office as they have made a concerted effort to clear head shots out of the game.
-Layne Viveiros scored his first career WHL goal in his 62nd career game over 3 seasons.
-Also scoring their first WHL goals (in their first games) were new additions on the back end: Garrett Haar and Anton Cederholm.
-Only 6 Hawk's skaters did not factor in on the score sheet.
-Brendan Burke had a stellar performance, stopping 29 of 31 shots. About 6-7 of those saves were ones he really had to work for moving around in his crease. He showed a large amount of his confidence that I hope he is able to carry the rest of the way this season.
-Portland was 5 for 8 on the power play, scoring 2 goals on identical power play set ups involving Haar, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Chase De Leo.
-The Hawks used Nic Petan as a power play quarterback in the absence of Derrick Pouliot.
-Good to see Alex Forsberg jump in on a fight between Keegan Iverson and his team-mate Pochiro, when Zach clearly wanted no part of an enraged Iverson. This is a good start for Forsberg, who was badly beat in the fight, as he needs to make it up to the team he abandoned last season.
-Prince George really has few positives to take out of this game, as their Defense really looked over-matched for most of the game, especially on the penalty kill.
-The Cougar's Ty Edmonds had only played 40 minutes of WHL hockey, prior to getting yanked off the bench to replace an overwhelmed Zarowny.
-Game #2 on the season goes tonight in Seattle, more on that later.

3 Stars:
#3- Brendan Burke- He really kept this game out of hand, when the Cougars were able to put extended pressure on the Hawks.

#2- Presten Kopeck-He was a bit of a lightning rod for the Hawks tonight as his goal right after Viveiros' in the 2nd turned on the faucets.

#1- Oliver Bjorkstrand- Hard to argue with his 5 point night.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Game One: Portland vs. Prince George

The format will be a little different this year, as instead of a large season preview, I will just preview individual games, with what I expect from the opposing team as well as how they match up with the Hawks.

Prince George Cougars (21-43-0-2-6, 9th in the Western Conference-out of the playoffs)
Last Season:
For the second season in a row Prince George finished out of the playoffs, after having an up and down (mostly down) season in 2012-13. The low point last season was when Head Coach for the last 4 seasons: Dean Clark was fired after 46 games, after starting 14-26-0-6. The AHL's: Syracuse Crunch Coach Mark Hollick was hired on and after a torrid start, the wheels fell of on the way to a 7-17-0-2 record the rest of the way, including losing their last 5 in a row. Hollick played for the Saskatoon Blades in the mid-80's and coached the Kootenay Ice for 3 season from 2007-2010. He is notorious for In each of his 3 seasons with the Ice, he got them into the playoffs, so he has had reasonable success at the WHL level. Another low point from last season, was when former #1 overall Bantam Pick: Alex Forsberg demanded a trade from GM Dallas Thompson and was not given one. He then left the team for the rest of the season, before changing his mind and returning for this season.
Zach Pochiro

Prince George was led in scoring by former Seattle Thunderbird: Colin Jacobs last year with 25 goals and 28 assists for 53 points. Jacobs, a 4th round selection by the Buffalo Sabres, is 20( '93 born) now and so is going to spend the season with the Rochester Americans of the AHL. News just came out today that the Cougars top # 2 scorer from last season: '94 born Troy Bourke (50 points) was returned by the Colorado Avalanche earlier today. It is not know whether he will be in the lineup for tonight's game.

Another returning leading scorer: '95 born Zach Pochiro (39 points) was returned by the St. Louis Blues in time to be in the lineup for tonight's game. He will join, former Edmonton Oil King: Klarc Wilson, '93 born, (26 points) as Wilson who also was returned (by the New York Rangers), after receiving a tryout as a 20 year old.
Jansen Harkins

The Forwards corps should also get help from '97 born, second overall bantam pick in 2012: Jansen Harkins. Harkins was tops in preseason scoring with 9 points in 5 games. The 16 year old Center has shown the elite playmaking ability that has the Cougars thinking big for the future.

With the return of Forsberg, Bourke, Wilson and Pochiro along with '95 born Chase Witala (36 pts) and '94 born Jari Ericcson (28 pts) and young offensive punch from the likes of Harkins, there is real reason for optimism this season in Prince George as they should be able to improve on their 21st ranked 177 goals last season (only Everett was worse). The real questions for the Cougars this season appear to be not on the front end, but on the defensive side.
Tough Guy Peter Kosterman

This is a real young group with the loss of '92 borns: Daniel Gibb and Dallas Ehrhardt. Those two really carried the load on the back end for the Cougars last season and their loss will be felt deeply. The 2013-14 Defensive squad will be led by '95 born 4th round pick by the Red Wings: Marc McNulty, '95 born(late b-day) Raymond Grewal and '95 born (late birthday) Joseph Carvalho. They made a recent trade; acquiring '93 born Peter Kosterman for a 4th round bantam pick, hoping to add a little experience to a very young defensive squad. This is where the issues start for the Cougs this season, as when they come up against potent offensive lineups like in Portland and Kelowna. Their young D-men will struggle in keeping the puck out of the net, especially with the person behind them, in net, being an unproven asset.
Brett Zarowny

Brett Zarowny is penciled in as the starter for P.G. as '93 born, starter last season: Mac Engel was released. Zarowny got into 31 games last season and sported a 3.74 GAA and an .886 save percentage. Behind him is '96 born Ty Edmonds, who only played one game last season. Zarowny will need to stand on his head this season, with the defense in front of him and I do not know if he will be up to the task.

Tonight's Game:
It goes 7pm at the Moda Center (that's gonna take some getting used to). This should be a great game for the Hawks to get their legs under them, as 7 players were recently returned from NHL camps and still more are away for some time. Portland swept P.G. in the season series last season, and there really should be no reason they should not do so again in the 4 games they play this season. This really pits Portland's biggest known strength (scoring) with P.G.'s biggest weakness (young and in-experienced Defense). The Cougars should improve on their record last season, with a lot of scoring depth, but will continue to struggle against the elite teams like Portland.

The Hawks should also be playing in front of a packed house for the home opener and should be in high spirits, watching banner after banner get lifted into the rafters.

Look for a high energy start for Portland, that should be too much for Zarowny and the P.G. Defense to bear.

Random Notes:
-The Hawks should have a young defensive squad of their own tonight as Derrick Pouliot is still away at NHL camp and the last defensive pairing will be some mix of Keoni Texeira, Zach Paterson and Layne Viveiros.
-Pouliot is really making a go of his camp with the Pittsburgh Penguins, as he scored his first NHL goal in a 4-3 preseason shootout win over Chicago last night.
-Shane McColgan and Joe Mahon should also be out of the lineup as they both recover from off-season shoulder surgery. Mahon had shoulder surgery and McColgan had surgery on his hand following a weight lifting accident.
-Jared Schamerhorn won the backup job behind Brendan Burke over Adin Hill, though he will not get the start in tonight's opener, most likely.
-With Brendan Leipsic still away at camp and Dominic Turgeon, McColgan and Mahon injured, look for Alex Schoenborn to get in the lineup and Ethan Price and Steven Alldridge to make their Portland debuts.
-It will be great to see Coach Mike Johnston behind the bench in Portland for the first time since mid-season last year. Hopefully Portland fans give him a standing ovation tonight.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

7 of 12 Winterhawks Returned From NHL Camps/ More on the Way?

The Winterhawks got a major life this week, when they had six more players to go along with Adam De Champlain's return last week, meaning the Hawks have 7 of the 12 players from their roster back in Portland.

Let's review:
  • 20 year old new Winterhawk Garrett Haar was released the other day from camp. Because he is a 20 year old, who played college hockey, he needs to be signed by his graduation date in June, or he becomes a free agent (correction from earlier post. Thanks to those who caught it). 
  • 18 year old Swedish D-man Anton Cederholm was sent down by the Vaouncouver Canucks last Saturday. Hopefully, playing with fellow Swedish D-men: Alex Edler, Peter Andersson and Henrik Tommernes, helped him adjust a little more to the North American game.
  • 18 year Goalie Brendan Burke was sent back on Tuesday by the Phoenix Coyotes. I have to think that a couple weeks playing under his Father's tutelage and with longtime NHL Goalies Mike Smith and Thomas Griess playing in front of him had to help Brendan make some adjustments that will benefit him in the coming season and beyond.
  • Petan
  • Nic Petan was returned on Tuesday by the Winnipeg Jets, even though word is that he had a very impressive camp for the Jets. If Nic has another excellent season for the Hawks, look for Winnipeg to hold onto him a bit longer next season in camp and most likely offer him a contract.
  • Oliver Bjorkstrand was sent back yesterday by the Columbus Blue Jackets after they got him into a preseason game on Monday night. Word is that he had an excellent game for the Blue Jackets, but was just too far down their very young and deep depth chart to warrant a longer look in camp.
  • Taylor Leier was also sent back yesterday by the Philadelphia Flyers, a week after signing with the Flyers and scoring his first goal wearing the orange and black. This was a bit surprising as I was expecting Taylor to be in camp a bit longer for the Fly boys.

There are 5 players that COULD play for the Hawks this season that have yet to be returned by their NHL teams, so they will miss at least the home opener Friday night vs. Prince George.
  • Brendan Leipsic (19)- Just went with the Nashville  Predators on their preseason trip down to Florida for split squad games with Florida on Monday and then another game on Tampa Bay on Thursday. Since Leipsic made the trip, played Monday and has yet to be returned, I could see him staying in camp until at least after the game on Thursday. Then, since Nashville's next preseason game is up in Tennessee on Monday, Leipsic will probably be sent back sometime this weekend.
  • Derrick Pouliot(19)- He will get into his 3rd straight NHL preseason game tonight for the Pittsburgh Penguins at Chicago. Pouliot has looked impressive in camp and because his skill set is so valuable in the Penguin's system, I would not be surprised if he plays some regular season games, before getting sent back to the Hawks.
  • Ty Rattie- Rattie has 0% chance at getting sent back by the St. Louis Blues, because they have already signed Rattie and have been pairing him with a lot of their top scoring forwards. In my book, there is a real good chance that Rattie pushes for a job at the NHL level as a 20 year old, this season.
  • Tyler Wotherspoon(20)- Another guy with almost no shot of being sent back to the Northwest. Tyler has impressed in camp and because of the youth movement in Calgary and his very stellar defensive play adjusting well to the next level, he has a great chance at making the NHL squad.
  • Seth Jones(18)- Jones has made a lot of news in camp because of his transition to left defense and pairing in camp with Kevin Klein and Shea Weber. He has the best shot of the last 3 on this group to be sent back, as he is not eligible to play in the AHL, but that is just a pipe dream, as he seems to have too much skill to be sent back from the Preds. 

Overall, there really should not be any surprises for the Hawks as they have 7 of the 12 guys back from camps, but should, eventually, get 2 more in Pouliot and Leipsic sometime within the next 2 weeks.Any more players being sent back by their pro teams would be reason to celebrate for allWinterhawk fans.

Friday, September 13, 2013

De Champlain Cut/ Leier Signed: Winterhawks at NHL Camps News and Links

Petan Chasing Down Vancouver's Hunter Shinkaruk

-Adam De Champlain was cut from training camp yesterday, by the Vancouver Canucks, making him the first of 12 Winterhawks heading back to the club. Three of those players;Ty Rattie, Tyler Wotherspoon and Seth Jones are very unlikely to come back to the Hawks.

-Taylor Leier signed a 3 year entry level deal with the Philadelphia Flyers, then promptly potted the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Garrett Haar and the Washington Capitals rookies. According to this article, Leier is fully recovered from his concussion last season that he received from Saskatoon's Dalton Thrower in the Memorial Cup. He holds no resentment towards Thrower. Don't worry Taylor, Hawks fans will do that for you when Thrower comes to town with his new team: the Vancouver Giants.

-Nic Petan was wowing Winnipeg's coaching staff and Management last week. He had an assist and was plus 1 playing on a line with Kamloops Blazer J.C. Lipon and even got a positive review from the usually close-lipped Jet's G.M. Kevin Cheveldayoff. Cheveldayoff stated: ...when the puck is on his stick, you are always looking for something to happen..." Sounds like Petan has made the adjustment to rookie camp just fine. Now we will wait and see how he does when the Jet's main camp opens.

-Oliver Bjorkstrand scored a goal and added an assist in a 4-2 Columbus victory over the New York Rangers last week. Unfortunately for Bjokrstrand's NHL hopes, two of the Blue Jacket's other top prospects: Boone Jenner and Kerby Rychel both factored on the score sheet as well. Look for Oliver to be sent back fairly soon after main camp begins.

-Soon to be former Winterhawk Ty Rattie was skating with Blues Captain David Backes and their leading playoff scorer Alex Steen on a line in yesterday's practice. I would look for the Blues to continue putting Rattie alongside other top Blues players in camp. The main reason he seems like a lock to stick with the Blues this season and not go to the AHL, is his goal scoring ability, which St. Louis lacks and desperately needs. Also, Rattie's defensive back-checking took a huge step forward last season and Coach Ken Hitchcock is a stickler for his forwards to play on both ends.

-Tyler Wotherspoon was apparently his old mostly un-noticeable self at the Youngstars Tournamaent last weekend in Penticton. The Abbotsford Heat(AHL) Coach: Troy Ward who said "...he's so good you don't notice him out there...he's been steady." That's our Tyler, doing the little things with body positioning and stick work that will be sorely missed when he plays, most likely, with Abbotsford this season.

-Derrick Pouliot was apparently not too impressive at the Pittsburgh Penguin's rookie camp, but that could have been the lack of talent around him. Penguin's Assistant G.M. Tom Fitzgerald described Derrick: "He looked like an NHL player playing with rookies..." This comment, among other statements, should mean that Pen's management is very high on Derrick and, at the very least, will want his services until the regular season starts.

-Long read regarding Seth Jones being asked by Nashville Head Coach Barry Trotz to play left Defense and why this writer feels that is not necessarily so that he can play with Shea Weber on the top pairing. Of importance to Hawk's fans is that Jones is healthy, so there is no chance he comes back to Portland this season.

-Ranking of the Nashville Predator's top 10 prospects has Seth Jones at #1 and Brendan Leipsic at #10. Of course it is fairly apparent that the writer of the piece has not seen too much of Leipsic play as he attests most of his point total to Rattie, Petan and the Defense. I would not agree because at time last season, Leipsic was the most dynamic Hawk on the ice (apologies to Ty Rattie).

Overall, it should be exciting to see main training camps progress with 11 Winterhawks still present, as of the writing of this post.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Winterhawks Ranked 3rd in CHL Preseason Top 10

The CHL release their BMO preseason top 10 rankings and the Portland Winterhawks are in the #3 spot behind only the OHL's London Knights(1st), who will be the host of the 2014 Memorial Cup and the QMJHL's Baie-Comeau Drakkar(2nd).

Portland ousted London in the Semi-final of last year's Memorial Cup. London will return first round draft picks Max Domi and Bo Horvat among others and are the overwhelming favorite in the OHL.

Baie-Comeau lost in the QMJHL final to eventual CHL champion  Halifax Mooseheads. The Drakkar have Valentin Zykov (2nd round 2013 pick by L.A.) and Raphael Bussieres (2nd round 2012 pick by Minnesota) among others returning this year, making them the favorite in the QMJHL.

Other WHL teams in the preseason top 10 were Prince Albert (6th), Edmonton (8th) and Kootenay (10th).

The Kelowna Rockets were listed as an honorable mention and were the only Western Conference team listed.

Halifax and Portland were the only CHL clubs who went the entire 2012-13 season somewhere in the top 10 rankings.

Breakdown of Hawks Positional Battles: Goaltender

The Portland Winterhawks and their fans have had the honor of watching Mac Carruth provide his stalwart back-stopping from 2010-2013. He earned the starting job over Ian Curtis (20 year old over-age at the time) and Keith Hamilton after showing talent at the age of 18.

Brendan Burke is also 18 this coming season and Hawks fans are hoping that he moves as smoothly into his role as the starting Goaltender as Carruth did. Carruth showed a lot of signs of becoming a top tier previous in the 2011 season, as has Burke last year. Coach Mike Johnston is going to go with Burke as his top Goalie, it remains to be seen if he can lead this team to the Memorial Cup like his predecessor.

Returning Goaltender/ Lock for Starting Job:
-Brendan Burke- Goaltenders are notorious for taking the longest time to develop, especially at the junior level. They are difficult to project as top prospects. Guys like Tim Thomas can come out of virtually nowhere to earn a starting job in the NHL at 32 years old after being kicked around the AHL and over-seas leagues. Burke, though has one of the greatest pedigrees out there in that he is the son of Sean Burke, who played 18 seasons in the NHL and is widely seen as the best NHL Goaltending coach in the league for Phoenix. It surprised no one that Burke and the Coyotes selected the younger Burke in the 6th round in this past year's NHL draft. I am hoping that Burke used the opportunity of attending the Coyote's training camp to gain experience and more importantly confidence. Though he put up really solid numbers last year (2.65 GAA and 90.8 Save %), those could be associated with a group of the best Defensemen that have ever worn a Winterhawk's sweater. Also, Burke had a confidence issue last year. During several games, if he gave up a bad goal or two, he appeared to sit back in his net and let the game come to him, leaving angles open for other goals. Though he has his issues to work through, the confidence and yes added pressure of being named the #1 Goalie, should help Burke become one of the better Goalies in the Western Conference this season.

2 Guys;  1 Backup Goalie Position:
-Jarrod Schamerhorn- The 18 year old from Kelowna, B.C. was a list player for the Hawks. This season is his first chance to play a major role with the
Winterhawks. Schamerhorn played with the Nanaimo Clippers of the BCHL and the Beaver Valley Nitehawks of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. He then joined the Hawks for the playoff run, as an emergency backup should either Carruth or Burke get injured. He suited up for 2 preseason games last season, as well as, 2 this season. He gave up 5 goals in the first preseason game this year, a loss at Everett and 2 goals in his second game, a 4-2 win over Seattle at the Tri City tournament. I watched him in the second game and Schamerhorn looked great. He looks like he covers his lower angles well and his puck-handling behind his own net was outstanding as well. He faced an onslaught of shots against Everett and gave up 5 goals, but I am hearing that it could have been much worse, were he not to make many top-notch saves. He is my call to win the back-up position with the Hawks, but it would not surprise me in the least were the next guy on this list to make into many games this season as well.

-Adin Hill- The 6'3" 177 lb 17 year old Goalie from Calgary played fantastic in a 6-1 victory over
Spokane in the Everett tournament and then gave up all 8 goals in an 8-2 loss last weekend against Everett at the Tri City tournament. I was at both games and as the scores would attest, he was great in the first game and awful in the second. This kind of up and down performance is something you can live with in a back up Goaltender, as long as he remains the back up. Hill needs workwith his angles and puck-handling amongother things. The second performance and the fact that they have the older Schamerhorn as a reliable looking backup, will probably keep him out of a Hawks sweater for most of the season. Hill played last season with the Calgary Buffaloes in Midget AAA and will most likely find somewhere else to play when he is not with the Hawks. There is still a good chance that he gets a couple starts if Burke remains at camp, but I cannot see him getting much more time then that.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Breakdown of Hawks Positional Battles: Forwards

Though they lost Ty Rattie and Taylor Peters, the Portland Winterhawk’s Championship repeating hopes lie firmly on their forwards up front. Once all 5 forwards return from NHL camps (and they will), it will be quite interesting to see which 14-15 Hawk’s forwards stay with the team this season.
Just because some of these players may not stay with the team after camps finish, it does not mean that they will not be back, as every one of them is on Portland’s 50 man protected list.

The Returning Forward Locks:
-Brendan Leipsic (Listed as a Center but plays RW) - Leipsic has improved steadily the past few seasons with the Hawks, growing (no pun intended) into the dominant offensive force that he has become. His 120 points tied him for the WHL (and CHL) scoring title last season with team mate Nic Petan. Suffice it to say that point total is within reach this season even with him and Petan likely to miss time at NHL camps and possibly playing for Canada at the World Juniors. Leipsic is incredibly strong on the puck for a guy of his stature and has shown a deft scoring touch. The only knock against Brendan is that if he is not emotionally invested in the game (which happens from time to time) he takes plays off. He needs to take a similar stride forward as a leader that Ty Rattie did last season.
-Nic Petan- Center- Petan is exactly what you want from your number one center man at the WHL level. He makes play after play for his wingers, has become exceptional on the penalty kill and defensive zone and has improved steadily on the faceoff draw. Leipsic and Petan will likely go down as one of the best tandems in Winterhawk history, if they can find someone to jump into Ty Rattie’s role on the top line (anyone would be lucky).
-Taylor Leier- RW- Leier’s season ended awfully last season with an injury on a vicious hit in the Memorial Cup semi-final against London of the OHL. It had to be incredibly difficult to watch your team lose in such a heart-breaking fashion in the Final, from the stands. Leier has become a fan favorite for the passionate way he plays in the corners and in his own zone. We should see Leier feeding off that heartbreak and playing even more passionately this season. He is someone who could be relied upon to become an emotional leader for the Hawks this season.
De Leo
-Chase De Leo- C- The Hawks second line center is entering his draft year at hockey age 18 (late birth date) and hopes to become an even bigger part of the Winterhawks offense this season and earn himself a selection in next June’s NHL draft. Chase has a lot of the same detractions that Nic Petan has and could learn from the way Petan overcame those to become a second round selection last June. Chase has the weapons to put up eye popping statistics and he has gotten much stronger in the offseason as well.
-Oliver Bjorkstrand-LW- Oliver brought him lethal wrist shot overseas from Denmark last season and struggled making the adjustments to the differing style of the North American game. Once he started to adjust to the hitting he started piling up the points on a line with Leier and De Leo. They are all going to be back this season and Bjorkstrand’s play really seems to be the catalyst for that line. They were always a unit that busted their asses out there but was not very consistent in putting goals in the way the top line was. If they can shore up the inconsistency, there is literally no better second unit in the league.
-Paul Bittner-LW- Bittner came in as a late birthday 16 year old last season and struggled with getting used to the travel and being away from home. It showed in his game as he did not seem comfortable playing with his line mates. The Hawk’s coaching staff tried to aid this problem, by consistently putting him with Keegan Iverson and later in the year; Taylor Peters on the 3rd line. Bittner’s season took off however when he filled in on the top line when Ty Rattie left for World Juniors. Bittner scored consecutive game winning goals and really broke through after that. He went back to the unit with Iverson and Peters and really excelled in a checking line type of role. He is looking to become a more consistent part of the offense and the Hawks coaching staff has been putting him on the top power play unit all preseason, parking his large frame (6’4” `95 lbs) in front of the net.
-Keegan Iverson-RW- Iverson has not shown the same offensive upside and dominant ability that Bittner has shown and I think this is unfair to him as they are inevitably compared to each other. Keegan is not as tall (6’0”) but he does have 216 lbs to throw around and he often does. He was a key role player for the Winterhawks last playoff run and he will look to continue to improve as a key defensive power forward. He has all the makings of a dominant power forward, but they sometimes take a while to find their offensive game.
-Dominic Turgeon- C- Dominic did not play much for the Hawks last playoff, but he has certainly shown signs of improving his overall play this coming season. Portland is really looking for him to fill the big hole left by Taylor Peters leaving and he certainly has the size for it (6’2” 196 lbs) and the pedigree as well. His improvement will be really key for the Hawks this season as depth at Center is something every great team has (see the NHL’s Penguins from a few years back).
-Preston Kopeck-C- Kopeck played a large portion of last year at wing, but should challenge Turgeon for the 3rd line center checking role. The fact that the Hawks have someone as talented as Kopeck possibly playing on their fourth line, goes a long way to show how deep they are especially at Center.  Kopeck was not drafted this past season, most likely due to his lack of size and his recent wrist injury. Kopeck was coming on like gangbusters, until he hurt his wrist on a fairly innocuous play in the WHL Championship Series against Edmonton. Preston has looked good this preseason and should be completely healed from that injury.
-Adam De Champlain- Listed at Center but plays RW- Adam plays a physical game, throwing large body checks and playing with an irritable edge that opponents hate and fans love. Adam has really made a commitment to team defense this preseason and before he received an invitation to the Vancouver Canucks camp, Adam was scoring a goal and an assist in only 2 preseason games. He seems like he got a lot stronger in the offseason and could push for top 6 forward time at some point this season.
-Joe Mahon-RW- The 6’5” 223 lb 19 year old was the Hawks enforcer last season, getting into 41 games and piling up 133 PIMs. Look for about the same this season from Mahon, who needs a lot of improvement with his skating and stick work in order to get into any more game then about 40. Joe did show rapid improvement with these abilities toward the end of the season, even potting 2 goals, but still has a long way to go.
-Alex Schoenborn- RW- Alex has gotten a lot of playing time with Petan and Leipsic early in the preseason and even chipped in a couple points so far. The 18 year old has a lot to improve on however. He skates with his head down too much and does not have a light enough touch when receiving passes on the rush. Putting him on the top line, was most likely an attempt to get him some good scoring chances and letting the coaches get a good look at him as well. This was more of a disservice though because most players in the league will stand out in a negative way if they can’t quite keep up with the top 2 scorers in the WHL. The coaches do seem to love his work ethic though, as he was getting second line positioning and power play time during the 2 preseason games this last weekend.

Key Addition:
-Shane McColgan-Center- Shane wore out his welcome in Kelowna in 2011-12 and was traded as a 19 year old to Saskatoon for their Memorial Cup hosting squad last season. McColgan did his part with 19 goals and 47 assists, playing on the Blade’s top unit. He is definitely a very skilled playmaker, who can also pitch in a bunch of goals. He will be at home anywhere on the Hawk’s top 6 forward group, where he will be sure to pile up even more points, adding to his career WHL total of 268. The only issue, besides being a possible locker room headache, is that McColgan is a 20 year old and the Hawks have a very deep forward unit. If De Champlain or Bittner makes him replaceable to the top 6, he could be traded to help shore up the back end for the Hawks. This, however, is very unlikely, as the Hawks seem to really like the Californian. McColgan also had offseason surgery on his hand, due to a weight lifting accident, so he was unable to attend the New York Rangers training camp. McColgan appears to be ready for the regular season, but will unlikely play any preseason hockey.

New Guys Hoping to Make the Team:
-Ethan Price- RW-The undrafted 16 year old signed with the Hawks last week and has looked impressive so far. He has skated with more experienced Hawks in the games that he has played in so far. Price is a bruising, power forward type that the coaches will love to groom into an elite talent. He will very likely be one of the depth forwards on the Hawks this season, as he has not looked out of place and has outplayed some of the older guys, in the games I’ve seen.

-Steven Alldridge- LW- 6’3” 200 lb 17 year old player has shown limited offensive ability, but he does bring a large body that the Hawks could use as an enforcer, should they find Mahon expendable. At 17, Aldridge could make the Hawks, just because they see a lot of potential in him.
 -Adam Rossignol- Center- The 20 year old has played with Kootenay and Regina in his career, which sadly looks like it’s nearing its end in the WHL. To make a team that is very deep at forward, he would need to impress way more than he has so far. He has potted a few goals and made some nice plays in the preseason, but has not done enough in my book. Rossignol, at his best scored 9 goals for the Pats last season. There are many 20 year olds who have potted far more than that in the past, who have been cut. He also has been played mostly at wing with the Hawks this preseason, which is not a good sign. This means that they are not confident in his faceoff abilities. He also has not played much on the power play or the penalty kill, which is another sign that he is on his way out, as soon as the Hawks get at full strength.

Overall, the returning Winterhawks take up 12 forward roster spots and Shane McColgan, as soon as he is healthy gets another. This leaves only one-two spots for a very stacked team. I think that the last full time spot goes to Ethan Price, who had a beautiful goal in the win over Seattle yesterday. The other spot should go to Alldridge, who will spend most of his time playing back in the AJHL, until Portland loses players due to injuries or World Juniors. Age is just simply not on Rossignol’s side unfortunately, as the Hawks will look to make a move to add another top 6 forward, or more likely, another Defenseman.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Breakdown of Hawk's Positional Battles: Defense

The Portland Winterhawks are going to be without the services of Troy Rutkowski, Seth Jones and Tyler Wotherspoon this season, this much is certain.

That means that the defensive certitude that was the strength of the team last year, will certainly not be quite the same this season.

Portland has carried 7 Defensemen for the past several seasons, meaning that after all of the players get back from camp, the Hawks will have 7 positions available on the back end this season.

The Locks:
-Derrick Pouliot- #51 is the last of the fab 4 remaining from last season’s stalwart unit. He is also pretty much guaranteed to come back to the Hawks for his 19 year old season, when he is dismissed from the Pittsburgh Penguin’s training camp.

-Josh Hanson- #4 has made great strides since last season when he was the Hawk’s number 5 D-man. He is going to be relied upon to be one of the Hawk’s top penalty killers along with providing some offensive punch in his fourth season as a Winterhawk. This season is a big one for Hanson, who will need to prove himself this season or next in order to obtain an NHL contract.

-Shaun MacPherson- #6 is the only other returning Hawk defenseman from last season’s WHL championship run. MacPherson did not play much during the playoffs, but the coaching staff seems really confident in his play, so there is no doubt that he makes this season’s team. I have made public my thoughts on his play and how I do not agree with the value that Coach Johnston and the staff have placed upon Shaun, but the fact remains that he will be a top 6 D-man for the Hawks this season no matter what. I will give that he has shown offensive upside and could be a power play quarterback, if he continues to improve at this.

New Guys Making an Impact:
-Anton Cederholm- #2 Cederholm was drafted in this year’s import draft and in the  NHL draft by Vancouver and it was immediately apparent during his first preseason game last weekend, which role the Hawks are expecting Anton to pay this season. He laid out a Spokane Chief on his very first shift and placed himself as an immediate fan favorite at the same time. Though Swedish Defensemen are typically smooth skating and try to stay away from the physical side of things (see Niklas Lidstrom), Cederholm seems to like the physical side of things. Because they released Kirill Vorobyev in order to sign him, it is very likely that Cederholm is making this Hawk’s team.

-Garrett Haar- #18 The Californian native fit right in with the Hawks as soon as he met fellow Californian Chase De Leo. As a 20 year old, if the Washington Capitals do decide to send Haar back to the Hawks, which is likely, expect Haar to be one of the three Portland 20 year olds this season. Haar will also end up with being a power play quarterback on the first or second unit from the start this season. He is a smooth skater with a decent shot, so he will definitely pour in some goals this year.

The 6th and 7th Spots/ Up in the Air:
-Keoni Texeira- #44 The 16 year old has been one of the most consistent D-men for the Winterhawks this pre-season. In an interview a few weeks ago, Coach Johnston mentioned Texeira as one of the new Hawks that would definitely be on the team this season and I do not think that has changed. He has made several great offensive plays and has showed great consistency on the defensive side. I really feel that he should be Portland’s 6th D-man.
-Zach Paterson- #5 The 17 year old D-man has had his ups and downs and the best thing going for him is that, besides Hanson, he is one of the Hawk’s top right handed Defensemen, Having a right handed D-man is very important especially if they cannot get consistent point production on the power play from Hanson. Other than that though, Paterson has not been consistent to warrant him a guarantee.
--Layne Viveiros- #42 The 18 year old Austrian-Canadian has played parts of 2 previous season now with the Hawks. In my mind though, he has not made many strides in his game since then. One of the major differences between major junior hockey and the NHL is that instead of making just one mistake, often you compound your mistakes in junior hockey by not reacting properly. Viveiros fits this definition for junior hockey for me. He seems so out of position a lot of times when he is back skating with a forward. Then he compounds that mistake with not being great with his stick checking and/or speed. I really feel that he will end up getting cut again by the Hawks.

The Outliers/Dark Horses:
-Jordan Davies- #16 seems like he is the more comfortable of the two at this time, but this does not mean that will change at some point. I think that a lot will have to happen for the Hawks this year before we get to a point where Davies needs to suit up but if he does, than I am more comfortable with him than I am with Greer.
-Justin Greer- #15 has a lot going for him to make the Hawk maybe next season, but this season is not in the cards for him. He is a right handed D-man, so that gives him an advantage, but he seems to be uncomfortable at this point and the Hawks coaching staff seems to feel the same way as every shift during the preseason, the Hawks have only been confident when pairing him with another more experienced D-man.