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.

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