Monday, September 29, 2014

Hawks Make First Trade of Season; Acquire Koules from Tigers

Head Coach/General Manager Jamie Kompon made his first trade earlier today, as reported by the Medicine Hat News. He acquired 20 year old right handed, right wing Miles Koules from the Medicine Hat Tigers in exchange for a Bantam Draft pick(unknown which round or year at this time).

Koules is from Los Angeles and is a U.S. National Development Team product. In 2012/13, his first seasn with the Tigers, he had 19 goals and 21 assists for 40 points (5th on the team). He then potted 4 points in 8 games in the playoffs. As a 19 year old last season, Koules had 25 goals and 26 assists for 51 points(4th on the team) and 10 points in 18 playoff games.

Koules is 5'11" and 201 lbs
This season he missed the Tigers first 2 games,while he attended Washington Capitals training camp on a try out basis. Koules notched 1 goal in the 2 games he has been back. Koules' return, along with that of Goalie Marek Langhammer(Arizona) and D-men Kyle Becker(Anaheim) and Tyler Lewington(Washington), necessitated the trade of one of them in order to comply with the 3 overager limit. Koules was the odd man out for Medicine Hat.

This is the second straight season the Tigers have sent a 20 year old L.A. born player to the Winterhawks. Last season it was Defenseman Garett Haar. Oddly enough both Koules and Haar attended training camp together with the Capitals this year.

Now Portland will have to decide which of their other 3 1994 born players to trade or release. My money is on Travis McEvoy, as he was more of a desperate acquisition and even in a 4th line role this last weekend, seemed a bit out of sorts. 

Hawks Drop Weekend Set to Everett; Now 0-5

Portland hosted Everett for a pair of games this weekend and though they were both very different games, they both had the same outcome: an Everett win.

9/27: Everett 5 Portland 1:
Everett was given 11 power plays on the night to Portland's 1 and though they only capitalized on 1 of them, they used them to control a majority of play and force the Hawks to play defense.

The Silvertips got goals from Graham Millar, Carson Stadnyk and Kohl Bauml in the first period, to jump out to a 3-0 lead, before Chase De Leo nothced a power play goal to make it 3-1. Though Portland slowly started to gain momentum and had soring opportunities, they were undone by defensive miscues leading to Stadnyk's 2nd goal, putting the game out of reach.

Then Paul Bittner took a checking from behind major that would see him suspended for Sunday's rematch. Tyler Sandhu scored a late power lay marker to close out the game at 5-1 Everett.

Game Notes:
-Brendan Burke made his first start since returning from Arizona Coyotes training camp. He made 33 saves on 38 shots.
-Austin Lotz was specatcular on the other end in his return from an inviatatio to Vancouver Canucks camp. He made 32 stops on 33 shots.
-Keoni Texeira was scratched from the game due to his 1 game suspension for his check on Dalton Sward the previous night.
-Brendan De Jong and Carter Czaikowski continue to have growing pains as 16 year old D-men. De Jong coughed up the puck leading to Everett's first goal Czaikowski continually stuggled to force Everett forwards off the puck in his own zone. They will only get better as the season goes, but one hopes they continue to have confidence in their abilitis desoite the many mistakes.
-Nick Heid looks to be getting more comfortable by the game and made several nice plays in his own zone.
-Patrick Bajkov for Everett drew several different penalties on some questionable falls to the ice and also snapped his head back looking for a call on one that didn't touch him.
-Jack Flaman continues to get penalty killing time on a second unit with Chase De Leo.
-Alex Schoenborn committed 6 minutes worth of minor penalties in the first 24:41 of the game and this saw him get demoted off the top line with Dominic Turgeon and Keegan Iverson and down to a 3rd line. He was replaced with Tyson Predinchuk for this game.
-Portland was 1/1 on the power play and is now 3/17 (17.64%)on the season. Everett was 1/11 and is now 1/16 (6.25%) on the season.
3 Stars:
#3 Chase De Leo: 1 Goal on the night and one of the few Winterhawks top forwards that had a great game.

#2 Cason Stadnyk: 2 Goals and 1 Assist. Stadnyk was tough to handle for the Hawk's defense as he won a lot of board battles and getting to the rebounds first. He would've had more than 3 points if not for Portland's Goalies.

#1 Graham  Millar: 1 Goal and 1 Assist. Millar just seems to be in the right place at the right time for th Tips, finding gaps in the Hawk's defense.

9/28: Everett 6 Portland 4:
The Hawks blew a 3-1 second period lead, giving up 5 straight goals, en route to a 6-4 loss. Portland did not get the bounces in this one as the 4 of the 5 staright goals they scored were from point shots, either going straight in or being deflected in by Graham Millar. Their other goal of that set was an extremely fortunate bounce for the Tips when Carson Stadnyk broke in all alone, fired the puck over the net and got it to bounce right to him off a stanchion for the easy tip in.

Everett had way too many breakaways (4 by my count), as the Hawk's defense struggled with gap control. Portland looked probably their best so far this season as they forced Everett to pull starting Goalie Carter Hart after 3 goals in 14 shots.

Portland also pulled their starting Goalie: Brendan Burke who gave up 6 goals on 24 shots. Adin Hill came in and stopped all 10 shots he faced. Austin Lotz cam in for Hart in the 2nd period and stopped 21 of 22 shots.

Game Notes:
-Keoni Texeira returned the lineup from his suspension and Brendan De Jong was scratched.
-Paul Bittner served the first game of his "TBD" suspension, causing Alex Overhardt to draw into the lineup.
-Overhardt, who was healthy scratched for the Saturday tilt, looke dimpressive in limited, 4th line action. He did a great job of setting up his linemates and had a couple incredible backchecks, breaking up plays.
-Everett looks much better this season, their second under Coach Kevin Constantine. It was widely believed that they would be doomed by their inability to score goals. However, they are now 3-0 on the season and have shown grit in winning a majority of the board battles and scoring a lot of goals off of point shots.
-Anton Cederholm got his first goal on the year putting the game within reach in the 3rd period. Cederholm is looking to shoot a lot more, mostly looking to cause rebounds in the front of the net.
-Chase De Leo was the best forward on the ice in the 2 games, he was a dynamo on the puck and showed great chemistry with linemates Tyson Predinchuk and Evan Weinger.
-Weinger notched not only his first WHL goal, but his second, all in the span of 3:25 in the 2nd. His second was particularly impressive as he had a give and go with Predinchuk and wired it past Hart. Even when Oliver Bjorkstrand and Nic Petan do come back in the mineup, I would look for him to get top 9 minutes.
-Graham Millar again tipped point shots past Portland's Goalies. He now has 4 goals in 3 games, all off deflections on point shots.
-Everett was 2/3 on the power play and is now 3/19(15.8%) on the season. Portland was 2/6 and is now 5/23 (21.7%) on the season. Despite this relatively high percentage, Portland really seems to struggle with zone entry on the man advantage.
-The power play (and every other aspect of the game) should be helped by the return of Oliver Bjorkstrand, who was released by the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday. Also, a whole week of practicing together couldn't hurt.

3 Stars:
#3 Evan Weinger: Weinger has been fantastic and if not for being snakebit through the first 4 games, would've had his first WHL goal much sooner.

#2 Noah Juulsen: Juulsen provides a lot of offensive ability from the back end and had 1 goal and 2 assists on the night.

#1 Carson Stadnyk: Stadnyk had 1 goal and 3 assists on the night and 4 goals and 4 assists in the 2 games against Portland. He should be a finalist for WHL player of the week.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Giants Outlast Hawks 5-3

The Portland Winterhawks dropped a 5-3 hard fought contest up in Vancouver, B.C. to the Vancouver Giants on Friday night to start the season 0-3 for the first time since the 2007-08 season. The Hawks showed flashes of the team they can be but were ultimately felled by defensive miscues and poor decisions.

Chief among those decisions was, during the second period while the game was tied 2-2, D-man Keoni Texeira lost his cool after being out muscled to the puck by Dalton Sward; got up and delivered a cross check to the side/back of Sward's head. This earned him a 5 minute major and a game misconduct. The Hawks were able to kill off that 5 minute penalty, as well as, another minor penalty that forced them to go 3 on 5, but seemed winded rather than inspired afterwards.

The Giants were able to dominate the 3rd period and broke a 3-3 tie with a Vladimir Bobylev snipe from the slot just 1:31 into the 3rd then just kept the Hawks from generating anything in their zone, out shooting them 18-3 and scoring once more for a 5-3 win.

Game Notes:
-Portland's Paul Bittner and Vancouver's Alec Baer were both kept out of the lineup after flight delays caused them to arrive into Vancouver late. They both played in the All American Prospects Gane in Buffalo on Thursday night.
-Adin Hill had a fantastic game, despite giving up 5 goals. He had one series where he robbed both Jackson Houck and Tyler Benson who were allowed to walk in all alone.
-Portland's defense was just terrible most of the night. They consistently lost one on one battles and turned the puck over in bad situations. A prime example of this was Benson winning a draw in the 1st period  and chipping the puck past Defenseman Layne Viveiros, who was slow to turn his hips on the play. He then just muscled past the much older Viveiros and walked in all alone to backhand the puck past a helpless Hill. Viveiros is counted on to be one of the top 3 D-men (at least until Hanson and Heinrich get back) and the team cannot afford for him to be constantly victimized by skilled forwards like Benson. Viveiros was a -3 on the night and is now -5 on the season.
-The 16 year old Benson had his second straight great game for the Giants, scoring his first WHL goal and now has a point in each of his first 2 games this year.
-Colton Veloso scored his first WHL goal in this game as well; off the rebound of a Skyler McKenzie shot in the first period. He backhanded it quickly through the 5-hole of Giant's Goalie Payton Lee.
-2 players whose effort seemed to lag as the game went on were D-man Josh Smith and RW Keegan Iverson. This is not a good sign for the first game of a 3 in 3 weekend.
-Anton Cederholm was, not surprisingly, the Hawks best D-man on the night. He made 2 incredible plays on Vancouver's Thomas Foster where he took both him and the puck out of play. A fresh example of how much he will be relied upon this year was how he played the ENTIRE 5 minute penalty kill that resulted from Texeira's hit.
-Portland also got goals from Chase De Leo(on a rebound) and Keegan Iverson(deflection off a point shot) in the game.
-Carter Czaikowski and Brendan De Jong were both dressed in place of Nick Heid. Heid was not on the injury report, so my guess is that these 3 will be alternating through the weekend. Though Heid made a couple poor plays last weekend, I still think he should be earning more ice time then the two 16 year olds.
-Lee stopped 23 of 26 on the night, whole Hill saved 43 of 48.
-Portland was 1/3 on the power play and Vancouver was 0/3.

3 Stars:
#3: Tyler Benson
-Benson was dangerous all night and if not for Hill's great performance, he would've had 3-4 points on the night, rather than just the 1 goal. Look for the hype to increase on this guy as the next 2 seasons go. He is eligible for the 2016 NHL draft.

#2: Vladimir Bobylev
-Bobylev was relegated to the 4th line for last weekend's game and the first 2 periods of this one. He showed enough though for him to move up after 17 year old forward Jakob Stukel left. One would think he will stay there after scoring the eventual game winner on a nice snipe.

#1: Carter Popoff
-Popoff had a goal and an assist on the night and was a +3 on the night. He was also impressive defending in his own zone on the night and the line with him and Joel Hamilton and Stukel/Bobylev was the Giant's best 2-way line all night.

Elsewhere in the WHL:
-Brandon 6 Saskatoon 3
Jayce Hawryluk, in his first game back from Florida Panthers camp, had 2 goals (one of them was a penalty shot).
-Medicine Hat 4 Calgary 2
Cole Sanford had a goal and an assist for the Tigers and was a +3 on the night.
-Regina 7 Moose Jaw 1
Connor Gay made his early argument for WHL player of the week with a 4 point night(3 Goals, 1 Assist). Sam Steel had his first WHL goal.
-Edmonton 5 Swift Current 1
Lane Bauer and Brandon Pollock both had 1 goal and 1 assist for the Oil Kings.
-Tri City 3 Seattle 1
Seattle continues to have trouble at the Toyota Center, as they have only won 5 games over the last 5 seasons there.
-Kamloops 8 Victoria 2
The Blazers, who beat the Royals 6-3 last weekend, got 3 points from 5 different players in blowing out the Royals.
-Kelowna 7 Prince George 2
The Rockets were led by Tyson Baillie, Justin Kirkland and Colton Heffley, who all had 2 goals apiece.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Portland @Vancouver Preview 9/26

Portland (0-2-0-0, 0pts) @Vancouver (1-0-0-0, 2pts)
In their first road game of the year, the suddenly stronger Portland Winterhawks travel up to Vancouver for the 1st of their 3 games in 3 nights. Portland will have Dominic Turgeon(Detroit), Keegan Iverson(New York Rangers), Anonton Cederholm(Vancouver Canucks) , Chase De Leo(Winnipeg) and Brendan Burke(Arizona) back from NHL camps and thus will ice a much more experienced squad then was seen down in Portland for the first 2 games of the season.

The Giants also received some good news this week when Defenseman Mason Geertsen(Colorado) and Jackson Houck(Edmonton) were returned from their training camps. Vancouver hopes to have a successful first 10-20 games of the season in order to persuade the powers that be that they deserve to host the 2016 Memorial cup. They are currently a finalist with the Red Deer Rebels to host the annual championship tournament.

This Season:
-Portland lost 4-1 to Seattle and 6-3 to Prince George last weekend. The Giants got 2 goals in 39 seconds in the 2nd period to beat Victoria in their home opener last Saturday.

Last Season:
-Vancouver had an up and down season with a very young squad, on their way to 32-29-7-4, 75 pts and a 7th seed in the WHL playoffs. Portland quickly swept the Giants, ending the Giants 4th straight season of not advancing further than the 1st round.

-The most notable absence is legendary Head Coach Don Hay, who chose to head back to Kamloops and coach the Blazers this season. From everything I read, it appears that this decision was mutual between Hay and the Giants. Taking his place is former Abbotsford Heat(AHL) Head Coach Troy Ward.

-Graduating from the Giants are: Cain Franson, Dalton Thrower and Tim Traber. Leaving for professional careers are Dominik Volek and Brett Kulak. The Giants then had 8 other overage players to choose from and chose to let forwards Trent Lofthouse, Trace Elson Rob Trzonkowski and Travis McEvoy go look for work elsewhere. They also traded backup 20 year Jared Rathjen to Medicine Hat, where he has not played yet due to a "medical abnormality." McEvoy actually ended up in Portland's lineup as they needed immediate, fresh bodies last weekend.

Missing Players:
-The sole Vancouver Giant unavailable to play is 17 year old Right Wing Ty Ronning, who suffered a broken collarbone in the preseason and will miss a long stretch here to start the season. It is unknown whether the Giants will have 17 year old St. Louis Park, Minnesota native Alec Baer in the lineup tonight due to him playing in the All American Prospects Game in Buffalo last night, though he will be in Vancouver.
-Portland is still missing top returning WHL scorers Nic Petan and Oliver Bjorkstrand at NHL training camps. Paul Bittner also played in AAPG last night too and with Portland playing 3 in 3 this weekend, I would think they will rest him tonight. Blake Heinrich is still out with a concussion, while Josh Hanson should be returning at some point soon from his broken knuckles (he has been skating in practice).

Players to Watch
-#11 (LW) Jakob Stukel: 17 year old , 2nd round 2012 WHL Bantam Draft pick missed the entire season last year with a knee injury suffered during a pickup football game. He didn't miss a beat in his first game this season, notching an assist ans setting up many other great opportunities while playing in the top line with returning leading scorer Carter Popoff(64pts) and 20 year old Joel Hamilton. It is likely that Houck will take this spot tonight, but with how impressive the young Stukel looked vs. Victoria, I would expect that Troy Ward finds a way to get him ice time.

-#17 (LW) Tyler Benson: 16 year old, former top overall Bantam Pick was as advertised in his first game last Saturday. There were few Giants in the lineup that he did not set up for at least one opportunity. He looks first to pass and has some incredible ice vision. He played on their second line with Baer and Thomas Foster and they were the most dangerous line all night.

-#22 (D) Dmitry Osipov:18 year old, former 1st overall CHL import draft pick (also top overall KHL pick), was a large disappointment for the G-men last season. He looked lost most of the time and during their first round loss to Portland looked like he was anticipating everything much slower then whatever line he was matched against. This season, there are signs that he has improved; he played power play quarterback and was counted on as a top penalty killer. Despite this though, he has a long way to go before living up to expectations.

-#13 (C/RW) Keegan Iverson: The 18 year old was a force in limited preseason action this year, but also was suspended for a head shot vs. Spokane. He will be relied upon to carry the play in the absence of some of the Hawk's playmakers tonight and will need to stay on the edge and not put his team in odd man situations.

-#9 (C) Chase De Leo: 19 year old De Leo is the first leading returning scorer(81 pts) to dress up in the regular season for Portland this season. Having him back in the lineup and not being forced to play 16 year old McKenzie in a top line Center position, will immediately improve the Hawk's outlook tonight. I have long held that De Leo's defensive zone play is one of the most underrated things about his game and the Hawks were victimized consistently in areas that the Center is responsible for the last 2 games.

-#2 (D) Anton Cederholm- Implementing the 19 year D-man into the back end is an immediate, huge improvement. Cederholm relied a lot upon reigning CHL D-man of the year Derrick Pouliot last season and this is about how much whomever plays with him this year will rely upon him. Look for him to carry the puck into the zone and carry the play more this season, as he will be deferred to a lot to force the offense.

-This is a much different Giants team this season, in personnel, as well as philosophy. Ward wants his team to play a puck possession and up tempo game, similar to that of Portland's. This is completely different then the hard nosed style that Don Hay always had his team play. There is enough young talent (Benson, Stukel, Foster, RW Vladimir Bobylev and D-man Ryely McKinstry) for this to be a smart move down the road. However, a lot of the team's DNA is still rooted in Hay's system and it would be smart for Ward to ease this new system in.

-Without Bjorkstrand and Petan and with many questions on the back end, the Hawks still have a long way to go, but with 5 of their most talented and experienced players back, the outcome cannot help but be better than last weekend.

Elsewhere in the WHL:
-Saskatoon @Brandon: The Wheaties won their first 2 games of the season by a combined 10-3 score and will now get John Quennville and Jayce Hawryluk back form NHL camps.
-Medicine Hat @Calgary: The Tigers got 20 year old Goalie Marek Langhammer back from Arizona Coyotes camp. The Tigers immediately got better with this move and will rely upon him heavilyt this season.
-Edmonton @Swift Current: Reigning WHL Player of the Week Jay Merkley will look to add to his 5 goal total.
-Regina @Moose Jaw: Regina traded for 20 year old import Pavel Padakin and he should make his debut for the Pats tonight.
-Kelowna @Prince George: There was a line around the block this morning for the Cougar's home opener, which is a far cry from the 1,500-2,000 they were drawing consistently last season.
-Kamloops @Victoria: Brandon Magee was returned from Calgary Flames camp and according to some he will start serving his 11 game suspension with this game.
-Seattle @Tri City: Both teams had very up and down games last weekend with 3 goal and 7 goal wins and  goal(shut out) and 2 goal losses.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Thursday News/Notes: Bittner At All American Prospects Game

Paul Bittner Set To Turn Some Heads in Buffalo:
-Bittner will suit up for Team Olcyk tonight at 4pm Pacific Time (airing on NHL Network) in the 3rd Annual All American Prospects game; where 42 of the top American born prospects for this coming NHL draft will play at the First Niagra Center in Buffalo.

This is Bittner's best opportunity to be seen by the most scouts and a great outing will likely lock him in as a potential first round pick. Caleb Jones (who was drafted by Portland) will be competing for Team Grier, as will the Vancouver Giant's Alec Baer and the Tri City Americans Brandon Carlo.

At the 2013 AAPG: Chase De Leo had a goal and Keegan Iverson added 1 goal and 1 assist in their team(Team White)'s 5-2 win. Iverson was named the player of the game.
Despite not being selected for the game, Dominic Turgeon and Alex Schoenborn were also American born players selected in last June's draft. This gives a little hope to American born players: Keoni Texeira, Ethan Price, Alex Overhardt, Michael Bullion and Nick Heid who were not selected for the game. Heid was recently listed as a Player to Watch by NHL's Central Scouting.

At the 2012 AAPG: Seth Jones notched a goal and was a +4 for Team McClanahan in their 5-2 win over Team Housley. Jones was then selected 4th overall in the 2013 NHL draft.

Important Players Back in the Fold:
-Chase De Leo was one of 6 cuts made by the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday, after not getting dressed in the Jet's first preseason game on Monday. He should already be back in Portland should be fresh for the trip up to Vancouver on Friday.

-Anton Cederholm, who was AHL eligible, made a lot of somewhat anxious Winterhawks fans happy, when he tweeted that he was headed back to Portland. Cederholm automatically becomes the workhorse in the back end for the Hawks, as Portland's best defensive D-man. Anton got into one game for Vancouver; against San Jose down in Stockton, California.
I would like to thank for great two weeks and even greater experiences. Excited to get the season started with the boys in PDX!!

-Keegan Iverson was then sent down by the New York Rangers later on Wednesday, after not getting into the Ranger's preseason game Monday vs the New Jersey Devils.

-Brendan Burke played the 3rd period and Over Time for the Arizona Coyotes against the Calgary Flames in the Kraft Hockeyville game last night. He stopped 7 of 8 shots in that time, but gave up the OT winner to Calgary's Curtis Glencross. It is widely expected that he will be sent back to Portland at some point today, but is not official as of yet.

Petan and Bjorkstrand Still In Camps
-Nic Petan played in his 2nd preseason game on Wednesday evening in Winnipeg's 3-2 loss to Edmonton.Petan skated 15:55 of ice time on a line with Nik Ehlers and Matt Halischuk. He had 2 shots, 1 hit, 1 giveaway, 1 takeaway and was 67% from the face off dot. He also saw 1:23 in Power Play time. The Jets next preseason action is Saturday in Minnesota.

-Oliver Bjorkstrand also skated in his 2nd preseason game; a 2-0 win for Columbus over Pittsburgh on Tuesday. He had 3 shots, 3 hits, 2 giveaways and 2 takeaways in 16:10 worth of ice time and 3:02 of power play ice time. He was not listed as a player that took part in warm-ups before CBJ's game tonight in St. Louis and so will not play tonight.

Trades Galore!
-A quartet of deals tooks place in the WHL the last 2 days, 3 of which involved the Calgary Hitmen.
-Calgary sent 20 year old Winger Mike Winther to the Kamloops Blazers for a 4th round pick in the 2015 Bantam Draft. 
-They then sent Pavel(Pavlo) Padakin to Regina for a 3rd round pick. He was sent back, unexpectedly when the team overseas he was signed by, lost their arena.
-Lastly, Calgary sent 19 year old, former Everett Silvertip forward Linden Penner to Moose Jaw for a conditional 2016 6th round pick.
-Today, Seattle sent 20 year old Center Sam McKechnie to  the Saskatoon Blades for a 6th round pick. This leaves four 20 year olds on Seattle's roster, though Evan Wardley is still at Montreal Canadian camp. The other three that are left are Justin Hickman(out with an injury), Jaimen Yakubowski and Taran Kozun. If Yakubowski is the other 20 year old traded, this would make trading Carter Folk, Riley Sheen and a 3rd round pick last October for McKechnie and Yakubowski look quite awful.

Another Pick? Thanks We'll Take That!:
-Small Thoughts at Large blogger Alan Caldwell reported yesterday that Portland should have another 4th round pick as the New York Rangers sent Adam Tambellini back to the Calgary Hitmen earlier this week and this was a part of the original trade last December. So that's a 1st round pick in 2014(Cody Glass) and now this 4th round pick, all for a player who wasn't even going to play here. Not bad, not bad at all.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tuesday News and Notes: Turgeon Back and 3 Hawks on CSS Prelim List

Turgeon Back in Portland/Who's Next:
-Head Coach/GM Jamie Kompon revealed last night on "Hawkey Talk" that Dominic Turgeon had been released from Detroit Red Wings training camp.

-6 more Hawks are still at camp:
-Keegan Iverson did not skate in the New York Rangers first preseason game vs. the New Jersey Devils. New York next plays on Friday in Chicago. I would expect Keegan is sent back before then.
-Brendan Burke was not one of a total of 4 goalies suited up for yesterday's home and home split squad games for Arizona vs. L.A. Unlike the Rangers, though, the Coyotes have a heavy late of preseason games including a game 7pm tonight in Anaheim and a 4pm game tomorrow afternoon in Calgary. I could see him sticking around for these games before getting sent back. If he plays in Tuesday's game it is airing NHL Network in the United States.
-Anton Cederholm will play his first preseason game this year for Vancouver down in Stocton, California, for the away portion of a split squad series against the San Jose Sharks.
-Chase De Leo was not dressed for last night's Winnipeg Jets preseason tilt vs. the Minnesota Wild, but could see some time in tonight's game vs. Edmonton. In his first day of Jet's main camp he must've turned a few heads (literally) when he shattered a pane of glass behind the net.
-Oliver Bjorkstrand had 7 hits in a preseason (split squad) win over Carolina on Sunday in 14:02 of ice time and 1:33 of power play ice time. It was reported by Blue Jackets beat reporter Rob Mixer today that he should be skating on a line with (newly acquired)Scott Hartnell and Artem Anisimov. This means he's getting an extended look in Blue Jackets camp and with a good performance he could be out of Portland's lineup at least through this weekend. You can catch a live stream of this game vs. former Portland Coach Mike Johnston here at 4pm Pacific Time.
-Nic Petan skated 12:58 and 3:22 in power play ice time in Winnipeg's 2-1 win over Minnesota last night. He was also 33% from the face off dot.

3 Hawks Make Central Scouting's Prelminary Players to Watch List:
-Paul Bittner was one of only 5 WHL skaters given an "A" or likely first round pick rating. The others were Seattle's Matthew Barzal, Prince George's Jansen Harkins, Kelowna's Nick Merkley and Tri City's Brandon Carlo. The Hawks got a taste of 2 of these last weekend in Barzal and Harkins.
-Nick Heid and Keoni Texeira were both given "C" ratings or potential 4th-6th round pick. I would look for this to increase as the season goes on, especially as both of these D-men will see extended ice time.
-Ethan Price was left off the list and this could be due to his 5'10" stature more than anything else.
-Also left off the list were 2015 draft eligibles: Alex Overhardt, Colton Veloso, Evan Weinger, Jack Flaman and Michael Bullion, as well as, Layne Viveiros, Tyson Predinchuk and Adin Hill who were passed over in previous drafts. I would expect Weinger and maybe Veloso to get a little consideration in later lists if they continue to improve.
-Other U.S. Division players to make the list, along with their ratings were Seattle's Ethan Bear(B) and Ryan Gropp(B), Everett's Carter Cochrane(C) and Kevin Davis(C) and Tri City's Brendan O'Reilly(C) and Parker Wotherspoon(C). Spokane did not have any players listed.
-This type of list will definitely change but it is a pretty good indicator of who the scouts are going to be paying a lot of attention to.

Tips Make Big Move:
-Everett made a blockbuster deal on Monday when they traded for Russian import Nikita Scherbak from Saskatoon for Goalie prospect Nik Amundrud a 1st round Bantam Pick and a 2nd round 2016 Bantam Pick.
-Scherbak had 78 points last season for the Blades which was 35 more points then the next guy.
-He is currently at Montreal Canadiens camp and was named the player of the game for their Red vs. White game yesterday. As a first round pick, he will get a long look before being sent back, if he is.
-This trade gives the Tips their most explosive offensive talent in quite some time, however if Mirco Mueller is sent back from San Jose Sharks camp, they will have 3 imports, 1 more than the limit. This meeans they would have to trade Mueller, Scherbak or Russian Center Ivan Nikolishin.
-All in all, a lot to pay attention to, especially considering the Tips travel down to Portland for games this Saturday and Sunday.
-How much they had to give up is also an indicator of how much Portland might have to give up for a player of similar qualities (cough-Josh Morrissey).

Weird Fine:
2 days after Portland and Seattle were given $500 fines for a "multiple fight situation"in Friday's game, Tri City was given the same fine but Prince George was not. I did not see the game, but per the game summary there was not any evidence to support this.

It all started at the 10:39 mark of the 3rd period, in a 7-0 (TC) game. Jari Erricson was given a "checking to the head" penalty, which seems to have set up a 3 fight situation between Prince George's Aaron Macklin, Wil Tomchuk and Tate Olson and Tri Cities Parker Bowles, Brandon Carlo and Jackson Playfair. P.G. was given 2 more minors on the play, while T.C. was given 1 more 10 minute misconduct.

In my opinion, it takes two to tango and if the suspension is really for a "multiple fight situation" then both teams should be fined the same amount.

Hurricanes Reeling:
-First they lose back to back games vs. Medicine Hat over the weekend, now they lose 2013/14 31 point scorer Tyler Wong for 3 games for a checking to the head major on Saturday.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Cougars Start "New Ice Age" With 6-3 Win Over Hawks

Jansen Harkins
The Prince George cougars opened their season in Portland and came away with their first regulation win  over Portland since 2009 and their first win in Portland since 2008: 6-3.

Leading the way for the Cougars was former second overall Bantam Draft Pick Jansen Harkins, who set up their first goal by walking around the Portland defense and then scored their second goal with a nifty move on front of the net to give P.G. a 2-0 lead just 9:03 inot the game.

The Cougars would eventually lead 4-1, 2:27 into the 3rd period, before Portland's young players launched a spirited comeback with goals from Layne Viveiros and Paul Bittner (his 2nd of the night) to cut the lead to 1.

It was all for naught though, as 20 year old Chance Braid banked the puck in off Portland's starting netminder: Michael Bullion and in for a 5-3 lead with 6:18 let in the game. They would also net an empty net goal to skate away with the 6-3 win.

Ty Edmonds stopped 31 of 34 shots on the night for P.G., while Bullion stopped 28 of 33 in his WHL debut for the Hawks.

Game Notes:
-Harkins was a nightmare for the Winterhawks defense. He walked right around them consistently and walked in on Bullion.
-Speaking of this; the Hawks really need Anton Cederholm back from NHL camp with the Vancouver Canucks as not a single D-man on the roster is of the shutdown variety. None of the 6 dressed this weekend were able to cut down the angles of an onrushing forward and force them to the outside.
-Not only this, but they also allowed P.G.'s forwards to come out from the corner and rush the side of the net. This is the equivalent of letting a basketball player go right down the baseline for a layup.
-If the Hawks wish to be successful this season they will need at least one of their D-men(besides Cederholm) to exhibit some better positioning and play the shut down role.
-The biggest bright spot this weekend is that the young Hawks did not mail it in after going down 4-1 and showed some grittiness down the stretch in making it a game.
-Bittner was so much better on Saturday then he was Friday. He seemed to move his feet more and create space for himself and his teammates, rather than just relying upon his reach to keep the puck away from defenders. He also looked to shoot more and was rewarded with 2 goals.
-Skyler McKenzie will eventually be slotted in as a 4th line center and the 16 year old showed enough this weekend for this to be a great thing. He was the Hawk's #1 Center and, while he has some growing pains to get through in his defensive zone, he showed a real nose for the net and helped set up 2 of the Hawk's goals.
-Alex Schoenborn again got caught up in the after the whistle shenanigans  and served 8 penlty minutes in total. When you are one of your team's top 2 forwards, you cannot afford ot be off the ice for this long. His offensive play was much better this night, but he has to stay within his role and nmot try and do too much.
-You could tell that the 2 games in 2 nights was wearing down the defensive corps, as on Friday, Coach Jamie Kompon kept rookies Carter Czaikowski and Brendan De Jong apart and this night they were paired together multiple times including in a situation that directly led to De Jong high sticking a P.G. forward and the Cougars getting the insurance goal. Whenever Portland gets one of their more experienced D-men back, I would look for these two to play a much more reduced role this season.
-17 year old D-man Nick Heid probably played the least minutes of the 6 D-men and I can't say I really agree with this. Sure he has a long way to go before he is comfortable playing the WHL style, but he looked very competent in his own zone and made several solid defensive plays.
-Meanwhile, Layne Viveiros had one of his worst games in recent memory for the Hawks. He was consistently out of position on plays made towards the net and just does not seem to have the foot speed to make up for this. He did score a goal, but it bounced off a P.G. defender in front. He looks like he should still be playing the tole of a bottom paring D-man and Portland is playing him in a shut down role; which is not good.
-Jack Flaman was impressive in all facets of the game, especially the penalty kill. He was the Hawk's best penalty killer, which is amazing considering he was not even signed by Portland a few weeks ago. He has great anticipation and helped break up several passes in his own zone. If he continues to show this then he may ned up in 2nd or 3rd penalty killing pairing for Portland, even when the big names get back.
-Michael Bullion will probably not be pushing Adin Hill for his back up role anytime this season. He sat way back in his net and just did not look too comfortable in his debut.
-Portland's power play went 0/8 while P.G.'s went 1/9.
-P.G. was assesed 3 different kneeing minors in the game, including a particularly vicious one thrown by Sam Ruopp.

3 Stars:
#3: Chase Witala: Had 1 goal and 2 assists and created nearly as many scoring chances as line-mate Jansen Harkins did.

#2: Jansen Harkins: 1 goal and 1 assist on the night and was jus tone of the more fascinating players to watch out there on the ice.

#1: Paul Bittner: Showed that he may be more than just a linemate for some more talented players. I was really impressed with his ice vision as he made several nifty passes in th attacking zone.

Next Game:
-Portland gets back at it with their first road game on Friday in Vancouver, taking on the Giants. There is some hope that they will get some of their players back from NHL training camps this week, but we shall see.

Elsewhere in the WHL:
-Red Deer 4 @Calgary 1:
The Rebels bounced back from their opening night loss with '96 born Evan Polei's 2 goals.
-Edmonton 4 vs. Kootenay 2:
The Oil Kings unveiled their many banners and were aided by 17 year old Andrew Koep's 2 goals to get the win.
-Swift Current 5 @Moose Jaw 2:
One night after scoring a hat trick, Jat Merkley had 2 goals, giving him 5 in only 2 nights as the Broncos won their weekend set.
-Brandon 6 @Regina 1:
The Wheaties took down their rivals 2 nights in a row and got a natural hat trick from draft eligible Jesse Gabrielle.
 -Prince Albert 3 @Saskatoon 1:
P.A. swept the 2 games and out shot Saskatoon 44-25 and 30-21 in the 2 games.
-Medicine Hat 5 vs. Lethbridge 1:
Could be a long season for the 'Canes and they were not helped on this night by 2 different checking to the head majors by one of their better forwards: Tyler Wong. He was tossed from the game and will most likely face league discipline.
-Vancouver 3 vs. Victoria 1:
Victoria only had 2 shots in the 3rd period and was out shot 45-12 on the night.
-Kelowna 6 vs. Kamloops 1:
Kris Schmindli and Tyson Baillie both had 3 points apiece as the Rockets opened the season in fashion.
-Everett 1 @Seattle 0:
One night after spoing the Hawk's home opener, Seattle was shut out by Everett's 16 year old rookie Carter Hart.
-Spokane 4 @Tri City 2:
Garret Hughson stopped 33 of 35 to spol the American's home opener.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Prince George @ Portland Preview 9/20/14

The Prince George Cougars bring their "New Ice Age" to the Moda Center in hopes to get a great start to the season for a franchise that hasn't made the playoffs since 2010/11 and hasn't advanced past the first round since 2006/07.

There is reason to be excited this season for the Cougars, as they have a new General Manger: Todd Harkins and a playmaker in Jansen Harkins, who is primed for a breakout draft year season.

Last Season:
They come into Portland to take on the Winterhawks, who are still missing 9 regulars for the second straight game. Portland has swept the 4 game season series against P.G. for 2 seasons in a row and have not lost to them in regulation since 2/9/2009.  Portland outscored P.G. 28-11 in the 4 games last year.

P.G. lost: Todd Fiddler, Klarc Wilson and Peter Kosterman to graduation and Troy Bourke and Zach Pochiro as over-age, signed NHL prospects. Former #1 Bantam Pick Alex Forsberg was traded away to Saskatoon in the offseason, finally ending the soap opera like relationship between him and management. Also dealt was 19 year old forward Jordan Tkatch (to Prince Albert).

Missing Players
This is the Cougars best chance to take down the Hawks this season and they are likely licking their chops to go at such a young lineup that the Hawks are putting out. Portland is out 7 players at NHL camps and Josh Hanson (broken knuckles) and Blake Heinrich (concussion) are still out.

P.G. is missing 19 year old D-man Marc McNulty (Detroit), who is away at training camp. Out to injury are imports: Martin Bobos and David Soltes, as well as, 18 year old D-man Raymond Grewal.

Players to Watch:
Prince George:
-C Jansen Harkins- He had a fantastic Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament for Canada. netting 2 goals and 4 assists in 6 games; leading Canada to the gold medal. He is listed on the CSS Future Watch list and him having a breakout season could get him picked in the first round. He had 34 points last season and is their second leading returning scorer behind D-man McNulty.

-G Ty Edmonds- 18 year old Edmonds was much better last season then his .887 save percentage indicated, as he faced a lot of rubber for the Cougars. With an improved defense this season, he should face less quality chances and may get some looks in the 2015 NHL draft.

-D Sam Ruopp: With McNulty, Bobos and Grewal out, the 18 year old will get a ton of ice time and will be relied upon to play for the Coougars in every situation.

-G Michael Bullion: The 17 year old rookie will get his first WHL action tonight and has a lot to prove to the coaches as whenever Brendan Burke gets back from NHL camp, he is likely the odd man out.

-LW Paul Bittner: Bittsy did not create enough offense last night as the large Seattle defensemen had an easy time poking the puck away despite his long reach. He will need to get the puck in deep more tonight as this is not the Portland team that's going to be able to score off the rush unless they have 2 on 1s.

-RW Alex Schoenborn: The one drafted guy that is not missing at NHL camp will need to do more tonight then he did last night for the Hawks. Alex needs to realize that the team does not need him to get caught up in after the whistle shenanigans, as others like Jack Flaman or Travis McEvoy can take that role and the more skilled Schoenborn needs to stay on the ice.

-Portland created a lot more then the 1 goal would indicate last night  and I would look for them to create in the same ways (creating traffic in front of the Goalie) and hopefully the puck will bounce their way more this time.
-Portland's D-men need to be much better and not open up odd man rushes as the likes of Harkins, and Chase Witala will bury these.

T-Birds Take Down Short Handed Hawks 4-1

It wasn't the celebration the 8,000 plus expected for the Winterhawks first game of the season last night, but due to the 9 expected regulars missing, it wasn't as devastating a loss as it would've had they been in attendance.

Ryan Gropp and Matthew Barzal proved why they are top prospects for this coming 2015 draft by putting a lot of quality chances on Adin Hill, who stood tall but could not make up for the Hawks missing offense. Portland jumped out to a 2nd period lead of 1-0 when 19 year old Tyson Predinchuk backhanded the rebound of a Layne Viveiros point shot home on the power play.

This goal seemed to wake up the T-birds who took over form there and scored 4 unanswered goals in the final 35:21 of the game to take home their first win in Portland, over their last 4 tries.

Notes from the Game:
-I don't know what 17 year old Seattle forward Keegan Kolesar did, but he was a target for many Hawks players throughout the game. He was also the recipient of Brendan Leipsic's flying head shot last year, so maybe this goes back a little far. At one point Kolesar took an extra smack at Hill's pads after the whistle and he quickly was buried by several Hawks.
-Barzal and Gropp played with many different forwards, in the absence of their regular linemate Justin Hickman.
-Barzal has a ton of speed and seems to be able to get pucks to high traffic areas at will, no matter the defender.
-16 year old D-men Carter Czaikowski and Brendan De Jong were forced into regular shifts with the absence of Anton Cederholm, Josh Hanson and Blake Heinrich. Czaikowski made several nice plays in and around his own net but made just an awful decision to pinch that led to the 2 on 1 Alexander True goal that was the eventual game winner.
-De Jong also had trouble adjusting to the speed of the T-birds, but I expect both of them to improve dramatically as they get used to playing at this level.
-Skyler McKenzie and Reed Morison were the only true Centers in the Hawks lineup so we got to see many Hawks try their hand at centering other line combinations. Paul Bittner, Alex Schoenborn and Jack Flaman were just some of these.
-McKenzie looked solid for the most part and was probably the Hawks best creator of offense. He made one pass into the slot from down behind the net that was reminiscent of a pass Nic Petan likes to make. He was slow however in back checking and covering Ryan Gropp in the slot for Seattle's 3rd goal.
-17 year old Evan Weinger showed a lot of skill and speed. I would look for him to take a spot on the Hawks eventual 3rd line with Ethan Price and whichever one of the Hawks between Dominic Turgeon and Keegan Iverson is forced to play 3rd line center.
-Scott Eansor had a poor game for the T-birds with several poor plays and 2 different minor penalties, including a kneeing call.
-Kaden Elder and Jack Flaman were both given 10 minute misconduct penalties as they were the late fight to get started in a 3 fight melee.
-This multiple fight situation earned both teams $500 fines for both Portland and Seattle.
-Seattle was 2/7 on the power play and Portland was 1/5.

3 Stars:
#3 Adin Hill: Hill made his season debut an impressive one as he stopped 33 of 37 shots, including about 3-4 impressive scrambling saves. He had to know with how many players were missing, that he was going to be forced to be the #1 star of the game in order for them to win.

#2 Ryan Gropp: Gropp was all over the place and was probably robbed by Hill 3-4 times, otherwise he would've had more than his 2 goals on the night.

#1 Matthew Barzal: Barzal was easily the best player on the ice all around. He struggled against the Hawks last season as he was hit every chance they got. He looks to have bulked up this season and has taken a large step forward in skill as well.

Elsewhere in the WHL:
-Brandon 4 vs. Regina 2: 18 year old Brandon Center Duncan Campbell had 2 assists and was a +3 in his 3rd career WHL game.
-Medicine Hat 3 @Lethbridge 2: The Hurricanes could only muster 18 shots on net, but did get 2 goals from their Russian import: Pavel Skumatov in his WHL debut.
 -Prince Albert 5 vs. Saskatoon 3: 20 year old P.A. D-man Sawyer Lange led the way with 1 goal and 2 assists.
 -Kootenay 5 @Red Deer 3: Balanced scoring was the story for the Ice, as 4 different players had 2 point apiece.
 -Swift Current 6 vs. Moose Jaw 0: 19 year old S.C. Center Jay Merkley had the season's first hat trick as he scored 3; 2 on the power play and one short handed.
 -Kamloops 6 vs. Victoria 3: Both Cole Ully and Josh Connolly had 1 goal and 2 assists for the Blazers, as they took down the Royals. Coleman Vollrath had an awful season opener for Victoria and was yanked after giving up 4 goals on only 14 shots.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Portland vs Seattle Preview 9/19

                                Seattle @ Portland (1st Game of the Season) 7pm Moda Center
The moment we have all been waiting for will finally arrive tonight as the Seattle Thunderbirds come into the Moda Center to take on the Winterhawks at 7pm.

The 4th straight Western Conference Championship banner will be raised (getting a little crowded up there), as well as, the U.S. Division Banner.

Last Season:
-Portland was 9-2-1 last year vs. Seattle ouscoring them 63-31. To say they were dominant in some of those games is an understatement, as they blew them out twice: 10-2 and 10-4.
-Seattle would beat Everett in 5 games in the playoffs, before being swept by Kelowna in the 2nd round.

-Seattle lost 3 of their top 5 scorers in LW Alex Delnov (63 Pts), RW Branden Troock (58 Pts) and LW Roberts Lipsbargs (52 Pts). They also lost LW Mitch Elliot and are currently sitting at 5 over-age players (limit is 3 by 10/4). Center Jaimen Yakubowski was also traded in the offseason to Moose Jaw.
-They will have to choose between Defensemen Even Wardley and Adam Henry, forwards Sam Mckechnie and Justin Hickman and Goalie Tarzan Kozun. My guess is they will eventually go with Hickman, Henry and Kozun.

Missing Players:
-As I covered in my previous post, Portland is currently missing 7 players at NHL camps and 2 (off the current roster) to injuries.
-Seattle is missing (Captain) Justin Hickman (shoulder), Evan Wardley (Montreal Canadians camp) and Shea Theodore (Anaheim Ducks camp) for tonight's game.

Players to Watch Tonight:
-RW Colton Veloso: The 17 year old got a few games last season and of the 1997 and 1998 born players on the roster, he appears the most WHL ready. He has agreat ice vision and had 2 assists in the preseason game vs. Spokane in Everett. With so many bodies missing to start the season, he may be relied upon to play second line minutes.
-D Joshua Smith: He played off and on with Prince George the last few seasons, but adds a significant presence to the back end despit only being 5'11". He has a devastating slap shot, skates well and fights with the best of them.
-G Adin Hill: Hill should get the start this season and the 18 year old needs a good start to prove that this season will be a breakout one for him. He should also face a ton of shots with most of Portland's top layers missing.

-C Alexander True: The Dane was Seattle's top CHL import draft pick and is their best hope to replace the scoring that Delnov and Lipsbergs accounted for last year. He is a lanky body that needs to add some size, but has shown flashes of offensive brilliance.
-D Ethan Bear: The 17 year old is in his draft year and will be counted on to take a lot of Theodore's responsibilities tonight. Bear is a smooth skating D-man, who, in the prseason games I saw him in was more than a competent power play QB.
-G Taran Kozun: The over-age Goalie had a fantastic year last season, after being acquired from Kamloops, but recently there have been questions arising about whether he should be one of the 20 year olds that is kept as 18 year old Danny Mumaugh looks ready to be the #1 netminder.

-With so many of Portland's top players missing tonight and Seattle's Matthew Barzal and Ryan Gropp looking to take advantage of their first chance this season to wow the scouts, Portland could be in for a rough night. The Hawks will need the mish-mash group on Defense (most notably Layne Viveiros, Smith and Keoni Texeira) to stand tall and get the puck quickly out of the zone and keep the pressure on a Theodore-less Defensive grouping.
-Another thing to look for is how new Coach/GM Jamie Kompon does in his WHL coaching debut. There will be a lot of comparisons made early on between him and Mike Johnston and an opening night win will go a long way to promoting his own legacy. 
Elsewhere in the WHL Tonight:
Regina @ Brandon (First game between the 2 teams expected to battle for the East Division Crown)
Medicine Hat @ Lethbridge (Canes expected to start their 16 year old Goalie in his debut)
Saskatoon @ Prince Albert (P.A. is missing their top 2 scorers from last year)
Kootenay @ Red Deer (Rebels looking to prove they should host the 2016 Memorial Cup)
Moose Jaw @ Swift Current
Victoria @ Kamloops (First game of Brandon Magee's suspension served while he is away at Flames camp)

Winterhawk Roster Merry Go Round

Due to players missing at NHL training camps (thanks for starting so late this year NHL!) and injuries, the Winterhawks management had to scramble for bodies in order to field a team for tonight and tomorrow's games. Along with details on these are my PREDICTIONS on when the missing players will be back

Who is Missing and Why?
Nic Petan (C)
-Winnpeg Jets training camp. Like all players away at camp, it is unknown when he will be back and since he played so weel at the Young Stars tournament, he could see some preseason games.
-Winnipeg has preseason games on 9/22, 9/24, 9/27, 9/29, 9/30, 10/2 and 10/4.
-I expect him to play most if not all of the preseason games. If he does play in all of them he will miss the frst 7 Hawks games of the season.

Chase De Leo (C)
-Also at Winnipeg Jets camp. He is still unsigned though and is behind Petan on the depth chart. It was a great sign for him though that he was not among the 6 players re-assigned on Tuesday.
-I would expect him to see limited action in the preseason and miss 4 games at max. If he sees extended time in these games, he could get an NHL deal from the Jets.

Oliver Bjorkstrand (RW)
-Columbus Blue Jackets camp. He has an professional contract and scored 4 goals in 4 games at the Traverse City tournament (which the Blue Jackets won). He should impress in practice and scrimmages with his pro-ready shot.
-Lumbus has preseason games 9/21, 9/23, 9/25, 9/27, 9/29, 10/1 and 10/4. I would expect him to play in about half of these games and miss 4-6 WHL games to start the season.

Anton Cederholm (D)
-Vancouver Canucks camp. He has a pro contract. Anton, as a D-man didn't get HL blog pieces written about his play at the Young Stars tournament, but I watched 2 of his games and he was steady while the rest of the D-men each had some bad turnovers leading to goals against.
-Vancouver has preseason games on 9/23 (split squad), 9/25, 9/26, 9/29, 10/2 and 10/4.
-He should at least action in one of the split squad games vs. San Jose. He is unique in that he is a 19 year old that could be assigned to Utica of the AHL. I predict he gets an extended look, but is eventually sent down to Portland. This decision may be influenced by what Minnesota decided last year with Mathew Dumba.

Brendan Burke (G)
-Arizona Coyotes camp. Unsigned. Burke saw some action in the 2 rookie games Arizona had vs. L.A. earlier this week.
-Arizona has exhibition games on 9/22 (SS), 9/23, 9/24, 9/28, 9/29, 10/1 and 10/3.
-I would expect him to play in the first week there as there is a lot of games in a row and then be back in town for the Hawks 3 in 3 nights next weekend.

Keegan Iverson (RW/C)
-New York Rangers camp. Unsigned. Iverson played on the 4th line in all 3 Rangers Traverse City games.
-I was somewhat surprised that Iverson was invited to camp and do not predict he will last past the first cut. He will probably only miss this weekend.

Dominic Turgeon (C)
-Detroit Red Wings camp. Unsigned. Turgeon centered the 4th line for Detroit at the Traverse City tournament and must've impressed enough to stick around.
-Like Iveron, I would only expect him to miss this weekend's games.

Josh Hanson (D)
-Injured with broken knuckles. He did not play in any of the Hawk's preseason games and was still in a cast as of last week. Word is that he is just now gripping his stick again. Because of this, he could miss a couple more weeks.

Blake Heinrich (D)
-Injured with a concussion. He apparently sufferd this consussion from a hit he received in a game at the Tri City preseason tourney. Recovery from concussions are so unknown that it's really anyone's guess when he will be back.

Other Roster Substractions:
Adam De Champlain (C)
-Adam decided to forgo his 20 year old season, where he might have worn a letter, in order to play for the Camrose Kodiaks of the AJHL. Camrose is about a 40 minute drive from his hometown of Sherwood Park.

Justin Greer (D)
-Has been battling an illness and was taken off of the roster in order to give him the time to recover.

Zach Paterson (D)
-This was surprising, as he is an 18 year old D-man and gives them a body to throw in a really depleted lineup. His being sent back to Midget, makes me think that he could be a trade piece at some point.

Roster Additions:
Reed Morison (C)
-Morison had been sent home from camp after the Tri City tourney, but was quickly recalled, as he was the only body, under a WHL education contract that was not already in the opening night lineup. This will give him the opportunity to impress the coaches again and maybe stick around.

Travis McEvoy (RW)
-Travis was released from the Vancouver Giant's camp as their 4th 20 year old and Portland quickly gobbled him up this morning, in order to have 11 forwards in the lineup tonight. McEvoy is an enforcer type who has a large body (6'0" 215 lbs). This adds some size the roster and a guy who can drop the gloves. I don't think he will last too long with the Hawks, unless he realy lights it up this weekend. In 3 seasons with Saskatoon and Vancouver he has 23 goals, 26 assists and 147 penalty minutes.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Returning Winterhawk Profile: #44 Keoni Texeira

(Editors Note: In the countdown to the season opener on September 19th, I will be looking at each individual returning player in an extended profile)

Last Up (in numerical fashion): #44 Keoni Texeira

Born: 3/24/1997
Hometown: Fontana, California
Position: Defense
How Acquired: 2nd Round (26th Overall) Bantam Pick in 2012.

NHL Drafted: Eligible in 2015

-2013/14: 65 Games Played, 2 Goals, 14 Assists, 16 Points, +21, 30 Penalty Minutes
              Playoffs: 21 GP, 2 G, 3 A, 5 Pts, 8 PIMs.

-Texeira made a strong impression on Hawk's fans last season, especially after his first WHL goal was the teddy bear toss goal on 12/19. If Texeira is not the fastest Winterhawk on the roster, he is somewhere close. Early in his first season in the Dub, he did not have the confidence to lead the rush up the ice, but as the year went on, he showed more and more confidence. This confidence enabled him to blow past defenders on numerous occasions, setting up solid goal scoring chances. Keoni, also has a fantastic slap shot and as he becomes more knowledgeable in Portland's offensive system, he will use this as a power play quarterback in the near future. As a 16 year old, his speed was utilized a lot in the defensive zone when he was put out of position. One weakness he showed last year was not being able to move opposing forwards and win the 50:50 pucks along the boards. The 10 lbs he gained in the offseason should help him in his defensive zone play. He showed a lot of grit last year as well, when he took a puck to the mouth and lost several teeth.

-Texeira, despite having fantastic speed and decent size is not currently on the 2015 NHL draft radar, but with top 4, if not top 2 pairing minutes, he should give NHL scouts every opportunity to see his talents. It is not unheard of for prospects to come out of nowhere to be top picks, as Travis Sanheim did last year for the Calgary Hitmen. This is something that is easily attainable for Texeira, especially playing in the up tempo system that the Winterhawks look to play this year. If Anton Cederholm misses extended time this season, Keoni may have to log serious minutes for Portland and how he grows as a player will directly affect how well the team does this year.

Previous Returning Winterhawk Profiles: Layne Viveiros, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Dominic Turgeon, Alex Schoenborn, Nic Petan, Tyson Predinchuk, Keegan Iverson, Adam De Champlain, Chase De Leo, Paul Bittner, Josh Hanson, Ethan Price, Anton Cederholm, Brendan Burke

Returning Winterhawk Profile: #42 Layne Viveiros

(Editors Note: In the countdown to the season opener on September 19th; I am looking, individually, at each Winterhawks returning player).

Next Up (In Numerical Fashion): #42 Layne Viveiros

Born: 8/4/1995
Hometown: St. Albert, Alberta (Is Austrian/Canadian)
Position: Defense
How Acquired: 9th Round Bantam Pick (#196 Overall) in 2011

NHL Drafted: Eligible in 2015. Was passed over in 2013 and 2014.

-2011/12: 39 Games Played, 0 Goals, 3 Assists, 3 Points, +4, 11 Penalty Minutes.
-2012/13: 22 GP, 0 G, 5 A, +2, 10 PIMs.
-2013/14: 63 GP, 3 G, 17 A, 20 Pts, +21, 32 PIMs.
              Playoffs: 7 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 Pts, 0 PIMs.

-Viveiros, in his 3 seasons so far with the Hawks, has been a depth Defenseman, whose poor decision making has caused his coaches to not trust him enough to give him regular ice time, especially in the playoffs. Over the last 2 seasons, as the Winterhawks season wore on, he got healthy scratched more and more. Viveiros fits into the Winterhawks system well, as he is a a smooth skater, with decent offensive ability. When in the attacking zone, Layne is a confident playmaker who has played some as a power play quarterback. While in his own zone though, he struggles when placed under pressure and does not use the boards enough to get the puck out. He also needs to work on clearing out bodies from in front of his own net.

-Viveiros has enough offensive upside that he was placed on Central Scouting's "Ones to Watch" list before last season. If he maintains consistency in his improvements this seasons, there's no reason why a team wouldn't take him with a later round draft pick. He can improve the odds of this happening by lighting up the relegation part of the World Junior Championships in early December, He played forward for Austria last year and could be placed in a similar role by His Father, who is the coach, this year too. For the Hawks though, he may finally be counted on to play top 4 pairing minutes on the back end. If he can keep from turning the puck over in his own zone in bad areas, he could stay in this role and improve on his offensive numbers. He already has proven his toughness and although fighting is not his best asset, he doesn't hesitate when it is needed. With him being placed in a leadership role this season, this may be needed more.

Previous Returning Winterhawk Profiles: Oliver Bjorkstrand, Dominic Turgeon, Alex Schoenborn, Nic Petan, Tyson Predinchuk, Keegan Iverson, Adam De Champlain, Chase De Leo, Paul Bittner, Josh Hanson, Ethan Price, Anton Cederholm, Brendan Burke

Returning Winterhawk Profile: #27 Oliver Bjorkstrand

(Editors Note: In the countdown to the season opener on September 19th; I will be looking, individually, at each returning Winterhawk, who looks to be on the opening night roster).

Next up (in numerical fashion): #27 Oliver Bjorkstrand

Born: 4/10/1995
Hometown: Herning, Denmark
How Acquired: 1st Round (#26 Overall) CHL Import Draft in 2012

NHL Drafted: Columbus Blue Jackets 3rd Round Pick (#89 Overall) in 2013. Signed on 12/27/2013.

-2012/13: 65 Games Played, 31 Goals, 32 Assists, 63 Points, +38, 10 Penalty Minutes.
              Playoffs: 21 GP, 8 G, 11 A, 19 Pts, 4 PIMs.
-2013/14: 69 GP, 50 G, 59 A, 109 Pts, +44, 36 PIMs.
              Playoffs: 21 GP, 16 G, 17 A, 33 Pts, 8 PIMs.

-Bjorkstrand wowed Hawks fans instantly with 3 goals in his first 2 games in a Hawks sweater. He played for his hometown team the Herning Blue Foxes of the Danish Professional League with his older brother Patrick and so immediately adjusted to top level play pretty easily. With his wicked wrist shot and his hard one timer, he could score at any level. Goal scoring was not the struggle for Bjorkstrand, it was other areas of the game that needed to adjust.

He came into Portland at 6'0" 165 lbs and has put on about 10 lbs since then, but this lack of size is what is holding him back from already being in the NHL. He has such an elite combination of stick-handling, offensive awareness and nose for the net that the only thing truly keeping him from playing at the next level is this. He can definitely overcome this with a lot of hard work in the wight room in the offseason, but for now, we get the treat of him playing  in a Portland sweater for one more season.

Despite his size, Oliver is great at working in tough areas and has not shied away from contact since day one. In his first season he was targeted and knocked off his feet consistently. Last season he got a lot better at keeping his feet. This showed in the playoffs where he led the WHL in scoring with 33 points in 21 games.

-Bjorkstrand will assuredly have a long training camp with Columbus, as evidenced by his 3 goals and 1 assist in 3 games at the Traverse City tournament this past weekend. His offensive skills alone will be enough to intrigue Columbus into keeping him around for at least a few preseason games. He should also miss time at the World Junior Championships with Denmark, who he helped qualify for the tournament last season out of the relegation bracket last year.

The 60+ games Portland will get him for should be a treat as he is expected to play on the top line with Nic Petan and Paul Bittner. He should also reprise his role of terrorizing WHL teams on the top power play by sitting in the slot waiting for the perfect feed from Petan. He had 17 power play goals last season and should improve on that this season. Another deadly part of his game is his role as a second unit penalty killer. He had 4 short handed goals last season and he had an insane one in which he danced around2 defenders and a goalie in the preseason, so this should improve as well.

Previous Returning Winterhawk Profiles: Dominic Turgeon, Alex Schoenborn, Nic Petan Tyson Predinchuk, Keegan Iverson, Adam De Champlain, Chase De Leo, Paul Bittner, Josh Hanson, Ethan Price, Anton Cederholm, Brendan Burke