The Portland Winterhawks un-ceremoniously made their decision about their over-age dilemma today, by removing Trent Lofthouse and Trace Elson from the preseason roster on their website. Both were invitees to training camp, played the Neely Cup and each played 2 games at the preseason tournament in Everett last weekend.
The decision somewhat cements the Winterhawks with their limit of 20 year olds on the roster. They are: Center Adam de Champlain and Defensemen Joshua Smith and Josh Hanson. De Champlain was 10th round Bantam Draft pick in 2009, joined the Hawks as an 18 year old for the 2012-13 season and has spent most of his time on the 4th line for the last two years. Hanson was an 8th round pick in the 2009 draft and has played 255 games over the past 4 seasons with the Hawks. Smith is the only free agent invitee that is still around. He was actually drafted much higher than Hanson or de Champlain, as he was a first round pick (19th overall) by the Prince George Cougars in 2009. This decision is more likely in wet cement, as Coach/General Manger Jamie Kompon could choose to take one of these three off the roster if a better perceived option presents itself, especially since it has been reported that Hanson is injured and could be out at least until the regular season starts on September 19th.
Cutting Lofthouse and Elson is not too terribly surprising, as both did not stand out in the same way Smith did this last weekend, or free agent invitee Adam Rossignol did a season ago. Lofthouse notched 2 assists in Friday’s 7-5 preseason win over Spokane, but failed to register a point and was a minus 1 in Saturday’s win over Tri City. At times his play was sloppy and you could tell that he was frustrated. The chemistry was just not there between him and his then potential 3rd/4th line teammate de Champlain and he was used sparingly in both games as a penalty killer; something your over-age forward not playing in the top 6 usually does.
Elson, meanwhile played Friday and Sunday, notching 1 assist and recording an overall minus 1. I really don’t have much to say about his game on Friday, as he really just wasn’t that noticeable on the ice. He really never made any big mistakes, but did not really present one asset that the Hawks could not live without.
There may be other opportunities for these two out there, as injuries happen and they have both proven that they can contribute at the WHL level. The best of luck is wished to both of them. Lofthouse is eligible to play collegiate hockey and get free tuition for 3 years, as per his WHL education contract.
The roster now sits at 29, as both 15 year old Center Cody Glass and 16 year old Center Reed Morison are no longer listed as of today. Both players are signed by the Winterhawks and are still protected as they are not over-agers. We knew at some point Glass would get sent down, as he is only eligible to play 5 games this season during the regular season for the Hawks. I am somewhat surprised he is not hanging around for the start of the season as Portland will most likely be missing, at least, 6 forwards at NHL camps, but they probably want the preseason games to go to the eligible forwards they will have to make tough choices on to start the season.
Morison appears to be that first 16-19 year old cut, but it is possible he left for some other reason and could be back. Though a recent Tweet he sent from the Vancouver airports appears to confirm he will not play anymore preseason games, nothing has been released by the Winterhawks officially and this is an educated guess. Morison played Friday and Saturday for the Hawks in Everett and had 1 goal and 1 assist, but was an overall minus 2. If I were to guess at a reason the Hawks sent Morison down, it would be for him to put a little more size on his frame and to work on his 2-way play. He appeared out of position at times defensively and was prone to bad plays. That being said, this guy has a bright future with the organization and if any injuries occur, I would expect them to call him up. He played last season for the Calgary Royals Midget AAA team and could return there.
Portland’s roster now sits at 29 players at this point (15 forwards, 11 Defensemen and 3 Goalies), meaning there are a few more cuts to make after the preseason games this weekend.