-The forward group for 2015/16 is taking shape now as the Winterhawks announced Monday that they have signed their two 2015 CHL Import Draft picks to Education Contracts. The Hawks first pick is 6'3" 179 lb, 19 year old, Latvian Center: Rodrigo Abols. He has played for the Latvian International team for multiple years and has provided points for the team a each tournament he's played in. Abols has also worn letters on multiple occasions and could wear the "C" for the Latvian team at the World Junior Championships Division 1A tournament this December. If he is named to the Latvian team for Division 1A tournament it would mean he would be playing at the U-20s for the 3rd straight year.
While playing for the Maritime Hockey League's HK Riga last year, Abols notched 38 points in 35 games and was named to the All Star Team. He also moved up to the Continental Hockey League (KHL) where he scored 5 points in 14 games for the Latvian based: Dinamo Riga. It was likely he would've played again in the KHL this year as a 19 year old, but he's elected to come over and play for the Winterhawks instead.
Ericson is a 5'9" 163 lb, 19 year old Center from Sweden that was taken in the 2nd round of this year's import draft. He's played for the Leksands J18 and J20 and last year in Sweden's Junior League he scored 42 points in 43 games before moving up to Sweden's pro league, where he was pointless in 11 games. I don't think it's fair to compare the two player's stats when they moved up top the professional level as Abols has a bigger frame and thus more equipped to play against grown men then Ericson probably was.
While Head Coach/GM Jamie Kompon praised both Abols and Ericson for their "200 foot game" and commitment to both ends of the ice, Hawks fans should be patient with them for the first couple months of the season, while they get adjusted, especially if Kompon puts one of them at the 2nd line Center spot, which is likely.
Here's how I see the forward depth chart as it now looks:
- Paul Bittner-Dominic Turgeon-Keegan Iverson
- Alex Schoenborn-Rodrigo Abols*-Evan Weinger
- Skyler McKenzie-Alex Overhardt-Ethan Price
- Jack Flaman-Carl Ericson*-Cody Glass
- Austin Gray-Reed Morison-Colton Veloso
- Brett Clayton*
- Caleb Jones*-Jack Dougherty*
- Blake Heinrich-Keoni Texeira
- Brendan De Jong-Nick Heid
- Carter Czaikowski-Justin Greer
- Conor MacEachern*-Jackson Caller*
- Jake Hobson*
- Adin Hill
- Michael Bullion
Price and Greer are question marks at this point as Price left the team mid-season last year to play for the USHL's Lincoln Stars, while Greer missed training camp with an illness last season and it is unknown if he played at all last year (I could not find proof that he played anywhere).
If these two are in the fold then Portland currently has 16 Forwards and 11 D-men signed to Education Contracts. Usually there is a couple signings around when the Neely Cup happens in late August, but outside of some of the 15 year olds and the likely signing of a 3rd Goalie, I really could not see them adding many more players. Obviously, if Kieffer Bellows, Fredrik Olofsson, Jack Glover or Ryan Collins decided to come then they would be sure to find room.
One of the interesting things as the season starts is if the Hawks will go after a 3rd over-age player as right now they only have Heinrich and Schoenborn. Having this many players already on the roster will give Portland's coaching staff the ability to assess where help is needed the most and they can go after that position in a trade.
Bartschi Still Without a Contract:
-Vancouver Head Coach Willie Desjardins is apparently a big fan of former Winterhawk Sven Bartschi but that till does not mean that the Canucks have given in and signed him to a long term deal. They appear to just be offering a 1 year "show me" 2-way deal but Bartschi's camp wants a 1 way contract for longer then 1 year. Now today with the Canucks sending away a large piece of the Ryan Kesler trade in Nick Bonino and also a top prospect in Adam Clendening, signing Bartschi has to be imperative. If they cannot find a way to sign him then they essentially blew another trade. I would look for him to be signed soon.
-Former Winterhawk Gasper Kopitar signed with the ECHL's Manchster Monarch's today. He played 12 games between 2009-11 for Portland before leaving for Des Moines of the USHL. Since then he's played over-seas and in the ECHL. Last year for the Ontario Reign he scored 25 points in 41 games.
Johansen in Portland:
-Ryan Johansen has been visiting Portland this week as part of the Winterhawk's Hockey Camp for kids. He was also a part of the Winterhawk's Golf Tournament over the weekend. It's great to see someone who's succeed at the professional level come back and give back to the community.