Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday's Winterhawks News and Notes: What's the Deal with the Price Situation?

A whole lot of stuff going on in the world of the Portland Winterhawks the last couple of days.
Price Released by Hawks; Will He Report to Royals Camp?:
-The Portland Winterhawks have released Ethan Price from their protected list, no doubt expecting that he wanted to stay and play for his hometown Lincoln Stars of the USHL. Price left the teams last season after playing 38 games, scoring 4 goals and 5 assists for 9 points. The reason cited for his leaving the team was some "family issues" and it made sense as Price was able to return and play at home and live with his family. The move back to Lincoln came at a poor time in terms of his development as after being buried on the 4th line for much of the first part of the season, he began playing some with Dominic Turgeon on the team's 3rd line to some positive results. He scored goals on consecutive nights 12/27 and 12/28 against Seattle and Spokane respectively. He was starting to play consistent hockey and driving at the net to dig pucks out of those tough areas. Price's physical play was starting to pick up as well.

Oregonian reporter Scott Sepich broke the news:

In Winterhawksnews, I've been told that Ethan Price is planning to remain in the USHL with Lincoln this season and won't return to Portland— Scott Sepich(@SSepich) August 19, 2015

It was expected that if Price decided to come back and play in the WHL, he would do so for a team in Portland that could use some players who had scored goals at the WHL level before, after losing their top 3 scorers. Instead Price was dropped off of the Hawk's 50 man protected list a little while ago.

I was then surprised to read from Vancouver, B.C. area reporter: Dickson Liong that Price had been picked up by the Victoria Royals and was expected to attend Royal's camp beginning August 31st. Reportedly, Price himself has said that this is not true and he will be returning to play for the Lincoln Stars. If Price left the Hawks due to being too far from home, why would he then go play for a team that's not even in his home country? I guess we will have to wait for Royals camp to begin before we can truly say for sure that Price will not go there, but at this point I would side with the people saying he will play for the Stars.

Bittner Signed by Blue Jackets:
-I wrote a piece for the Seattle Sin Bin, detailing Bittner being signed by the Columbus Blue Jackets. I would expect him to now get some extended looks at Columbus training camp and maybe even get into a preseason game or two, like Oliver Bjorkstrand did for CBJ last preseason.

Greer Released by Hawks:
-Another 2012 Winterhawk's draft pick, who has played game for Portland: Defenseman Justin Greer is no longer on Portland's protected list and so has been dropped by the Hawks. Greer showed potential as a 16 year old in 2013/14; getting into 6 games total over two different stints with the team (December 13-17, 2013 and March 5-8, 2014). Greer was pointless but notched a +1 overall in the 6 games. He showed signs of being a smooth skating, puck moving D-man. Then during training camp in 2014, with a spot on the Hawk's blue line seemingly his for the taking, he came down with an illness that kept him out of hockey for the entire 2014/15 season. It's unknown at this point, if Greer has retired from hockey, but one would expect that if he were to play hockey this season, it would be somewhere in his hometown of Edmonton, Alberta.

Thomas Frazee Signs Deal with ECHL Team:
-Former Winterhawk Thomas Frazee (2005-07) signed a deal with the ECHL's Gwinnett Gladiators Wednesday. Frazee was traded by the Greenville Road Warriors to Gwinnett in June in exchange for forward Anthony Luciani. Last season, the big former first round Bantam pick (in 2005) of the Winterhawks, had 18 goals and 23 assists for a combination of the Fort Wayne Comets, the Evansville Icemen and Greenville. He even played several games in the AHL for the Charlotte Checkers. Frazee is the definition of a "well traveled, journeyman hockey player." He was drafted by the Hawks 11th overall and played for them during his 15 and 16 year old seasons, amassing 7 goals and 6 assists in 76 total games, before being traded to Medicine Hat before his 17 year old season. Frazee would then play for three other WHL teams before going on to a professional career.

Jones Spotlighted by Edmonton Journal:
-The Edmonton Journal profiled the Oiler's 4th round pick in this June's draft: Portland's Caleb Jones. It does a pretty good job of going over all of the scouting reports on Jones. They all seem to agree that he a tireless player who will not be out-worked on the ice. He is reportedly not dominant in one thing but is solid at all areas. In the several games I watched him play at the World Juniors Evaluation Camp, he demonstrated a gritty, tough game and also showed that his skating is probably just as good as his older brother and former Hawk: Seth Jones. As a younger brother myself, I can attest that when you have an older brother beating you at sports all of the time, it tends to put a chip on your shoulder and inspires you to play aggressively at all times. If Caleb makes it to the NHL, it will be because he is being driven in this way and is going to work harder than the next guy. Interestingly enough, he could be competing for an NHL contract with Seattle's Ethan Bear, who was drafted a round later than Caleb by Edmonton. This will add an underlying story line to each Seattle-Portland game this season.

1997-98 Teams Comes in at #7 on List: 
-Andy Eide over at Sportsnet is nearing the conclusion of his "Top 25 WHL teams of all time" in celebration of the 50th season of the WHL. Portland landed their 3rd and likely final team in the top 25 with their 1997-98 Memorial Cup winning squad, ranking 7th. The team that had the likes of Marian Hossa, Brenden Morrow, Todd Robinson, Andrew Ference, Kevin Haupt and Brent Belecki is the Hawk's best team of all time in my opinion and Andy's as well. I have so many fond memories of that year; the top one being Belecki corralling a loose puck with seconds left to play and Portland leading by one goal in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final. It will be interesting to see where Andy has Swift Current's 1989 team in the top 5 overall (I'm assuming they are in there).

Leier Rated as #13 Flyers Prospect:
-Broad Street Hockey looks at where former Winterhawk Taylor Leier (2011-14) ranks among Flyers prospects. Leier's 31 points last season were not too bad for his first professional season, but he will probably need to fare better at the AHL level, before the Flyers will call him up for an NHL debut.

Two New Names on Prospect's List:
-Clayton Phillips (1999 born D-man) and Noah Lee (2000 born D-man) were two new names on the Winterhawks "Prospects List" on their website. Phillips is a 5'11" 161 lb left-handed D-man, who is going into his Junior year at Edina High School in Minnesota. He played with fellow Hawk's prospect Garrett Wait with Edina and also was on "Team Grey" at the USA Select 16 camp this summer, where he had 4 points in 5 games. Lee is 5'8" and 154 lbs and played for Anaheim Jr. Ducks Bantam AAA team last season. At the U.S. Select 15 camp, he notched two assists in 5 games for "Team Kelly." He played with 2015 Portland Bantam Draft pick: Stanislav Demin last year. Neither of the two D-men have committed to NCAA schools as of yet.

Wellar Re-signs With Alaska
-Former Winterhawk: Patrick Wellar (1999-2003) has signed a contract with the ECHL's Alaska Aces. The 31 year old from Carrot River, Saskatchewan was a player/assistant coach with the Utah Grizzlies last year, but it appears he will not keep that same role with Alaska. Since turning pro in 2004, he has jumped back and forth between AHL and ECHL teams, winning three different Kelly Cups in that time.

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