Monday, September 21, 2015

Monday's Portland Winterhawks News and Notes: Who is Left at NHL Camps?


Hill, Dougherty, Turgeon and Jones Return:
-Over the past couple of days, gradually news has leaked out that Adin Hill (Arizona), Jack Dougherty (Nashville), Dominic Turgeon (Detroit) and Caleb Jones (Edmonton) have all been re-assigned to the Portland Winterhawks. This was expected news for Hill and Jones but somewhat un-expected (this early anyways) for Dougherty and Turgeon as they are both signed NHL prospects, while Hill and Jones are not. Turgeon did not have a statistically strong showing at the Traverse City Tournament (0 points, Minus 3) and Detroit has several other prospects that they'd like to take a longer look at (Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha among others) during the preseason. Larkin and Bertuzzi put up much better numbers at the TCT and if they were not already above Dominic on the organizational depth chart, they definitely are now.
-Dougherty, meanwhile played all three games at the Estero Tournament as a top 4 pairing D-man and by all accounts was solid. This was a long look and it must've been enough for Nashville. The AHL was an option for Dougherty, as a 19 year old that was drafted before he signed a contract with a CHL team, but my guess is that Nashville was planning on him spending a season in the WHL all along and maybe even on this time table.
-Jones and Hill were just drafted by their NHL teams and both got a little taste of NHL training camp before heading back to the Rose City.
-All four players will bring what they learned from professional coaches to benefit their games this season.

Txeira, Iverson and Bittner Still at NHL Camps:
-Meanwhile, Keoni Texeira (Washington), Keegan Iverson (N.Y. Rangers) and Paul Bittner (Columbus) remain at their NHL camps. Each NHL team does their cuts at their own discretion, so this does not necessarily mean that they did better at their camps then the four who went home did.
-Texeira is the biggest surprise as he was not drafted by Washington this last June and is on a ATO (Amateur Try Out). Washington is playing Carolina tonight and Texeira is not in the lineup, though I do not believe he is even eligible to play in a NHL games, until he signs an ELC (Entry Level Contract). Texeira is hoping to emulate the path that Joe Hicketts took to getting signed by the Detroit Red Wings last October, after being passed over in the NHL draft. Capitals website writer Mike Vogel may've put it best:

-Keegan Iverson, also does not have a signed contract with his NHL team, but his impressive play at the TCT may be a reason why the Rangers are taking a longer look at him before sending him back to Portland. Yesterday, during a scrimmage, he played on a line with projected 4th line forwards: Tanner Glass and Dominic Moore.  Iverson could learn a lot from those two, who together have played well over 1,000 NHL games, mostly as depth forwards. Iverson is not in the lineup as the Rangers take on the New Jersey Devils in preseason action tonight.
-Paul Bittner is the lone, remaining Winterhawk, at an NHL camp who has a signed NHL deal. At the Blue Jacket's practice on Saturday, Bittner was one of the prospects that stood out and made a good impression. He is not expected in the lineup tonight as the Blue Jackets take on Pittsburgh but could play Tuesday vs. St. Louis.

Ryan Hughes Not Re-assigned Yet:
-16 year old forward: Ryan Hughes was thought to have been re-assigned since his name was taken off the Winterhawk's preseason roster, but according to Greg Drinnan of Kamloops News, this was done due to a computer error. So with Hughes back in the fold, the forward group goes back to 18 players. If Iverson and Bittner are still not back by Friday and Igor Larionov II and Evan Weinger are still out with injuries, Portland will have 14 available Forwards. This is not a bad number to start the season with. If any of those four are available, however, I would expect Portland to start re-assigning some forwards.

Meanwhile, on Defense:
-10 D-men are left in camp, but 16 year old, Jackson Caller has missed most of the preseason due to an injury and was already a long shot to make a deep blue line out of camp. As soon as Texeira returns (it is inevitable), Portland has a top 4 of Dougherty-Blake Heinrich, Jones-Texeira that has to be one of the best in the WHL. Brendan De Jong and Nick Heid are both returning to the fold and were paired together during last Friday's preseason win over Everett. I would assume that they will be the 3rd pairing. Also, Carter Czaikowski was a plus 4 on Friday, while playing with Heinrich and appears to be ready to play at the WHL level as a 17 year old. Conor MacEachern (17), Jake Hobson(16) and Caller have played well at times during the preseason (especially Hobson) but I really don't see how they can break into this top 7 group. The best hope for those three to see some time with Portland is if Dougherty and Jones both make the U.S.A. World Junior team in December.

Friday's Preseason Finale Win:
-I was in attendance in Everett on Friday, when Portland and Everett played a back and forth game, fast resulting in Portland winning 7-4. There were several things that stood out the most to me about the game:
-Carter Hart's Struggles: The 17 year Sillvertips Goalie continues to struggle against the Hawks, giving up 5 goals, two of which were aimed at the exact same spot, his high glove side. Hart was pulled three different times last season against Portland and if this was not a preseason game, he would've been pulled again. I would think he will perform better when the season begins for Everett.
-Skyler McKenzie Looked Great: McKenzie is starting his draft year and if the game on Friday is any indication, he could work his way into getting picked next June. He looked to be one of the fastest players on the ice and scored two goals in the first period off of very nice looking wrist shots from the slot. His most impressive play though had to be his assist on Blake Heinrich's first goal of the night. He was parked in front trying to screen Hart on a shot from the left point. Hart gave up a rebound that he quickly found and backhand fed the puck to an onrushing Heinrich, who slammed it home in the wide open net.
-Colton Veloso Has Earned A Full Time Roster Spot (in my opinion): It seemed at times last year that he was trying to play the same way he did at lower level leagues, when he was one of the more talented players. This year he's played with far more grit and tenacity. This has earned him a role as one of the top penalty killing forwards during the preseason and he has excelled at it. On Friday, he actually created a couple of scoring chances while short handed. Due to the depth on the team, he may have to start the season on the 4th line, but if he continues to play the way he did in the preseason, I have little doubt he will earn more playing time as the season goes on.
-Michael Bullion With Another 42+ Save Performance: He has stopped at least 42 shots in all three preseason games now. The one thing he seems to struggle with is rebound control, which could be a reason that he faces so many shots. Beyond that, though  he was great. I loved his positioning on point shots as he was able to stop several re-directs in front. This is something teams like Everett excel at, so it was great to see how good he was against that type of shot.

Joe Morrow Is Trying To Make the NHL Full Time:
-Former Winterhawk: Joe Morrow (2007-12) is vying for a full time spot on the Boston Bruins roster. The Edmonton, Alberta native seems far more relaxed and easy going about his time with the Bruins organization then he was when he was with Pittsburgh or Dallas. This has appeared on the stat sheet too as Morrow has had far more success in Providence (41 points over 89 games) then Wilkes-Barre-Scranton (15 pts in 57 games). The fact that the Bruins will carry 8 D-men this year also works in Morrow's favor.

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