Thursday, September 24, 2015

Thursday's Portland Winterhawks News and Notes: Two Big Questions

Who Will Be Portland's 2015/16 Captain?:
-With a lot of the U.S. Division naming their Captains recently and all of Portland's expected roster back in camp, we should be receiving an announcement soon regarding who will wear the "C" this year.
-Here are the top candidates in my opinion:
  • Blake Heinrich-1995-D: Heinrich was a Captain for his USHL team before coming to Portland at the end of the 2013/14 season. He also appeared to be a  steadying voice for the team, as his D-partner: Keoni Texeira's play was much better after he was joined by Heinrich.
  • Alex Schoenborn-1995-RW: The other, in house, 20 year old. Schoenborn is always one of the guys working the hardest in the weight room and in practice. So if Coach Jamie Kompon wants to make the Captain a guy who leads with his work ethic off the ice, he should look no further then Alex.
  • Paul Bittner-1996-LW: Bittner has grown so much as a player over the past few seasons and I have personally seen him take guys aside after they made mistakes, particularly in the preseason and console them. He's likely going to be playing in every situation for the Hawks, so will be on the ice, in a position to lead at crucial points in games. Also, I really liked how when the Hawks were in a funk during the early part of a game last year, he got into a fight and then looked at the bench and made an aggressive arm gesture, to get the team going.
  • Dominic Turgeon-C-1996: Another guy who will play in every situation for the Hawks. He also was an Assistant Captain on last year's team and so could step into this role pretty seemlessly.
-All 4 players would make a great captain for Portland buy my gut is telling me that it will be Blake Heinrich. He played a lot in the preseason and has been around the younger guys in the locker room a lot more than the other three, who were all away at NHL camps. Really, though Portland can't go wrong with any of those exemplarly individuals.

What Are Some Possible Line Combinations?:
-Spurred by a question from a loyal reader, I've done some deep (well not too deep, I might hurt myself) thinking about what line combinations Coach Kompon will use to start the season. Now that the final roster has been set, we can put together a more accurate guess.

Left Wing
Right Wing
7)Paul Bittner
23)Dominic Turgeon
13)Keegan Iverson
43)Skyler McKenzie
18)Rodrigo Abols
22)Alex Schoenborn
17)Alex Overhardt
20)Carl Ericson
25)Evan Weinger
24)Brett Clayton
8)Cody Glass
39)Colton Veloso
*12)Igor Larionov II
19)Ryan Hughes
29)Austin Gray

*=Injured and out day to day with a lower body ailment.
16)Blake Heinrich
5)Jack Dougherty
3)Caleb Jones
44)Keoni Texeira
21)Brendan De Jong
14)Nick Heid
4)Conor MacEachern
28)Carter Czaikowski

31)Adin Hill
25)Michael Bullion
-Bittner and Turgeon were put together during the preseason games they played together and will likely have to be productive together or apart for Portland to be successful this year. Either Iverson or Schoenborn will most likely play on their other wing depending on who is playing well.
-The other of the two Right Wings will likely play on a line with Rodrigo Abols, the Latvian import Center and I would guess the 17 year old Skyler McKenzie who moved up from the 4th to 3rd line last year and should get the chance to move up again. He's improved so much over the offseason and should excel in this role.
-While Cody Glass and Carl Ericson showed some great chemistry in the preseason, I don't think Glass will start the season in the top 9, quite yet, at least with Evan Weinger healthy and ready to play. Alex Overhardt, meanwhile played a lot of Left Wing, instead of Center and if he plays with Ericson, will be entrusted with helping the under-sized Swede defensively, the way Bittner did at times for Nic Petan last season.
-Kompon also really seemed to like having Anton Cederholm and Blake Heinrich together on the PK last year and Dougherty and Heinrich seem like they could be destined as a pair as they both really excel at getting the puck up the ice quickly, something Kompon loves his D-men to do well.
-Meanwhile, both Jones and Texeira seem comfortable playing on the right or left side, despite them both being left handed shots. I like the combination of two very mobile D-men as a 2nd pairing.
-Heid and De Jong were paired together during last Friday's game against Everett and looked like they complement each other's style pretty well. I would love to see how these two grow as a pairing as the season goes. I feel like Heid, in his 18 year old season has the talent to play in most teams top 4, but will not get much of a chance there with the Hawks. De Jong's strength is still not quite there yet for Portland but as a 6th D-men this will not be exposed as much as it was during the preseason games I saw him play.

New Pucklandia Pod with Gregg Drinnan:
-The fantastic podcast hosted by Chad Balcom has entered it's 3rd season and has WHL historian Gregg Drinnan as a guest to talk about fighting in hockey today. It is a must listen for a fan of hockey at any level (well those that allow fighting at least).

U.S. Division Podcast Previewing the Division:
-Another great listen as Scott Sepich goes over each U.S. Division team's strengths and weaknesses with Andy Eide of Sportsnet and 710 ESPN.


Jamal Watson Still at Montreal's Camp:
-Seattle may have thought that they had their over-age situation all figured out after acquiring Watson from the Lethbridge Hurricnaes, but this was thrown a curve ball when he impressed at Montreal Canadians camp and is still there, making him miss at least their season opener. It could be that he earns a pro contract in the Habs system and Seattle has to find a replacement.

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