Thursday, March 24, 2016

Portland vs. Everett Round One Playoff Preview: Part Three: Forwards

In my running series previewing the first round playoff series between Everett and Portland, I have been taking a deep look at different areas of each team. On Tuesday, I looked at the goaltending match up and yesterday, I took a look at how the two team's defensemen compare.
Tonight, I will take a look at each team's forwards:

(#8)Patrick Bajkov:
-The 1997 born Nanaimo, B.C. native had a breakout season last year, jumping from having 19 points as a 16-year-old all the way to 45. This year, he only improved by one with 18 goals and 28 assists for 46 points. He was ridiculous on the power play last year, utilizing a hard and accurate one-timer to score a lot of his goals. This year, he has again spent a lot of time on the left half-boards for Everett, but has not seen the same success.Against Portland this year he had two goals and an assist for three points, while posting a minus one and notching four penalty minutes. He's mostly found himself skating on the second line for Everett along with Matt Fonteyne and a mix of other wingers. While he has not been as lethal, Bajkov still sports a heavy wrist shot and could make a big impact in this series.

(#12)Dawson Leedahl:
-The heavy forward and team captain is the emotional leader for Everett and when he is out there throwing checks and mixing it up after the whistle, they are a better team. If he is able to play through his broken hand, he could very easily be the biggest thorn in Portland's side in the series. He played a lot of the season on Everett's top line with Remi Laurencelle and Carson Stadnyk, but found himself being replaced by the hot, Connor Dewar, even when he was healthy enough to play. I think if Everett is able to win this series, they will do so with Leedahl back on the top line, creating more room for his line mates. He had 12 goals and 15 assists for 27 points this season and one goal and two assists for three points, in eight games vs. Portland. In those eight games, he tied for the team-high in plus/minus with a plus four and also had 10 penalty minutes.

(#13)Remi Laurencelle:
-Everett's leading scorer (58 points) and top-line center has also led the Silvertips vs. Portland with one goal and five assists for six points in 10 games. He has also won nearly as many face offs as he has lost vs. Portland's top center: Dominic Turgeon. A lot of these wins were during pivotal moments in very tight games. Is Laurencelle the prototypical top-line center for a team hoping to make a deep playoff run? No, likely not. But, he plays Everett's system to the letter and is one of the best players in the league at finding loose pucks around the net and swiftly beating the goalie with them. This is why he is the net-front presence on their power play and also the way he scored a lot of his goals. This is his overage season and he will carry a heavy load for the 'Tips this round, getting the match up with Turgeon and co. and trying like hell to shut them down. I'm looking forward to this match up.

(#14)Riley Sutter:
- Sutter broke his leg back in January and has not played since. He has been seen practicing this week and could be healthy enough to play by game one. I don't think he will see much action, even if he is strong enough to go. He had one goal and three assists in the regular season and no points in the three games he played in vs. Portland.

(#16)Carson Stadnyk:
-He was a Winterhawks' killer early last season, but did not have that much of an impact during the playoff series last year and had a let-down of an offensive output this year. He had a 20 point dip in points, in the same amount of games, which made him second on the team with 49 in 71 games. In 10 games vs. Portland, he scored four goals (most on the team) and had an assist, while posting a plus four plus/minus rating and eight penalty minutes. Three of those five points were in the 7-5 shoot out the two teams had. Stadnyk has been a bit of an enigma for me. He showed so much potential last year as a 19-year-old and even earned a look from the St. Louis Blue prior to the start of the season. He disappeared for large stretch of the season and in looking at his numbers vs. Portland, I was honestly surprised to see he did not miss any games, as I do not remember him having that much of an impact. He does play really well in his own zone and is one of the best forwards on his team, at getting the puck, quickly going the other way. Everett needs more form him, in order to win the series though.

(#17)Matt Fonteyne:
-Everett's second-line center has struggled vs. Portland this year. He had three assists in the 10 games, while posting a minus two, along with two penalty minutes. He did not fare very well at the face off dot, if I remember correctly and struggled, while being matched up against Cody Glass's line. Fonteyne does pretty well defensively (like most of these forwards) and while he is not much of a goal scorer (16 goals), but has pretty good ice-vision, posting a total of 32 assists (most on the team).

(#22)Graham Millar:
-He had 15 goals and 16 assists for 31 points this season, but has spent a lot of time on the team's fourth line. I have not watched enough of the Silvertips to know whether this was due to poor defensive play (something Constantine will not abide by), but it does seem that this is an odd place to put one of your few goal scorers. In 10 games vs. Portland, he had only one assist, with a minus three. He is really good at getting his stick on point shots and deflecting the shot past the other team's goalie. When Everett is controlling play, you will likely see him drive the net and try to do just that.

(#28)Devon Skoleski:
-I was impressed with the rookie, the first time I saw him play live, during the preseason. He has great ice-vision and seemed perfectly comfortable playing with the puck on his stick. He has continued that trend this season and had nine goals and 10 assists for 19 points this year. A pretty good output for a young guy, in such a defensive system. He tied for second most points vs. Portland this season with three goals and two assists for five points. His ability to see a play develop, has helped him look at home in Portland's up-tempo style. If the Winterhawks are able to impose their style, Skoleski will be one of the guys to look out for coming back the other way.

(#33)Brian King:
-King is another guy who has had surprising success vs. Portland. He had four goals and six assists for 10 points in 60 games this year, but he had three of those goals and one of those assists in just seven games vs. the Hawks. So, in his 53 other games, he has just one goal and five assists. He has played well as a third line winger and unlike Skoleski, I'm not really sure why he's had such success vs. Portland.

(#43)Connor Dewar:
-The biggest surprise for Everett, this year has been the great play by their 16-year-old left wing. He has 11 goals and seven assists on the year. One of those goals and one of those assists vs. Portland this season. Unlike King, Skoleski and Yan Khomenko, he has not had as much surprising success so far vs. Portland. All this can change as the small forward seems to have a knack for scoring the big goal. This knack led to him getting a lot of top-six ice time and he has not looked out of place at all.

(#44)Spencer Gerth:
-He has been mostly absent out there, in the seven games he played in vs. Portland. He was minus six in those games and had two penalty minutes. Those two penalty minutes were the most memorable thing he did as he collided with Portland's Adin Hill and got into a melee with the big goalie.

(#68)Dario Winkler:
-The Austrian forward was acquired from Brandon earlier this season and had seven goals and five assists in the 48 games since being brought in. In six games vs. Portland he has zero points. Winkler plays bottom-six minutes, but has shown a flare at times as a play-maker.

(#71)Brandon Ralph:
-Another forward from the Eastern Conference, Ralph plays a very different style then Winkler. He plays heavy, throwing lots of checks and trying to create turnovers for his mates. He has just five goals and three assists this season and none of those were against Portland. He has found a spot on the third line and could play a big role in trying to slow up Portland's third unit, or at least making them feel his presence out there.

(#77)Yan Khomenko:
-Along with King and Skoleski, Khomenko has been the other forward to have more success against Portland then the other team's he's played against. He has five goals and three assists this season and three of those goals were vs. the Hawks. He is a large, smooth-skating forward and has shown off the ability to make an effective power move to the net. This was how he scored one of his goals vs. Portland. If he continues to play so well vs. Portland, he may find himself playing further up in the lineup.

(#8)Cody Glass:
-The former first-round draft pick has gained some valuable experience this year, as he has played second-line center for most of the season. He is about to gain even more experience, as the WHL playoffs are unlike anything he's experienced as of yet. He had 10 goals and 17 assists this season for 27 points, but only had just one point (a goal) vs. Everett. He was also a minus three with two penalty minutes. This is somewhat surprising as he played a lot of those games with his line mate, Rihards Bukarts, who has had a lot of success vs. Everett. Glass has grown so much in his rookie year and, while inconsistent, he has made several passes that take you out of your seat. Were he to pull a Ty Rattie (Game Seven OT winner), I would not be surprised.

(#9)Rihards Bukarts:
-The "Tips killer had six goals and one assist in just five games, while with the Hawks and added another goal vs. Everett, while with Brandon. That's seven goals in just six games vs. Everett. How has he had suck success? Well, from what I have noticed, he has a great pump fake and makes the Everett D-men and forwards go down to try and block the shot, before releasing it, while using them for a screen on Carter Hart. He has also just had a knack for finding time and space under a lot of pressure in the Everett zone. Seven goals is also another sign that he knows where to shoot on Hart and what to do in order to confuse him, in so far as, where the shot is coming from. He needs to keep this up for Portland.

(#11)Bronson Sharp:
-The rookie played just one game vs. Everett and is still looking for his first WHL goal. He is likely just along for the ride this post-season.

(#13)Keegan Iverson:
-Iverson is a guy who at times, has played, like he is just along for the ride this post-season. He had 11 goals and 18 assists for 29 points, a lot less then I expected him to have. Vs. Everett, he had just one goal and two assists in nine games.He posted a minus two with two penalty minutes. One thing that I would like to see Iverson do a lot more of is impose his will in and around the net. He has a large frame and yet does not get his stick on the puck often enough when he is in tight on the net. I think Portland could survive more sub-par Iverson in the first round, but likely would not in the second round. It seems a foregone conclusion that Iverson will not be signed by the N.Y. Rangers and will become a free agent after this June's draft. That is unless, he starts to unleash his powerful wrist shot more often and get a handful of goals.

(#15)Tanner Nagel:
-He will likely see limited action as a fourth line right wing, but when he is out there he plays with more passion then a lot of the more skilled Hawks. Nagel played just four games vs. Everett and posted an even rating.

(#17)Alex Overhardt:
-The Hawks' third line center has been an enigma for Portland this season. He is stellar at the face off dot and plays well in his own zone, but has been incredibly inconsistent point-production wise. He had nine goals and 14 assists for 23 points, but just one goal and one assist in nine games vs. Everett. He has shown a lot of ability, but nine goals is not as much as coach Jamie Kompon wants from him. He has been healthy-scratched twice this season and while he responded well the first time, he has not the second. He will likely play with Evan Weinger and Skyler McKenzie and this line has the ability to have a huge impact.

(#18)Rodrigo Abols:
-The rookie is simply fun to watch. He had four of his 20 goals and three of his 29 assists vs. Everett this year. There are few better centers in the league on an odd-man rush, but Abols needs to do a little more, while his team has zone-possession. While rushing the puck he takes advantage of aggressive d-men, by faking like he is going to shoot and finding a skilled line mate in alone. While Everett's d-men are usually good at staying home, Abols still has had success at suckering them as well.

(#19)Ryan Hughes:
-Portland's other rookie center, has played so much better, the more confidence he has gained. He has three goals and 10 assists this year for 13 points. This is not half-bad considering that Hughes has been limited in ice-time, spending most of the year as the team's fourth-line center. In 10 games vs. Everett, he has two assists. Hughes has had a lot of chances to set up some goals on the second-unit power play, but has not had much success in that role. Towards the end of the season, Glass has taken his spot as the center on that unit and they have had much better puck possession. I am really looking forward to seeing how much better Hughes is next season as he will likely be playing in the top-six forward group.

(#22)Alex Schoneborn:
-One guy, who unlike Iverson, grabbed his last chance to earn an NHL contract and ran with it. He has been Portland's most consistent forward this year and has scored in so many ways. He has also left it all on the ice, by diving for loose pucks and throwing huge, open-ice checks. He is not Portland's captain, but definitely seems to be a leader in the room. The speedy winger had 27 goals and 30 assists this year and two of those goals and five of those assists were against Everett. One of his goals vs. Everett, was of the short-handed variety and he is probably Portland's most dangerous PKer in that way. His 16 penalty minutes were, by far the most on the team and that is really his biggest weakness. He needs to play right on that line to be successful, but too often, he has been coaxed into going too far.

(#23)Dominic Turgeon:
-Portland's captain had 36 goals and 34 assists this year for 70 points, but somehow, I still feel like he left a lot on the table. He is the most skilled forward in this series and he needs to take control of it for Portland. He had three goals and three assists for six points vs. Everett, while posting a plus one. Turgeon will not only be relied upon to provide some scoring, he will be needed to try and keep Laurencelle and co. off of the board as well. Turgeon plays in every different area on the ice and it seems likely that his ice-time will reach the Nic Petan range of around 25 minutes a game.

(#24)Brett Clayton:
-In eight games vs. Everett, Clayton had one assist. He plays heavy out there, but will be on Portland's fourth line, playing limited minutes. Clayton and Nagel will probably trade in and out of the lineup, but Clayton could get first crack.

(#25)Evan Weinger:
-Along with Overhardt, Weinger has been healthy-scratched this season, in an attempt to get him to shake himself out of his lack of offensive production. It's clear that the coaching staff sees so much ability in him, by giving him a lot of top-line minutes, but he has not been consistent enough to stay there. Weinger will likely be on the third line and though he had two goals vs. Everett, he still had so many more good looks that he fired wide. Overall, this season, Weinger had 25 points, but will need a good playoff run, in order to get serious NHL attention for the draft.

(#39)Colton Veloso:
-Veloso, meanwhile, also had two goals and added an assist, while playing fewer minutes then Weinger or Overhardt. He has relished his spot as a penalty killer and has done a great job at getting into shooting lanes and blocking shots, as well as, taking away passing lanes. He had 11 goals this year and has shown a good scoring touch, especially when juicy rebounds are allowed.

(#43)Skyler McKenzie:
-The small forward had three assists vs. Everett this season and 25 points over the entire season. During stretches this season, he has been explosive and has created some really good looks for the Hawks, but he is not expected to do this consistently. Really, I think McKenzie is a perfect player for Portland's system as he has perfected the art of creating turnovers in the neutral zone and turning it the other way. This is something that really plays into what Portland likes to do, as it creates odd-man rushes.

Edge Goes To:
-If you made it to the end of this long post, you will not be surprised that I am going with Portland. While, I still think that there is still a lot more that Portland can get out of their skilled forwards, they still have more skill overall then Everett's do at this stage.

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