Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Tuesday's Portland Winterhawks' News and Notes: Any Chance a Winterhawk Wins a Major Award?

Could Caleb Jones win Western Conference Rookie of the Year?
With just nine games left in the season, Portland Winterhawks' fans might be placed in an unfamiliar position. It looks like a Winterhawk may not win any major award or category for the first time in four years. Oliver Bjorkstrand led the league goals and points on his way to winning WHL player of the year last season. The year before that Derrick Pouliot won WHL and CHL defenseman of the year. In 2012/13 Seth Jones won WHL rookie of the year, while Nic Petan and Brendan Leipsic tied for the scoring title. You have to go back to 2011/12, to find a year where a Winterhawk didn't win at least one of the major categories (goals, assists, points, plus/minus and penalty minutes) and awards.
Parker Bowles

So let's take a look to see if Portland has any chance at any of the major awards this season.
Western Conference MVP:
-This along with all of the others mentioned, is an award where a Western Conference player is nominated along with an Eastern Conference nominee. Then a "WHL MVP" is chosen between the two.
In my opinion, the Western Conference spot is really up for grabs at this point.I think Parker Bowles, who is currently fifth in scoring and has been a real leader as Tri-City makes a late playoff push, has a real chance of being nominated. However, if the Americans miss the playoffs, I doubt he will be chosen. The other scoring leaders in the West are Kelowna's Tyson Baillie (currently fourth in scoring), Victoria's Alex Forsberg (11th), Seattle's Mathew Barzal (12th) and Prince George's Jesse Gabrielle (14th). I think Barzal could win if Seattle overtakes Everett and wins the U.S. Division. If that does not happen though, the comeback story of Alex Forsberg may be too much free P.R. for the WHL to pass on and I think he is the favorite to win the West's nomination. No Portland player is likely to get consideration for the West's MVP award.
Carter Hart

Western Conference Goalie of the Year:
-This one Portland has a player with at least an argument, but Adin Hill is far from being the favorite. The favorite in this category is 17-year-old Carter Hart. The Silvertips' goalie is second in Goals Against Average (2.12) and fifth in Save Percentage (0.919 ). He is also tops in wins with 34. Others with arguments ahead of Hill are Coleman Vollrath (Victoria), Ty Edmonds (Prince George) and Connor Ingram (Kamloops). All of them have a GAA that is lower than Hill's. Hill does have the second most wins in the WHL and has faced nearly 600  more shots than the next goalie though. His 1,878 saves are by far the most in the league this year and his 0.918 save percentage is right behind Hart's. He just has not been consistent enough to warrant having a real argument for the award, unfortunately.
Joe Hicketts

Western Conference Defenseman of the Year:
-This, to me, is a slam dunk as Joe Hicketts has had a fantastic season. Hicketts is third in Western Conference d-man scoring a 52 points and of the top group of scoring d-men, he has by far the highest plus/minus at +29. He should win the WHL d-man of the year award too, but Lethbridge's Andrew Nielsen has a pretty good argument. Seattle's Ethan Bear leads Western d-men in scoring with 58 points, but I've seen him turn the puck over way too much in rreally bad spots, to make an argument for him to win this award. Caleb Jones (fourth with 49 points) and Jack Dougherty (sixth with 47 points) are also among the conference's leading defensive scorers, but both have been far more inconsistent in their own zone to be named the best in their conference.
Matthew Phillips

Western Conference Rookie of the Year:-
-Again, another far and away favorite that wears a Victoria Royals' jersey. 17-year-old Mathew Phillips has been a huge surprise this year as he leads all rookies in scoring with 70 points. I could see Caleb Jones getting some love in this category as he leads all rookie d-men in scoring, but Phillips has been too big of a story as an undersized play-maker, for anyone to think that Jones would beat him for this award. Phillips will likely win the WHL award as well, though Noah Gregor (Moose Jaw) and Egor Babenko (Lethbridge) may get some Eastern Conference based votes.

Western Conference Coach of the Year:
-Dave Lowry won the award two years ago and has to be the favorite to win it this year as well. No one expected the Royals to contend for the B.C. Division title, let alone contend for the WHL title. The fact that he has gotten the most out of Forsberg and other retreads like Vladimir Bobylev, Ethan Price and Marsel Ibragimov is enough for him to be a huge favorite. If Lowry does not win, Everett's Kevin Constantine could walk away with the award. He has completely turned around the Silvertips and could be leading them to their second straight U.S. Division title, after they spent their previous few years mired in the cellar of the West. Portland's Jamie Kompon does not stand a chance in this category, though he has impressed me with his ability to use tactics that are usually only used at the professional level, like healthy scratching, players.

Western Conference Executive of the Year:
-This is the award most in the air outside of the MVP. If the Tri-City Americans get into the playoffs, I think you could give the award to Americans' General Manager Bob Tory the award, simply for not dealing Brandon Carlo when everyone and their Mother thought he would. Teams like Spokane and Vancouver made the most trades, but neither really made a trade that jumped out to me like a steal. Victoria G.M Cam Hope could warrant some appreciation in this category as he has picked up some of their most important players with late draft picks or, just up off the waiver wire. He could make it possible that Victoria wins at least four of the West's big awards.

-So really no Winterhawk is a favorite and if anyone wins an award, it would probably have to be Caleb Jones for rookie of the year. It would be a pretty cool storyline to have both Jones brothers win rookie of the year.

Winterhawks in the NHL Monday:
-Craig Cunningham returned to the NHL Monday and skated on the Arizona Coyotes fourth line. He blocked a shot, fired two shots on net and threw two hits in the Coyotes' 6-0 loss to Derrick Pouliot and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
-Braydon Coburn assisted on Tampa Bay's first goal in their 2-1 win over the Brendan Leipsic-less Toronto Maple Leafs (they sent him down to the AHL before the game).
-Colton Sceviour scored to tie the game at one for Dallas against Detroit. Detroit would go on to win in overtime 3-2.


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