Sunday, July 31, 2016

Caleb Jones at the USA's World Junior Evaluation Camp

Caleb Jones

Caleb Jones is at the United States' U-20 World Junior Evaluation Camp this summer again. After being at Lake Placid, New York the last couple years, the camp is in Plymouth, Michigan this year. The camp is the first step for USA Hockey in choosing the squad that will represent the U-20s at the World Junior Championships in Montreal and Toronto, beginning December 26th.

Jones was part of the Evaluation Camp last summer and made it past the cuts needed to combine the USA White and USA Blue rosters, but was not invited back in December for the final camp, before the team traveled overseas. He should have a much better shot at making the team as a 19-year-old puck-moving d-man, but will still need a strong camp to help make his argument.

With top d-men like Zach Werenski, Louie Belpedio, Will Borgen, Brandon Carlo and Brandon Fortunato all too old to return and play for the U-20 team, Jones has a great opportunity to not only make the team, but play a big role for the Americans this winter.

This year Canada has joined Finland and Sweden to make it a four (after the USA cuts Tuesday) team exhibition tournament. It should be a fun little primer for the big tournament and give us a chance to preview what the different rosters will look like.

Jones is on USA Blue and their first game will be this afternoon at 1pm PST vs. Finland. Winterhawks' prospect goalie Jake Oettinger will also be on USA blue along with Tri-City Americans' goalie and Black Diamond, WA native Evan Sarthou.

On USA White, meanwhile are Spokane Chief forward Kailer Yamamoto and Portland prospect Kieffer Bellows. Their first game starts at 10am PST today and it is against Sweden. Bellows started on the first line left wing, while Yamamoto was slotted the fourth line right wing. I will be watching as many games as I can of the camp and will try to do a daily recap of how Jones, Portland prospects and Sarthou and Yamamoto performed and what their outlook to make the final roster is.

Suiting up for Finland is 1999 born d-men Henri Jokiharju, who was just selected by Portland in this year's import draft and recently signed. Finland is suiting up almost exclusively a 17-year-old squad for the Evaluation Camp, so that they can take a long look at some of their younger players.

Cody Glass, Henri Jokihrju and the U-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament

With the end of July comes the fast-approaching U-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament.  In order to get the rosters for the tournaments, countries like Canada have a number of players invited to camps, where the national team coaches can evaluate them and ultimately decide whether they will be invited to go to the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Cody Glass finds himself in the mix for the U-18 team, one year after competing at the Five Nations tournament for Team Canada Red (Canada split into three teams to make it an eight-team tournament). This year, he is one of 44 players vying for a spot on the 22-man Canadian roster for the U-18 Ivan Hlinka tourney. The camp takes place Saturday, July, 30th through Tuesday, August second. Three different intra-squad Red vs. White scrimmages will take place Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to help the coaches make a decision. Once a decision is made on the final roster, those 22 players will go to the Ivan Hlinka tournament which runs August eighth through 13th. Canada's first match is at 8:30 am on the eighth vs. Slovakia.

Among the 24 invited forwards and competing for the 16 forward spots with Glass are six other WHL players. They are: Jaret Anderson-Dolan (Spokane), Jordy Bellerive (Lethbridge), Brett Davis (Lethbridge), Jake Leschysn (Regina), Stelio Matheos (Brandon) and Michael Rasmussen (Tri-City). There are also four WHL d-men among the 16 blue-liners vying for six spots. Those WHLers are Josh Brook (Moose Jaw), Brayden Gorda (Edmonton), Jonathan Smart (Kelowna) and Scott Walford (Victoria). Ian Scott from the Prince Albert Raiders is one of four goalies trying for two spots. Doing the math there, 1/4 of the U-18 roster is from the WHL (11/44).

If Glass is able to make the U-18 roster, it will do nothing but help his 2017 NHL draft stock as this tournament is essentially the start of the scouting season fro NHL teams. Usually one or two players have breakout tournaments and start to gain some attention on their way to being drafted in the first round.

Canada has dominated, historically at the Ivan Hlinka, winning the last eight and 11 of the last 12. This is one of two major U-18 tournaments with the other coming in April. Due to the CHL season, Canada usually ices a much stronger roster for the Ivan Hlinka tounrey, while Team USA does the reverse. The U.S. has won six of the last eight U-18 World Junior Championships with this strategy.

Already chosen on for the U.S.'s U-18 Ivan Hlinka team this year, are unsigned Portland Winterhawks' prospects Ryan Poehling, Brannon McManus and Clayton Phillips. Poehling was listed by Portland, but has committed to play for St. Cloud State University starting this fall. He is a 6'3" 185 lb forward, who scored more than two points a game last year for his high school, before scoring four points in nine games in the USHL with the Lincoln Stars during the 15/16 season. McManus was selected by Portland in the fourth round of the 2014 WHL bantam draft, but has committed to play for the University of Minnesota starting this fall. He was rookie-of-the year in the USHL last season with the Omaha Lancers, notching 39 points in 58 games as a 16-year-old. Phillips is another protected list add-on for Portland, who had 15 points in 25 games from the blue line last year with Edina High School. While none of these prospects are that likely to play with Portland, they will still be players to watch at the Ivan Hlinka tournaments, just in case they do change their minds.

Expected to join Glass as Portland Winterhawks in the Czech Republic and Slovakia is newly signed defenseman Henri Jokiharju. The Finnish d-man represented his country at the both the U-18 Ivan Hlinka and the U-18 World Junior Championship as a 16-year-old last season and should be a lock to make the Ivan Hlinka tourney team this year. He even won gold with the Finns at the U-18 WJCs. I am looking forward to getting my first look at the right-handed d-man, who will be manning the blue line for Portland this year when he plays for the U-20 team at the U.S.'s NJEC this week. Finland chose to carry mostly 1999 born players for the Evaluation Camp, rather than have a lot of their older players attend. I would not assume that just because he's suiting up for the U-20 team in Plymouth, he will play for them in Toronto and Montreal at the World Junior Championships.

Winterhawks-Centric U-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament Schedule:
Monday, August Eighth:
-6:30am: USA vs. Finland
-8:30am: Canada vs. Slovakia
Tuesday, August Ninth:
-6:00am: Canada vs. Russia
-6:30am: USA vs. Sweden
10:00am: Finland vs. Czech Republic
Wednesday, August 10th:
-5:00am: Canada vs. Sweden
-6:30am: Finland vs. Switzerland
-10:00am: USA vs. Czech Republic
Friday, August 12th:
-Semifinal games
Saturday, August 13th:
-Third place and Final games.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Winterhawks' Prospects Competing at National Development Camps

Brannon McManus
It's July and that does not mean hockey is taking a break. For a number of Portland Winterhawks' prospects, it meant a chance to play at National Development Camps and put themselves in the running for future international tournaments. Let's take a look at the different camps that have/are going on and how the prospects did.

The United States national program has several "Select" camps each summer and for the "Select 16s" and "Select 17s", it meant a chance to earn a spot on the U.S. U-17 team for the Five Nations Tournament August 9th-13th in Dallas, Texas and the U-18 team for the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in the Czech Republic and Slovakia August 8th-13th, respectively. Four different Winterhawks prospects were successful in their quests to make these national rosters.

Chronologically, the Select 17s camp took place first and went from June 25th-30th.
For all three camps, the invited players were split into a number of teams and then the best players off of those teams were placed on one of either of two all star teams (blue or white), excluding the Select 15s, where there was no all-star teams or games.
Select 17s (Born in 1999)
Team Royal:
Brannon McManus- C/RW-Newport Beach, CA-Committed to the University of Minnesota.
-Team went 3-2 and he led all players with nine points in the five games. He was named to All-Star Team White and went pointless in their 5-3 loss to Blue. Because of his successful outing at the camp, he will also be competing with the U-18 U.S. team at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament in August. McManus was selected in the fourth round of the 2014 Bantam Draft by Portland and is committed to play for the University of Minnesota, starting in 2017. He made the USHL All-Rookie Team while playing with the Omaha Lancers last season. If he continues his torrid pace at the Ivan Hlinka, he should start garnering a lot of interest for the 2017 NHL Draft.

Team Columbia:
Ryan Poehling-Center-Lakeville, MN-Has committed to St. Cloud State.
-Team went 1-4 and Poehling had two goals and three assists for five points. He was named to one of the All-Star team (Team White) and went pointless in their 5-3 loss to Blue. Just like McManus, Poehling impressed enough to be named to the U.S. U-18 Ivan Hlinka roster.
Ryan Poehling

Team Gray:
Cole Guttman-Center-Northridge, CA-Committed to St. Cloud State.
-Gray went 4-1 overall and Guttman had three goals and two assists for five points overall. He was not named to an all-star team, nor was he invited to join the U-18 roster overseas.

Clayton Phillips-D-Edina, MN-Committed to the University of Minnesota.
-His team went 3-2 overall and he had one assist. He also had an assist for All-Star Team Blue, which won their game for All-Star Team White 5-3. Phillips was also named to the U.S. U-18 team for the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament. So, between McManus, Poehling and Phillips, Portland is well represented at the U-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. Of course, none of those three have been signed by Portland yet, but we can always hope.

Next up for the U.S. select camps was the "Select 16s," who went camping from July 9th-14th. Portland had three prospects invited.
Select 16s (Born in 2000):
Dawson Klein-D-Lakeville, MN-No commits.
-His ream went 2-3 and Klein had two assists in their 6-2 win over Team Gray. Klein was passed over for the U-17 Five Nations Tournament and the all-star teams.

Stanislav Demin-D-Cypress, CA-Has signed with Wenatchee Wild of BCHL.
-Orange was undefeated with a 5-0 record and he had four assists. His camp was highlighted by his three assist effort in Team Orange's 5-1 win over Team Kelly. Demin was just named to the U.S.'s U-17 national team for the Five Nations Tournament, prior to the completion of the Select 16 camp. Demin was also named to the All-Star White team, which fell 2-1 to All-Star Blue. Demin will play with, fellow Orange teammate and signed Everett Silvertips' prospect Ryan Savage for the U-17 U.S. team. The Five Nations Tournament goes August ninth-13th in Dallas, Texas.

Noah Lee-D-Los Angeles, CA-No commits.
-Gold went 4-1 and Lee had an assist in their 7-1 win over Team Black and another in their 5-2 victory over Team Royal. He was left off both the Five Nations' roster, as well as, both all-star teams.

-The last camp to go this summer was the Select 15s camp, which is from July 17th-20th.
Select 15s (Born in 2001):
Callan Sandquist-Goalie-Castle Pines, CO-No commits.
-Portland's seventh round selection, was one of only 24 goalies from the 2001 age group, across the country to be invited. He started the camp, by turning away 13 of 14 shots, on his way to a win in Orange's 4-1 victory over Team Forest. Next, Sandquist stopped 12/13 shots and Team Orange won again, this time 5-3 over Team Royal. Sandquist closed out the camp with 14 saves on 15 shots in Orange's 4-3 OT loss to Team Gray. Overall he stopped 39 of 42 shots that he faced for a 2.00 GAA and 0.929 save percentage. His save percentage was good for third overall in the camp, out of 24 goalies.
Judd Caulfield-Forward-Grand Forks, N.D.-No commits.
-The Winterhawks took Caulfield with their 10th round pick this summer. He gave Red their first lead of the tournament in their first game. They would go on to beat Team Teal 3-2. In their second game, Team Red poured it on Team Gold, as Caulfield had a goal and two assists for three points, in a 10-2 win. Caulfield and Team Red finished their camp with a 5-4 win over Team Black. Caulfield added another assist for a total of five points in the three games. This tied him for fourth overall in camp scoring.

Also taking place this month, British Columbia U-16 Hockey hosted their Provincial Camp and two Winterhawks were present in Shawinigan. On the line, were invitations to represent B.C. at the Western Challenge U-16 Cup. Holden Kodak and Jason Chu both did well enough at last April's B.C. Cup, that they were invited to Provincial Camp. The invitees were split into two teams: Team Blue and Team Grey. The two teams split their four games, with two wins apiece.
Holden Kodak-Forward-Cloverdale, B.C.-No commits.
-The Hawks took Kodak in the 11th round of the 2016 bantam draft. His good camp, meant that he was named to the Team B.C. shortlist earlier today. He was third in scoring in the tournament with four points in four games. He also had three points in five games during the B.C. Cup.
Jason Chu-D-Coquitlam, B.C.-No commits.
-Portland drafted Chu in the fourth round of this past summer's draft. He scored twice and added an assist during April's Cup and added another assist in three games at the Prov. Camp. He was also named to the 30 player B.C. shortlist and should have a strong chance to represent his province in October at the Western Challenge Cup.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Winterhawks Acquire WHL Rights to Goalie Cole Kehler

The Portland Winterhawks made their first trade of the Mike Johnston 2.0 era today, when they dealt a conditional seventh round pick in he 2018 WHL bantam draft to the Kamloops Blazers for the WHL rights to 1997 born goalie Cole Kehler.

Kehler, who is out of Altona, Manitoba, was drafted in the sixth round (123rd overall) of the 2012 bantam draft by Kamloops. He spent most of his 16-year-old season with the Okanagan Hockey Academy Midget, and Prep teams. With the Okanagan Prep team, he posted an impressive 2.34 GAA and 0.934 save percentage in 14 games. He even got into 11 games with a struggling Kamloops squad that season, after backup goalie Taran Kozun was traded to Seattle. He posted a 5.16 GAA and a 0.857 save percentage for the Blazers.

The following season Kehler looked to be in the running for the starting gig after overage goalie Bolton Pouliot was "dealt" to Portland. However, fellow 17-year-old goalie Connor Ingram played better as the season progressed and got into 56 games, while Kehler only got into 21. Kehler struggled somewhat with a 4.65 GAA and 0.855 save percentage, helping make the decision to go with Ingram easier for Kamloops' coaches.

Kehler moved further down the Blazers' depth chart last year when 1998 born goalie Dylan Ferguson took over the backup spot in the preseason. Kehler ended up getting reassigned to the BCHL's Merrit Centennials, where he played 43 games, posting a 3.84 GAA and a 0.898 save percentage, for a team that missed the playoffs. Kehler then was assigned back to Kamloops for their playoff run, but did not suit up for any games, as their third goalie.

The trade makes total sense for Kamloops as they trade a 19-year-old goalie, who was not in their future plans, for a conditional pick. They appear to feel like that they are set with Ingram and Ferguson and how can you really argue with that logic.

Meanwhile, Portland has been put in a really bad spot, as far as, their goaltending situation, with Adin HIll signing with Arizona and very likely starting the season in the AHL with the Tucson Roadrunners. They were left with 1997 born Michael Bullion and 1999 born Ethan Middendorf as their only signed goalies. Also, Middendorf did not play any games last year with his team and is rumored to have been dealing with injury issues of the head variety. It is unknown whether Middendorf is even planning to continue playing hockey. Even if he decides to continue playing, taking a year off from the game cannot help him in getting ready for the WHL.

Bullion was only given seven starts last season and so his readiness to be the starting goalie this year is a big concern/question. This was not his fault, as coach Jamie Kompon decided it was a good idea to have Adin Hill start, literally every game that he was healthy enough too. This gave Portland with two goalies who had only played in 12 total WHL regular season games.

Acquiring Kehler gives Portland a backup plan, if Bullion falters when given the chance to start. It also gives the Hawks a backup goalie if Middendorf is unable to play. This, by no means, solves the goalie situation, as they could use another signed goalie or two, preferably in the 1999 or 2000 age group.

The pick will likely not even be given up, if Portland likes what they see out of a couple goalies at the Neely Cup, signs them and decides to release Kehler. Overall, it's a good safe play for the Hawks and if Kehler turns into a bona fide starter, then they got a steal.
Video of Kehler, back when he was in the running for the starting goalie spot in Kamloops.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Portland Signs Jake Gricius and Lane Gilliss

Portland made their first non-import signings of the Mike Johnston 2.0 era official today, when they announced that they had signed 1999 born forwards Jake Gricius and Lane Gilliss. These signings add two more forwards to this age group giving them five total now. Ryan Hughes, Cody Glass and Bronson Sharp are the others. Gilliss has been on the protected list for some time now, but Gricius was not on the protected list the last time I checked (about a month ago) and so his signing is a little out of the blue. In fact Tri-City Americans' general manager Bob Tory tweeted last July that Gricius was on their protected list. He would have to have been dropped from their list at some point, in order to be picked up by Portland.

What made his signing even more unexpected, is the fact that he had signed with the BCHL's Wenatchee Wild in late April of this year. It seems clear that Johnston and Co. were able to add and then quickly sign the left-handed forward. There is a lot unknown, as far as, what agreements, if any, were made between the two teams, so we will have to wait and see if this is a case where Johnston recruited a talented prospect away from Bliss Littler and the Wild, but it certainly appears so.

Gricius is out of Colorado Springs, Colorado and after playing a handful of games in the NAPHL with Pikes Peak during the 2013/14 season, he moved up to the Colorado Thunderbirds (T1EHL U16) program for the 2014/15 season. Gricius was 10th on the team in scoring with 11 points in 23 games. This team was loaded with talent as Medicine Hat Tigers' forward Max Gerlach and Kelowna Rockets' defenseman Callan Foote were a couple of the older players on that particular team. Then last season, as one of the older players with Colorado, Gricius was seventh on the team in scoring with 22 points in 28 games. It should be noted that Dominic Turgeon and Seattle's Scott Eansor are both products of the CO T-birds' system. Jake was impressive enough last year, that he suited up to play with the United States' U-17 team at last December's Four Nations Tournament in Slovakia. The U.S. took third in the tourney and Gricius finished with one point (an assist). Also on that U.S. squad were Winterhawks' prospects Brannon McManus and Scott Reedy.

After Gricius had signed with Wenatchee, Wild associate head coach Tom Rudrud said: "Jake’s a strong skating center iceman who will make plays. At 6’3 and 180lbs, Jake also brings ... size..." Wild General manager and head coach Bliss Littler also stated that: "“After watching Jake play in the National tournament I can see why our staff has been so excited about this young man all season." 

Gricius is a late birthday (10/13/1999), so he is not eligible for the NHL draft until 2018.
In the video below, Gricius looks to be a good passer off the left wing, especially when carrying the puck deep into the opponent's zone. He also has the look of a player with a good frame, who will be immovable in front of the net, once he puts on a little more weight on his frame.

Gilliss is out of Calgary, Alberta and is a product of the Edge School. He played Bantam Prep in 2013/14 with Edge and was a point-a-game player with 58 points in 58 games. Gilliss was fourth on the team in scoring, well behind leading scorer and current Spokane Chief center Jaret Anderson-Dolan, who had 126 points with Edge that year. Gilliss also won the Alberta Cup that season with the Calgary North Stars, scoring one goal in five games. In 2014/15 with Edge's Elite 15s, he had 32 points in 28 game, which led the team.

Last year Gilliss, instead of moving up to the CSSHL with Edge, he went to the BCHL and played for the West Kelowna Warriors. He had five points in 41 games and helped the Warriors win the BCHL, beating first round 2016 NHL draft picks Tyson Jost and Dante Fabbro and the Penticton Vees on the way. Gilliss even got into five of their 24 playoff games, as a 16-year-old, during the Warriors' title run. With some of their leading scorers moving on to colleges, Gilliss passed over a chance to get more playing time with the defending champions, in order to come and play with Portland.

Gilliss is also a late birthday (10/1/1999) and is not eligible to be drafted until 2018 as well. He is listed at 6'1" and 176 lbs and so gives Portland another incoming 17-year-old with some size.

Gilliss was also the Warriors' winner of the All-Academic Award this year.

-All stats were acquired via