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.

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