The Portland Winterhawks had some good news this week as two of their players were on the list of the top skaters for the NHL Draft in June. John Ludvig and Clay Hanus were listed as two Winterhawks to watch this year. Both were graded as “C” Skaters, which projects them in the fourth to sixth rounds.
Ludvig was invited to the Boston Bruins camp this year. Last year, he was also ranked so he should find a draft choice come his way next June. Like many Hawks who were invited to camps, Ludvig’s stay was short, but he will be at the ready and has been very solid in his appearances so far this year. Hanus is on a draft year, so his arrival to the list isn’t unexpected, but he too will be pressed to showcase his mettle during this coming year. Like all polls, there is a great deal of uncertainty where players could land as the NHL teams jockey for position even as their time at the podium to make any pick is taking place.
Portland started the season with losses to Seattle and Everett and a close shootout loss to Tri City. Then they came home and beat Seattle 4-2. It seemed to spark them a great deal.
The Hawks picked up strong play from the entire team as seven players scored for the Hawks in the first game with three of those goals coming on the powerplay, the same number for the Blazers, but it was an explosive second period that blasted the Blazers 7-3. Gricius, Glass, DeJong, Newkirk, Hanus, Blichfeld and Mannek put goals in for Portland and had Kamloops on the ropes. Kamloops scored first on the powerplay and then gave up five straight before another Kamloops powerplay goal and a final powerplay goal less than a minute before the end of the game. Dylan Ferguson, who had a great camp in Las Vegas and given Goaltender of the year honors, the previous week, got shellacked by the Hawks leading to an early departure. just thirty minutes into the game. The backup Dyland Berand gave up just one goal in his half of the game.
The next game two days later saw a very strong offense of the Hawks get shots to the net and a few penalties including a major and game misconduct as a check to the head gave the Hawks the man advantage for the majority of the period. Portland made them pay twice with the returning Ryan Hughes scoring on a rocket shot after a great setup by Brendan DeJong, Just a minute later it was Joachim Blichfeld scoring on a Cody Glass feed to give the Hawks a 2-0 lead. Then it was Portland’s turn in the box, giving up a goal in the first on the powerplay and the one in the second allowed Kamloops to tie the game. Kamloops took their only lead when they scored on the powerplay with just seven seconds in the second frame.
Portland rushed out of the gate in the third with a short-handed goal by Joachim Blichfeld and a regular-strength goal by Jake Gricius just over minute later, restored the lead and ultimately the win. Mason Mannek capped off the night with an empty-net goal with less than 90 seconds left in the contest. Portland outshot Kamloops by a 30-25 margin and got two powerplay goals, as did Kamloops with a combined 13 powerplays.
The Hawks sweep the pair from Kamloops and headed that night for a game against the Silvertips in their first trip since they lost 3-1 in a game where they looked disorganized. This game, they looked very cohesive and kept the Silvertips below 10 shots in the first and second period, even though they gave six powerplays, of which they scored nothing on, Portland was one of five chances. The scoring that put the Hawks up happened in the middle of the first period in a five minute span.
Brean De Jong opened the scoring at the eight minute mark and saw it tied up a minute later. Seth Jarvis gave the Hawks the lead four minutes later on the powerplay. Everett and Portland played a scoreless second period and Everett came on a bit in the third. with a slight edge in shots, but two empty net goals by Joachim Blichfeld put the game out of reach of Everett at 4-1.
With the win, Portland vaults from second-to-last in the Western Conference to first in the Conference with now seven games played. But the team has to worry about being in the box. At 143 minutes, the Hawks lead the league with minutes by a large margin and have to worry about fatigue when killing off so many penalties.
Portland made a trade on the day in between. After being a healthy scratch, Ty Kolle was sent to the Lethbridge Hurricanes for a fifth-round pick in the 2019 Draft. Ty will be 19 when he starts next season and isn’t on the skaters list for NHL Draft. He has a shot at a Memorial Cup team, though, so his fortunes could be worse. .
The CHL poll was released with Lethbridge moving up a spot to second overall. Prince Albert Raiders and Edmonton Oil Kings took spots four and five, respectively, and Spokane took ninth. Honorable mention went to both Brandon Wheat Kings and the Victoria Royals.
Kelowna has been named the holder of the 2020 Memorial Cup presented by KIA. Kelowna beat out Vancouver and Lethbridge as the high bidder on the Memorial Cup and has a couple of years to make big trades, roster changes etc, to be a force to be a part of the Cup. The Rockets have been to the WHL title game four times since 2002 and last won it in 2014. They have made it to the third round twice and lost in round one since then and stand with a 1-4-0-0 record now. Lethbridge was thought to be a frontrunner but had only community ownership and Vancouver with a solid chance to be a competitor was lagging as the number three seed. With rule changes in the WHL how a team can trade younger players now in effect, it will be interesting to see how they do this year and into next as they try to build a contending team.