Leading up to Christmas, the Portland Winterhawks were fortunate or unfortunate in some people's minds, when 5 players headed to World Junior camps that took place in Malmo, Sweden in anticipation of the championship game into the new year. Oliver Bjorkstrand helped to move Denmark out of the relegation round and back into a contending team for next year, however, Layne Viveiros' team in Austria wasn't so fortunate and both players returned just after Christmas. Derrick Pouliot, Taylor Leier and Nic Petan headlined a Canadian squad that relied heavily on pairings from select teams and the formula wasn't as successful as hoped. Canada ended up fourth overall, the second straight year they hadn't earned a medal. The US team which didn't use players from the WHL, was out of medal contention after a loss to Canada. Both teams will be revisiting their strategies for next year's World Juniors which take place in Toronto and Montreal and North American sized ice. In the tournament this year, the games took place on Olympic sized ice, which for some players would take a bit of getting used to.
Many comments were made about Nic Petan and Derrick Pouliot's work in the tournament and many on this side of the water spoke highly of Taylor Leier as well. During the tournament, Nic Petan signed an entry level deal with the Winnipeg Jets after being drafted 43rd overall in the 2013 NHL draft.
Back to the Portland Winterhawks, who had to make do without a great deal of scoring power leading up to Christmas and the first three games of the New Year. Until the start of the New Year, the scores had been relatively tight, but two dates with the top team in the WHL in the Kelowna Rockets changed all that. With scores of 9-3 on New Year's Eve and 7-2 two days later, the Rockets showed all their firepower as the top team. The Winterhawks had no time to relax with 3 games in 3 nights. They would lose 5-1 to Tri Cities in Kennewick, WA before having to face off against the number 2 seed in the BC Division in the Victoria Royals. This time, although the Hawks wouldn't win, the score of 3-2 and a much more determined team effort spelled a real battle once the team is put back together. During the skid and three games prior to that, was the start of the suspension to Brendan Leipsic for a check to the head penalty vs Seattle's Keegan Kolesar.
With Leipsic back in the lineup, the Hawks embark on a 4 game in 5 night tour of Everett, Victoria and Vancouver. At the end of that trip, Pouliot, Leier and Petan will take a week off as they played during the Christmas break. The Hawks through all of this, remain in first place in the US Division and third overall in the WHL standings, a position the Hawks have been comfortable with the past few years.
During the upcoming road trip will be the WHL trade deadline. So far, there have been a few teams making some impressive deals and one was Portland. Eighteen year old Presten Kopeck was traded to the Red Deer Rebels for the rights to nineteen year old Matthew Dumba, who was playing for the NHL Minnesota Wild. Dumba had been used sparingly of late and was released to the World Juniors early on and indications were that he would come to Portland following the tournament. That announcement just came from Cliff Fletcher, General Manager of the Minnesota Wild where they went to twitter to announce that Dumba had been loaned to the Winterhawks for the balance of the season. The Winterhawks also gave up second round WHL Bantam Draft picks over the next three seasons.
The addition bolsters a defensive core and there have been rumors that the Hawks aren't fully done yet. It is doubtful that the team will make any major overhaul to the players currently on the roster, but some tweaking is possible. Many WHL teams will be busy working the phones as the annual trade frenzy hits its peak. Final details on trades won't be fully realized until very late on Friday January 10 and players making travel arrangements to get to their new squads. One player from the Winterhawks, Twenty year old Shane McColgan, who was acquired in the off season from Sasakatoon was made available as a possible trade after the Hawks announced he was being dropped from the active roster. A hand injury Shane allowed him to only recently participate in actual games and from playing regular minutes.
Ice Chips: The Portland Winterhawks Booster Club is offering a ticket deal for the Saturday February 1st game versus Seattle Thunderbirds. By going to the Booster Club websitehttp://www.pwhbc.com and clicking on the discount ticket button, 200 level seats, normally $24.75 can be had for just $15 each and $5 from this will go to the Booster Club. At the end of the transaction enter the word "Booster" in the promo code section.
Stuart Kemp is the President of the Portland Winterhawks Booster Club, a 501(c)(3) registered charity.