The Portland Winterhawks did some housekeeping this week with a multi-year signing of Kyle Gustafson as Assistant General Manager and Associate Coach. Gustafson was viewed as a replacement coach in Kamloops before the signing of Shaun Clauston.
Kyle, though young, is no stranger to hockey in any capacity and is thought to be among the elite when it comes to video and more. His asset to the Hawks is immeasurable, and being locked up over a longer term gives the team a bit more breathing room.
Don Hay, though by some to be a successor as a bench boss for Mike Johnson, also inked a year-long deal, keeping him as an assistant for another year. Though Hay will turn 65 during the year, he is young at heart and has all the strategies needed to make the Hawks a threat during the next campaign.
The Hawks also made a splash at the import draft with two picks, getting Simon Knak from Kloten EHC’s junior team. The Swiss forward had a solid 25-point effort in 37 games in the Swiss Under-20 League and is widely regarded to be a strong NHL draft choice when he turns 18 next year.
The Hawks went to Denmark on their second selection with Jonas Brøndberg. Though he is a year older, his addition will add strong backing to the defence corps that is still relatively young.
Portland made another move prior to the draft, releasing Michal Kvasnica who played last year and looked to be making inroads with the Hawks at the latter part of the season. But the hope is the new additions will put the Hawks in a much more competitive mode. Joachim Blichfeld has maxed out in age and will not be returning.
Add Jaydon Dureau to the list of invites to the Florida Panthers NHL Camp. Besides the two drafted players, Ludvig and Newkirk, Clay Hanus also was invited as well to the Ottawa Senators Development camp. Joel Hofer, traded to the Hawks last season for six WHL picks, was already drafted and signed by St. Louis during his stay in Swift Current, so he will attend the rookie camp following the Everett Tournament.
The Western Hockey League released its 2019-20 schedule with the Hawks playing two home games and then hitting the Central Swing early. The Hawks will play Tri-City in the Home Opener, before a date with the Kamloops Blazers, who will face Seattle the night before in Kent, WA. The schedule has many double matches on trips; Kamloops, Victoria, Kelowna and Prince George will face the Hawks as back-to-back nights and Portland will face Vancouver in Canada twice within about a month. Portland will not play Seattle until early November as well and it is not yet known how many games will air on TV between the two in the next season.
The Eastern Division teams will also be playing the Hawks earlier with the first up as the Hawks return for the Central Swing when they play Brandon Wheat Kings. The Hawks will see the newly named Winnipeg Ice in mid-November.
Portland’s season will stretch from Saturday, September 21 to Sunday, March 22 with few midweek games and another Battle with Seattle on Tuesday, December 31 with a 7pm start.
The Winterhawks will play Swift Current for the first time as part of the Central Division after they were moved to allow Winnipeg an Eastern Division spot.