Simon Knak appears not to be headed back to Portland after the NHL Draft. His drafting by the NHL Nashville Predators left him with a few options. At 19, he is eligible to return to Portland Winterhawks as a junior hockey player. He also could go back to Switzerland, and that’s where he is going. Signing a two-year deal with HC Davos will give him the chance to play with and against people his age and older.
This leaves Jonas Brondberg as the remaining player in the Winterhawks original import draft. The Hawks drafted two players in the import draft and traded with Moose Jaw to get Jesper Walldsedt, who the Minnesota Wild selected in the 20th spot overall. He becomes a bit of an unknown. Unlike Knak, Jesper is only 18 and is not able to go to the American Hockey League. His options would be back to Sweden or Portland. In Portland, he would play on North American size ice which is smaller, and get used to the North American style. Where that would put 19-year-old Dante Giannuzzi or 18-year-old Lochlan Gordon goaltenders is really unknown at this point. Dante carried most of the load during the shortened 24 game season, with Brock Gould shouldering the rest of the games. Brock should also be able to return to Moose Jaw, where he was traded during the pandemic; it seems to be with several of the players impacted during this virus who were Stateside and playing originally on Canadian teams.
In Brondberg, much will be decided in the next month. As yet undrafted, he is also age 20, which means he would be what they classify as a two spotter on a roster. He would take a spot as an import and also as a 20-year-old. Oliver Bjorkstrand did that a couple of years back with the Winterhawks but did so as a forward, and he hit the lamp many times during the season. Would the Hawks look at a defenseman who can only ice six players on the backend vs. double that on forwards? This is where the speculation comes in.
Portland has a glut in overage players and will have until mid-October to pare down to the allowable three players.
Kishaun Gervais has tweeted out his time in Portland is done. As an overager, Gervais is one of those on the bubble. His startup clothing company has taken off and is poised to be one of the odd men out. Others include Brondberg as a two-spotter, Reece Newkirk, who has been signed by the NY Islanders and is eligible to go to the AHL, Jaydon Dureau, who is unsigned, but drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning, Brock Gould, who was acquired from Moose Jaw this past season as a backup to Dante Giannuzzi, Kade Nolan and Clay Hanus who haven’t been drafted by NHL teams yet could participate at NHL camps and could still sign with other professional hockey teams. With six players in the overage group in varying capacities, the next few weeks will be very busy for the team and the players.
Marek Alscher, who is a Czech defenseman, was drafted by the Hawks in the import draft. He is a defenseman, so Jonas is in limbo at best. Brondberg could easily go back to Denmark and rejoin his squad there. He would also be able to participate in the NHL Draft next season and hit NHL camps this year, seeing him sign and play in the AHL or NHL. He would certainly not be without options. Alscher, at 18, has more development room with one or two years in Portland, depending on the NHL draft.
One of the things that have happened in the past several years is development. With the Hawks, it has been just that. Developing players and finding the best place to either finish their careers or continue their education. This is also the same with other personnel as we have seen scouts, coaches, and other staff continue their respective careers.
The Winterhawks are also gearing up for two big events. One is the Game Prep Camp which will take place at the Winterhawks Skating Center in Beaverton, Oregon, at the end of August. The camp is designed as a tune-up to get into mid-season form. The link is here https://winterhawks.com/gpc.
John Critzer of PNWHockey interviewed Mike Johnston about the Neely Cup status. The interview listed Neely Cup should return but in a different format. In the interview, General Manager, Coach, and Vice President Mike Johnston alluded to just three teams participating in the Neely Cup. How that would work schedule and game time-wise is unknown. With the season shifted two weeks later, the training camp would be in the first week of September, with Everett preseason tournament from September 10-12
and then Tri-Cities from Friday, September 17 to 19. with Seattle not participating this year. The regular season would begin on October 1. The two weeks would allow teams to get back some of the players at NHL camps to be closer to a regular roster once the season begins.