After some up and down weeks through November, the Portland Winterhawks seem more steady now after winning eight of their last 10 games and blowing past the Seattle Thunderbirds to take the third US Division rank, which takes them to the playoffs if they maintain it for the rest of the winter. Now, as 2016 draws to a close, the Hawks have some other bragging rights. Forward Cody Glass and defenseman Henri Jokiharju have been named as two of the 40 players to represent their level of play in the 2017 Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.
Since 1996, the NHL’s 30 teams have ranked the players from the WHL, OHL, and QMJL and split them into two teams for a sort of All-Star game for their most likely future stars. The 2017 game will take place Jan. 30 at Centre Videotron in Quebec City and will have a large contingent of NHL scouts and general managers watching to determine the most promising talents to recruit. All 15 players from the CHL who were drafted in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft played in the Top Prospects game, so it’s a good indicator of a bright future.
Glass is deserving of such an assessment, as his season continues to be stellar. In 34 games he has 17 goals and 30 assists, and ranks fourth in points in the entire WHL. This has earned Glass an ‘A’ rating from NHL Central Scouting, making him one of 17 top-ranked prospects. While his goals are impressive for a player under 18 years old, the fact that his assists nearly double that respectable amount speaks to the team player he is, and the commitment to the win over his personal stats.
While Portland has enjoyed watching Glass bloom over two and a half seasons, Henri Jokiharju has been more of a pleasant surprise. In his rookie year playing in North America, the Finnish 6-foot, 170 pound spitfire has five goals and 13 assists currently. In very little time, he has established himself as an offensively minded defenseman–he has the most points of any WHL defenseman–and an uncompromising force against teams with an abundance of beefy forward lines. NHL Central Scouting has given him a ‘B.’
It’s an impressive feat for the Winterhawks to have two likely future NHL picks. While 15 of the Top Prospects Game players come from 11 different teams in the WHL, Portland’s two were recruited during that ever-present sanction that has kept the organization out of the early rounds of the Bantam Draft since 2012. In fact, Portland has fielded 16 players to the event since 2010 despite their hands being tied on scouting.
The game is being sponsored by the official paint brand of the CHL, Sherwin-Williams, along with several other advertisers in association with the host organization, the Quebec Remparts Hockey Club. Canadian hockey fans can watch live on Sportsnet and TVA Sports.
Portland fans, in the meantime, have 16 games between now and then to see these two pump up their stats even more. This weekend has the Hawks visiting the Vancouver Giants (the lowest-ranked team in the Western Conference) and the Everett Silvertips (US Division leaders and No. 2 in the conference), before a very earned 10-day hiatus. Can they keep the recent momentum after the multiple breaks over the holidays? I sure hope so.