Sunday, September 22, 2013

2013-14 Opening Weekend

VS Prince George:


Video highlights

post-game discussion

Dylan Bumbarger, community blogger
Potential is there for this to be the best forward group of the Mike Johnston era. Which is really impressive, obviously.

Scott Sepich piece

The result is a far cry from five years ago, when Piper and Johnston first arrived to a franchise in disarray on and off the ice.

“That first game I saw I was surprised at how much work it was going to take to achieve something like this,” Piper said. “But we had a plan to achieve this. We have an owner (Bill Gallacher) who gave us the resources we needed, and Mike really came in and fixed the hockey side of things.”

I sure would hate to be a crossbar in this game - how many times did both teams ring pucks off of the iron?  Sure seemed like quite a few.

The game kind of seemed like one of those long church services with all that stand / sit / stand / sit.  It's probably a decent way to burn off the junk food that your average fan consumed during the evening.

More thoughts on the weekend below.



real time fan discussion

Seattle Times piece

“I pushed it forward and had no idea it was going to run like that,” Barzal said. “If I would have pushed it any harder it would have been a dump in. I had a move coming in, but that caused me to get in a little too tight with my mixup and I had to change it.”
Barzal admitted he was surprised when he heard his name called to open the shootout.
“A little bit, because we have a lot of talent on this team,” Barzal said. “Coming in, I knew I was ready and I’d been practicing it a little bit.”

Barzal video piece

 That Barzal kid should be fun to watch for the next few years.

The Powerplay should be interesting to  watch in the early going.  All 4 defenseman who played PP shifts are gone, with only one of them expected to return.  I'm not sure if Cederholm, Haar, or Texeria played PP on their teams last year, but they've never done it in this league, or with this group of guys.  I know that Hanson & Veviros haven't had much PP time either.  I'm optimistic that things will develop, but it might take time.

Brendan Burke as looked good early.  I would use the word 'calm' - which is one of the main things you are looking for.

 One thing I paid close attention to is how did the game go for guys fighting for roster spots / ice time.  With 4 regular forwards, and one D man currently out, who played this weekend that makes room? (a picture that is a little clearer now).

  • Layne Veverios - dude went out and sniped his first career goal, and completed the Gordie Howe hat trick defending a dirty hit on Garret Haar.  These are exactly the kind of things that keep a guy in the lineup.

  • Zach Paterson - Didn't play on Friday, and I didn't get a feel for how his Saturday went.   Is it better to play a larger role on a Junior A team, or get in 40 games in the Dub?

  •  Steven Alldridge - this guy impressed me in training camp, but there's just not really any open forward spots on this team.  He also fought a guy, in the kind of situation that warrants such a thing.

  • Ethan Price - He had a good weekend - currently tied for 2nd in rookie scoring.  You know that I'm his biggest fan, but he's had a great start to his WHL career.  Its going to be hard for a 16 year old forward to get a regular shift on this team, but he's making his case.

  • Alex Schoenborn - I still think he's got a shot at that top line, didn't hit the scoresheet (4 PIM).  Seems like he's making an extra effort to be psychical - including after the whistle.  Seems to me that he's attempting to deliver that same message of doing whatever it takes to stay in the lineup.

As of Sunday morning, we know that Brendan Leipsic is en route to Portland, and will be available for Tuesday's game VS Tri-Cities.   We know that Paul Bittner is out with a broken finger, which I'd guess is a 6 week deal.  We know that Joe Mahon is now a Hitman.

That's +1 forward, but -2, so there's still opportunities for these kids to make an impression.  You can bet that when McColgan & Turgeon get healthy, they'll both be playing significant roles.  Should be fun to watch, and its a great problem to have as a team.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

2013 Winterhawks preview

The 'Hawks put out their own preview:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Here's the archive of the Pipeline show WHL preview

Just today, I came across this dude's blog - he's got a better name than my blog does:

I haven't got to all of it yet, but it looks like there's good preview stuff on there.

Local freelancer Scott Sepich has started a new podcast - and a website to host it.  I've been fortunate enough to listen to the 1st episode - a T'birds preview featuring Andy Eide.  Its my understanding that there are Tri-City & 'Hawks previews about to be posted - so watch the earlier link & twitter feed for that.

Kelly Friesen wrote this WHL preview:
Past the CHL’s 2012-13 leading scorers, Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Oliver Bjorkstrand, Philadelphia Flyers prospect Taylor Leier, 20-year-old Shane McColgan, and Chase De Leo will make up the rest of their top six. All four forwards have the potential to score 70-plus points and will be expected to with the possible exception of McColgan.

So, there's some early talk about lofty aspirations for this team - and from folks who know Jr Hockey:
I think I could be talked into this frame of thought.  Here's my preview:

Forwards - drawbacks:

You lose the all time top WHL playoff goal scorer.  Dude plays the top line, PK, PP - every situation.  Hell, Rattie scored 2 shorthanded goals in the same PK during the Ed Cup clinching game.  His 1st playoff goal was a Game 7 OT goal, and his last goals were the GWG + insurance goals in a WHL championship.  You don't just replace guys like that.

The 'Hawks had one guy take every D zone draw, under all conditions, every playoff game.  I've never seen anything like it.  I mean, you have guys you lean on, and you used to see NHL teams go out and get a faceoff specialist for a playoff run - but Taylor Peters took every damn draw.  He also did a great job going up against the other teams top lines.  That's a tough role to replace.

They also have lost a quality checking winger, who started nearly every game.  I think you & I saw the peak of his hockey career the last game in the 'Garden:

That's pretty much the end of the losses of the forward group.  Seems somewhat manageable.

Forwards - Plusses:

The 'Hawks bring back 5 of their top 6  - a mostly intact forward group which led the league in goals last year.  There are fun discussions on who gets that top line spot - Paul Bittner had 4 straight game winning goals on that line last year.  Seems like it might work.

My gut feeling is that so far in training camp / pre-season is that Alex Schoenborn has made a great case for that spot - and I'm pulling for him.  He took a huge gamble walking away from NCAA eligibility to play in Portland, and so far it hasn't worked out his way.

Shane McColgan seems like he might be a good fit for that line - he really impressed me the year that Kelowna took the 'Hawks to 6 games.  He's scored a point-per-game his entire WHL career - very consistent.

Many 'Hawks fans are excited about guys like Iverson, Turgeon, and Kopeck taking on bigger roles.  Kopeck looks to be the guy to take on the defensive specialist role.  Iverson could play on the top line too - but I like the other two players at center.

I'd leave the 27-9-20 line in tact - they should terrorize goalies this year.

I haven't seen it addressed directly, but my hunch is that Adam Rossignol may have came in here and stole a spot.  If you look at it like a checking line forward from last years Regina Pats - that's just not good enough for this years 'Hawks.  The other side is that Rossignol was on the Kootenay team that we saw in the 2011 Final - so he could bring in additional championship experience to the lineup.

McColgan, Turgeon, and Joe Mahon are all hurt to start the year - mid October return estimates for all 3 - which just opens up opportunity for the other forwards in the meantime.

I think the clear answer is to go with Ethan Price on the top line.  I doubt that Coach Johnston has the courage to go this route this season, but he will have to eventually.

Defenseman - drawbacks:

There are 3 defenseman from last years team playing pro this season - taking 651 games of regular season experience (163 playoff games) with them.

We lost a captain.  A 5 year guy, all time franchise leader in games played.  A player who was huge in the resurrection of this team.  Hard to replace.

Seth Jones will be playing in Nashville this year - 'nuff said.  His departure leaves a hole on the back end for sure.

I'm seeing lose talk of Wotherspoon making the Flames this year.  Our loss is their gain.

Defenseman - known unknown:
For my money, as long as #51 makes it back before the playoffs - that's all that matters.  I'm only going off of one tweet there, but it looks like Pouliot may get a 9 game audition - and maybe more.  If he makes the Penguins, that puts a serious dent in the 'Hawks repeat hopes.

Here's a detailed illustration about what makes Pouliot so good.

Defenseman - plusses:

If the top paring is Hanson - Pouliot: there's 376 games of experience there (108 playoff games).  By my count, there is 95 games total WHL experience amongst the rest of the D corps.

Of course, the 3 highly touted additions to Portland's back end have zero WHL games to this point, but that doesn't mean they aren't ready to contribute.  Garrett Haar is the rare 20 year old rookie.  He'll have several NHL training camps under his belt before making his major junior debut - so its not like he's never seen this caliber of competition before.

Anton Cederholm hasn't played in North America yet, but he has played pro games in the Swedish Elite League.  Sounds like he plays nasty too, which you have to love when he's on your team.

Many folks thought that Keoni Texeira was good enough for this league as a 15 - even though only the best 16's get a shot at playing defense on most teams.  Other than Pouliot & Wotherspoon, ice time for 16's on the blueline has been real scarce, so we shall see how #44's ice time shakes out.  Sky's the limit for this kid.

How does Shaun MacPherson look this year?  Like many fans, I'm not sold.  Anything can happen in Jr hockey, and he wouldn't be the first to be a late bloomer.  The same could be said for Veviros.

Jordan Davies & Zach Patterson are young D men hoping to crack the lineup, but I'm not sure there's room at at the inn right now.  Duty now for the future.

Goaltending drawbacks:

We've seen the last junior game that all time WHL playoff wins leader Mac Carruth will play.  It seems like it was just the other day he was squaring off with goalies at center ice, or telling fans to "zip it" in Kamloops,  breaking dudes noses, going after the biggest goon in the league, and pitching Game 7 shutouts.  Good goalies are hard to find.

The 'Hawks are handing the reins to a player with a WHL playoff career  8.19 GAA / .571 SV%.  Again, a known unknown.

Goaltending plusses:

The nameplate on the 'Hawks starter is legit.  His dad was a great NHL goalie, and is currently the goalie coach for the Coyotes.  Burke has looked shaky in his time in Portland, but that could be expected from a goalie in his 16 & 17 years.  He's improved from 3.58 / .875 to 2.65 / .908 - which is a nice progression - and one that should continue.  I've made the point that Burke is probably ahead of where Carruth was at this point of his career.

On the one hand, kid is 31-7 for his career, but on the other hand, Chris Ward could win games with the group the 'Hawks have put on the ice for the last few years.  I don't think there's reason to think that Burke won't be good, even if you remember the time Johnston attempted to pull him in the middle of a shootout.

Folks are generally high on Jarrod Schamerhorn.  I admire his patience - breaking into the league as an 18 year old backup, although roles can change quickly at this level.  One thing to keep in mind is if this tandem isn't delivering the production that is expected - Coach Johnston is generally pretty good at finding players.  He'll go out and get someone, if need be.


The 'Hawks are gonna score a ton of goals.  That goes a long way.

If Burke plays like most fans expect him to, then you are looking at goaltending good enough to contend for the cup.

If Haar & Cederholm are as good as advertised, they aren't much of a drop off from the guys we've lost from last season.  Hanson has to step into a bigger role, which he should excel at.  I think Texeria is good enough for a regular shift as a 16, but there's reasons they don't let me make those decisions.  There's a lot of moving parts there, but this defense corps should also be quality enough to make some noise in the playoffs.

Coach Johnston always says that at the 20 game point is where you know what kind of team you have. That being said, at the zero game mark I think there's lots of room for optimism that a repeat is within reach.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Ethan Price: next great Nebraskan

Here's a brief list of Nebraska greats:




Even at this stage of his career, as a 16 year old player about to make his Major Junior debut, he's already one of the greatest Nebraskan hockey players.  According to my research,  there have been 24 NHL goals scored by Cornhuskers in the history of the league.

I've played on the rink that Price grew up on.  I know this for a fact, as there is only one ice sheet in Lincoln:  the arena that is home to the USHL's Lincoln Stars.  Its one of my favorite places to watch a hockey game - its literally a barn - built to house livestock during the state fair.

The development of Nebraska hockey has been an interesting story.  The Omaha Lancers started in 1986, and have generally been successful.  Lincoln won the cup in 1997 - their inaugural year.   My hometown Tri-City Storm blew into town in 2000.  People say the influence of Gretzky being traded to L.A. wasn't seen in homegrown players until the last few years - guys like McColgan & De Leo are part of this phenomena. Hockey fever caught in 1988, so kids growing up after that were exposed to the game.  Ethan Price was born the same year the Stars came to Lincoln.

It probably would have been attractive to play for the hometown Stars, but the Youngstown Phantoms hold his rights.  Different leagues aside, if it comes down to spending the year in Youngstown VS Portland - I'm taking Portland.   It looks like the Stars only passed on him once,  which if I'm the Stars I HAVE to take the local kid.

Often American kids are attracted to the NCAA route.  However, in this part of the world the "local" college program is in Omaha - with their first year being 1997-98.  Not a lot of history there.  Otherwise you are looking at programs in Minnesota or Colorado - not particularly tied to the Star City.

In late July, Coach Johnston said there would only be one 16 on this years team:
As far as 16-year-old rookies go, it seems blueliner Keoni Texeira, who was selected 26th overall in 2012, will be the only one to make the jump.
“I think Texeira will be our only 16 year old on our team next year,” says Johnston. “He looks like he’s ready to make an impact. We’ve been really happy with his development.”

Poking around on his twitter account, it looks like Price came to town on a mission to earn a spot:

You have to love that kind of drive in a player.  Its also worth mentioning that this is a player, US born, highly touted (according to the 'Hawks), who signed post-sanctions.  Presumably there's nothing the team has offered that is beyond what is WHL legal.  Some have proposed that these signings may dry up, and time will tell.

Poking around the google, I found some various reviews of Price:

Chris Dilks follows the US National Development Program (USNDP).  Here's his scouting report from September 2012:
Ethan Price-F-Omaha Lancers U16- Price is listed at 5'11" 190 lbs. I don't believe that for a second, but the point stands that he's not all that big, while being pretty developed physically. There's a lot to like about his game. He skates, he hits, he's got a pretty heavy snapshot with a quick release. I just wonder how high the ceiling is. Maybe I'm way off, but I see him as more of an energy guy than a big-time scorer as he advances.

His report from the March 2013 tryout camp:
Ethan Price-A strong kid. Not a ton of offensive upside, but he'll be a very tough two-way forward to play against.

Also from Chris Dilks upon Price signing:
Another American heads to Portland.

Ethan Price, a '97-born forward that skated last season with the Omaha U16 team, has signed with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. Price had 15 goals and 23 assists through 22 games with Omaha last year, helping them to an undefeated season in the NAPHL.

Price was invited to skate at the NTDP tryout camp this past spring, and was a second round selection of the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL in the league's Phase II future's draft. Previously, Portland had selected him in the 6th round of the 2012 WHL bantam draft.

Overall, it looks like a very good American addition for the Winterhawks roster.

I'm not sure if I've heard of an undefeated season in hockey at any level - and they played some heavyweights.    They won the cup, too:
 This past season, Price led Omaha in scoring during NAPHL games with 38 points (15 goals, 23 assists) in 22 games played. He also had eight points in five playoff games as the Omaha AAA 16U Hockey Club won the NAPHL Championship.

In July of 2013 there was a US National tryout, and Russ Bitely was there. He had Price listed as a "B" grade prospect to make the US team:

Ethan Price – Forward: Omaha AAA U16; Lincoln, NE – Draft eligible 2015
He is a shooter for certain. He likes to get that puck on his stick and fire away a quick, snap shot. He can score by placing his shots or saw him get lucky too by putting puck to the net from behind goal line and getting a fortunate bounce off defender. He handles the puck well and has some decent speed. He had a pretty solid effort at Select 16s.

 I always love seeing the "C" on sweaters of guys joining the 'Hawks:

Those scouting reports are all over the board, which makes perfect sense:  you're looking at a 15 year old kid playing against other 15 year old kids.  I'm sure those guys are also going off of a small amount of viewings as well.  

That being said, if we get the average of the reports - we are looking at a physical, two way forward with a sneaky snapshot.  I like it.