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.

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