Monday, September 15, 2014

2014-15 Winterhawks preivew

For starters, here's the posted roster as of 9/15/14:

Here's the same roster minus guys away at NHL camp (and a dude in a cast):

Who makes main camp?  Who comes back early?  Who the hell knows?

I had the idea of a fancy graphic for line combos, but you know - too much time.

Here's my current guess as to regular season forward lines:

Bittner - Petan - Iverson

Schoenborn - de Leo - Bjorkstrand

Weinger - Turgeon - Price

Flaman - Overhardt - Predinchuk

Defense corps:

Cederholm - Texeria

Heid - Heinrich

De Jong - Hanson

I've been hearing Bjorkstand & Petan on a line, but I like it spread around.  Dylan has mentioned it will be delicate balancing 7 drafted forwards: someone has to be a 3rd liner. 

Who sticks around long term, and in what type of rotation is open for debate.  During training camp I thought for sure we'd see Veloso, McKenzie, & Reed Morison as 16 year old rookies.  The signings of Jack Flaman & Evan Weinger have led me to believe that they'd rather go with those two 17's in those spots - which should make an incredible forward group even better.  Much like the 'Hawks sending Taylor Leier down as a 16 was an investment in his 17, 18, & 19 years - those two should benefit from tons of ice time & leadership roles this season and come back hungry as 17's.

Word on the street is that de Champlain is no longer with the team, opening up an overage spot.  Predinchuk really impressed me in training camp, but that doesn't mean his spot is secure.  The 'Hawks have too many quality centermen, so it should be interesting to see who moves to the wing - Turgeon is only a 3rd line center for this club: he's top 2 on every other WHL team.

Its only a matter of time before Ethan Price is on the top line:  He's from Nebraska.

The defense core is interesting.  Big skates to fill.

Cederholm was a little underwhelming for some last year, myself included.  He's a 19 with a pro deal in his pocket.  Dude should be pretty good, you'd think.

Hanson?  He's been a little underwhelming for 4 years now for some, myself included.  I feel that he does most things well, he just doesn't' have the hands with the puck.  Sometimes you see the Rob Klinkhammers / Taylor Jordans / Darren Kramers of the world that really make something out of their overage year.  I'll be hoping for the same here. (I'd drop a Myles Bell reference here, but Hanson would never kill anyone).

Zach Patterson will be an 18 this year.  I think he can play, and hasn't got a shot here.  I say let him get a chance elsewhere - he's signed, so NCAA is out the window.

Josh Smith is a total wildcard.  Was a 1st round bantam pick for Prince George, only got into 93 games for them in 4 years.  Would seem like he's not good enough for this 'Hawks team, but I said the same thing about Rosignol last season and was pleasantly proven wrong.  He's an overage this year.

Nick Heid is a 17 with a ton of upside.  Was looking at NCAA, until he came over to the darkside.  Bright future.  Minneapolis kid.  Should step right into a regular shift.

Blake Heinrich.  Remember Garrett Haar?  This dude is also a Capitals pick, who they are pretty high on.  Grades are also a factor in the decision to go major junior (school ain't for everybody).  Heinrich is a 19 this year, and if I know what I'm talking about the Capitals don't have to sign him for another year, making him a ripe overage candidate next season.  He wore the "C" for his USHL club last year, which is great.

Brandon De Jong is big.  6'4" 175.  Victoria native.  Look,  I'm just like anyone else and fall in love with a players size - which is the case here - but this kid looks like the real deal.  It might be that I just really want him to be awesome, but I'm optimistic.  You don't see 16's on the back end take a regular shift very often, but if you are Pouliot, Wotherspoon, Rutkowski, Morrow, or Texeira you do.  De Jong could be next on that list.

Justin Greer is another wild card.  He's a 17 this year, and missed his opportunity to impress in camp with an illness.  I get the impression that the 'Hawks are high on him, but I have nothing to go off of really.

Carter Czaikowski is 16.  He's also 5'8" & from Calgary.  He was the 1st player drafted by the 'Hawks in his draft year (kicked out of the first 5 rounds and all that).  He's got a shot, but a year in midget would do him good.

Layne Viveiros is yet another wild card.  He's struggled to impress in Portland, yet he's one of the 6 best Austrian eligible defenseman of world junior age.  He's a 19 this year, so he's either gonna be pretty good here or with another WHL team.

Keoni Texeira is awesome.  Pretty sure I've never been so exited to see how a player follows up on a 2 goal season before.  I love the way this kid plays - just a well rounded game from the back end.  I haven't noticed any pre-season draft hype so far, but I predict a significant rise as each ranking comes out.  You know the scouts will be out to see Bittner, which can only compliment the other 17's on this team.

Goaltending should be good.  Brendan Burke as a 19 will most likely be dominant.  Folks like Adin Hill, albeit in a small sample size.  I like it.