2008-09 Season Preview…

This was posted on www.winterhawks.com, but I wanted to put it here as well.  Comments encouraged…

There is something to be said for going out with a bang.

In a season where the Portland Winter Hawks only won 11 games, faced incredible setbacks with injuries, and had a team record for futility with a 22 game losing streak, the Winter Hawks sent their faithful fans home happy on the final day of the 2007-08 season when Matt Schmermund scored the only goal with a miraculous behind the back deke in a five-round shootout to defeat the Spokane Chiefs 4-3 at the Memorial Coliseum.

The Chiefs would go on to win the Ed Chynoweth Cup as WHL Champions and then the Memorial Cup as CHL Champions, while the Winter Hawks would return home for the long off-season coming off a victory.

As we are just weeks away from another training camp, it is time to look forward to the 2008-09 season and players to watch as the camp and WHL preseason progresses in the near future.

This article will feature players that have a shot at making the full season roster for the Winter Hawks, but it is worth noting that the Hawks have had productive discussions with all of the 1993 born prospects that are a year away from being eligible to play in the WHL on a full-time basis.

A look at the 2008-09 Portland Winter Hawks:

In a notable move during the off-season, General Manager Ken Hodge, regained control of the hockey operations of the team and will work closely with Matt Bardsley, the Director of Player Personnel, and the Hawks scouting staff to find the talent necessary to lead the team back to the level of on-ice success that the team has known in the past.

After a short ramp up to training camp last season, Head Coach Rich Kromm returns for his second season as the Hawks bench boss.  Assistant Coaches Brian Pellerin and Kyle Gustafson both signed two-year contract extensions in the off-season and will once again work alongside Kromm on the Hawks bench.

Now, for a positional look at the prospective Hawks roster for 2008-09:


Eligible to Return:  Kurtis Mucha (89), Jordan White (88 )

Kurtis Mucha returns as a 19 year old, fourth year, goaltender who currently sits fourth all-time in games (145) and minutes played (8,239) for the Winter Hawks.  Mucha appeared in 49 games in 2007-08, posting a GAA of 4.10 despite having a save percentage of 89.8%.  He saw a lot of pucks in 2007-08 as the Hawks gave up an average of over 41 per game.

Jordan White is eligible to return as an overage in 2008-09.  He also saw a ton of shots last year and posted a GAA of 4.75 and a save percentage of 89.3%.  He did set a new WHL and Winter Hawk record last year stopping 68 of 72 shots in a 4-0 loss to Seattle. 

Potential Rookies:  Keith Hamilton (92), Jared Kelly (91)

Keith Hamilton (92 – 6’0” 155) played last season for the Okanagan Rockets of the BC Major Midget League in Kelowna.  While there are no stats available, Hamilton was selected to the BCMML All-Star Team and is one of the final candidates to be selected to represent BC and Team Pacific at the World U17 Championships coming up mid-season.  Hamilton was a 2nd round Bantam pick in 2007.

Jared Kelly (91) is the son of former Vancouver Canucks Assistant Coach Mike Kelly, and played last season for the Midget AAA team in Semiahmoo.  No stats are available.  He is a list player for Portland.


Eligible to Return:  Travis Bobbee (90), Brock Cornish (89), Travis Ehrhardt (89), Scott Gabriel (88), Ryan Kerr (89), Bo Montgomery (90), Lee Morrow (90), Brett Ponich (91)

The word last season for the defense was injuries.  The defense was decimated last year with Brock Cornish missing the entire season after a preseason injury that required surgery, Ryan Kerr and Lee Morrow also had shoulder injuries that required season-ending surgeries.  Add to that a concussion that kept Bo Montgomery out for an extended period and the Hawks were often required to dress Chris Francis, normally a forward, as a d-man for much of the second half of the season.

All players that had surgery are recovering, and all are expected back and healthy for training camp at the end of August.

Travis Ehrhardt and Travis Bobbee were both acquired last year during the season with an eye on their skating and offensive abilities and both, along with Cornish, will be looked upon to do the same.

Scott Gabriel is eligible to return as an overage and he brings a physical presence to the back end. 

Brett Ponich was thrown into the deep end as a 16 year old rookie last year and kept getting better as the season went on and he will look to be a steadying influence in his second year in the WHL.

Potential Rookies:  Daniel Johnston (92), Matt Maleschuk (92), Joe Morrow (92), Troy Rutkowski (92), David Watt (91)

Daniel Johnston (92 – 5’11” 180) may be the name most Hawks fan will recognize from the above list, but unfortunately, Johnston will miss the Hawks training camp and will be out for an indefinite period after having surgery to remove a lesion on his neck on July 28.  The injury wasn’t hockey-related and isn’t considered career-threatening, but it will have a rehab period, and the timeframe for his addition to the line-up will depend on his rehabilitation.  His injury prevented Johnston from taking part in the Alberta U17 Provincial Camp in July.  Johnston appeared in 10 games as a 15 year old last season for the Hawks, scoring once and adding an assist.  He played for the Edge Academy in Calgary in 2007-08, posting 7-11-18 with 91 penalty minutes in 45 games.  He was a 5th round Bantam pick in 2007.

Matt Maleschuk (92 – 6’0” 165) was another 5th round Bantam pick in 2007 and played last season for the CBHA Rangers in the Southern Alberta Midget League.  There are no stats available.  He also played four games for the Calgary Rangers in the CMHA AA Midget, not hitting the scoresheet.

Joe Morrow (92 – 6’2” 185) was a 2nd round Bantam selection in 2007 and appeared in one game last season for the Hawks in Edmonton, not hitting the score sheet.  Morrow played for the Sherwood Park Squires of the Rural Edmonton AAA Midget League in 2007-08, posting 7-11-18 with 57 penalty minutes in 24 games.  Morrow took part in the Alberta U17 Provincial Camp in July.

Troy Rutkowski (92 – 6’1” 198 ) is a list player for Portland and played last season for the SSAC Boston Pizza Athletics of the Alberta Midget Hockey League.  He posted 6-16-22 with 28 penalty minutes in 36 games.  Rutkowski took part in the Alberta U17 Provincial Camp and has made the final 27 players from which the 11 players will be selected at the World U17 championships for Team Pacific at the end of December.

David Watt (91 – 6’1” 170) was a 5th round Bantam selection in 2006 and joined the Winter Hawks at the end of last season, appearing in eight games, not registering any points.  He played the 2007-08 season for the Big Country Energy Tigers in Medicine Hat of the Alberta Midget Hockey League, posting 1-9-10 and 62 penalty minutes in 31 games.


Eligible to Return:  Riley Boychuk (91), Nick Dietrich (89), Chris Francis (89), Jason Grecica (90), Aaron McGill (89), Tayler Jordan (90), Colin Reddin (90), Matt Schmermund (88), Tyler Swystun (88), Radim Valchar (89), Luke Walker (90)

Matt Schmermund and Tyler Swystun are both eligible to return as overage players in 2008-09, but the Hawks will have to make a decision as there are currently four players (including Jordan White and Scott Gabriel) that will be competing for three spots as overage players.  Swystun finished second in team scoring last season with 34 points and Schmermund brings speed and leadership to the Hawks roster.

Radim Valchar returns for his second year as a Winter Hawk import player, after a season that saw him endear himself to Hawks fans with hard work and determination.  He will look to improve on his 9 goal, 24 point performance in his rookie season.

Chris Francis will be a third year forward and will hopefully be able to focus strictly on playing forward after spending a majority of last year on defense.  Francis still contributed 25 points while rotating between the two positions.  Nick Dietrich is a 19 year old who didn’t get a lot of ice time after being acquired from Lethbridge last season, but will get a chance to show what he can bring in training camp.

Luke Walker, who won Rookie of the Year for the Hawks last season, along with Colin Reddin and Jason Grecica lead the 1990 born forwards heading into camp.  Tayler Jordan, who started the year in Portland last season, is expected to be in training camp looking to earn his way back into the Hawks lineup in 2008-09.  Jordan spent the remainder of 2007-08 with the Tisdale Trojans of the SMAAAHL, posting six assists and 190 penalty minutes in 22 games.

Potential Rookies:  Ryan Andersen (90), Teal Burns (92), Oliver Gabriel (91), Alex Gaustad (90), Killian Hutt (91), Ryan Johansen (92), Dustin Johnson (90), Logan Johnston (91), Kyzen Loo (92), Shawn Mueller (92), Vince Nash (92), Taylor Peters (92), Zack Rassell (92), Bradley Ross (92), Maxim Trunev (90), Jason Wark (92)

Ryan Andersen (90 – 6’3” 205) is a 18 year old winger from Wainwright, AB.  Andersen started the year with the Spruce Grove Saints of the AJHL, appearing in 10 games, before joining the Wainwright Bisons of the NE Alberta Jr. B Hockey League, where he posted 20-34-54 with 61 PIM in just 31 games.  He is a list player for Portland.

Teal Burns (92 – 5’8” 155) was a 8th round Bantam selection in 2007 and played midget hockey last year for the Juan de Fuca Grizzlies on Vancouver Island – no stats available.  He also appeared in two games for the Victoria Cougars of the VIJHL Jr. B league, scoring a goal.

Oliver Gabriel (91 – 6’1” 160) is the younger brother of d-man Scott Gabriel and was added to the Hawks list after training camp in 2007.  He played for the CAC team in the REM AA Midget league last year in Edmonton, scoring 25-29-54 with 95 penalty minutes in 29 games.  His 54 points were second in the league in scoring.

Alex Gaustad (90) is the cousin of Paul and B.J. Gaustad, and played High School Hockey in North Dakota last season for the Grafton/Park River team.  He scored 14-31-45 with 22 penalty minutes in 27 games.   Alex was named to the 2008 North Dakota Boy’s All-State Team and his team won the state championship in a 3 OT thriller.  He also has two other cousins playing pro hockey in Grant and Ryan Potulny, both in the Edmonton Oiler organization.  He is a list player for Portland.

Killian Hutt (91 – 5’7” 165) was acquired in an off-season trade from Medicine Hat that sent Tristan King to the Tigers.  Hutt played for the Knights of Columbus Pats in the AMHL last season, finishing third in league scoring with 33-33-66 with 55 penalty minutes in 36 games.  His 33 goals tied for the league lead.  He also had 2-3-5 in 5 playoff games for the Pats. 

Ryan Johansen (92 – 6’0” 165) was the Hawks 7th round Bantam pick in 2007.  He played last year for the Vancouver NE Chiefs in the BCMML, posting 18-30-48 with 26 penalty minutes in 41 games.

Dustin Johnson (90 – 6’1” 190) is an 18 year old right wing that played in the BCHL last year for the Nanaimo Clippers, posting 4-3-7 with 15 penalty minutes in 22 games.  Johnson started the year with the Summerland Sting of the KIJHL, leading the league in scoring through 35 games with 30-28-58 before signing with the Clippers.  Johnson is a list player for Portland.

Logan Johnston (91 – 6’0” 203) is a 17 year old right wing that played for the Princeton Posse of the KIJHL in 2007-08, scoring 13-15-28 with 173 penalty minutes in 43 games.  He also appeared in four games for the Penticton Vees of the BCHL, picking up one assist.  Johnston was listed after attending the Hawks training camp last August.

Kyzen Loo (92 – 5’11” 165) was a 2nd round Bantam selection by the Hawks in 2007. He appeared in 40 games in 2007-08 for the Vancouver Canadians of the BCMML, scoring 7-14-21 with 8 penalty minutes.  He also had one goal in four playoff games for the Canadians.

Shawn Mueller (92 – 6’1” 175) is a list player, right wing, from Kitimat, BC.  He played last year for the Kitimat Bombers in the BCAHA AA Midget program – no stats available.  Mueller was selected to take part in the BC Cup earlier this summer.

Vince Nash (92 – 6’1” 170) was the Hawks 9th round Bantam pick in 2007.  He played in 2007-08 for the Bantam A program in Champlin, Minnesota – no stats available.

Taylor Peters (92 – 6’2” 195) was the Hawks 4th round Bantam pick in 2007.  He got into five games last year as a 15 year old for the Hawks, scoring 2 goals.  He was a teammate of Kyzen Loo for the Vancouver Canadians of the BCMML, scoring 10-14-24 with 66 penalty minutes in 39 games.  He also added one assist in four playoff games.  Peters also took part in the BC Provincial Camp in July and is one of the final candidates to be selected to represent the province at the World U17 Championships in his home province at the end of December.

Zack Rassell (92 – 5’11” 160) was the Hawks 6th round Bantam pick in 2007.  Zack played for the Calgary Stampeders in the Southern Alberta Midget League in 2007-08 – no stats available.  Rassell also appeared in three games with the Calgary Flames of the AMHL, scoring once.  Rassell attended the Alberta U17 Provincial Camp in July.

Bradley Ross (92 – 5’11” 140) was the Hawks 1st round (#5 overall) Bantam selection in 2007.  Ross played for the Lethbridge Y’s Men Titans in the AMHL in 2007-08, scoring 10-14-24 with 82 penalty minutes in 35 games.  He had a tremendous playoff for the Titans, chipping in 6-5-11 and 22 penalty minutes in just 6 games.  Bradley appeared in three games for the Hawks last year, not hitting the score sheet.  His older brother, Nick, is a 1st round NHL selection and a current member of the Kamloops Blazers.  Ross attended the Alberta U17 Provincial Camp in July and has made the final 27 list for the province and has an opportunity to be one of the final 11 players selected to represent the province at the World U17 Championships at the end of December.

Maxim Trunev (90 – 5’11” 176) was the Hawks 1st round (#3 overall) in the 2008 CHL Import Draft.  Trunev, from Kirovo-Chepetsk, Russia, was a 5th round NHL Draft selection of the Montreal Canadiens in 2008.  He played for the Severstal-2 Cherepovets in 2007-08, posting 28-32-60 in 36 games.  He also played one game in the premier Russian Hockey League last year.  Trunev has played in the last two Mac’s Midget AAA Tournament in Calgary, scoring a combined 6-19-25 in 14 games.

Jason Wark (92 – 6’1” 175) is a left wing from Campbell River, BC.  He played last season for the Campbell River Tyees in the BCAHA AA Midget program – no stats available.  Wark also took part in the BC Cup previously this summer.  Wark is a list player for Portland.

In addition to the players listed above, the Winter Hawks continue to monitor and have discussions with the following players:

James Kerr (90 – 6’1” 195) was obtained from the Kelowna Rockets last season, but he opted to play for the Alberni Valley Bulldogs of the BCHL in 2007-08, scoring 14-29-43 in 60 games.  The son of former WHL and NHL player Alan Kerr, James has verbally committed to Princeton University of the NCAA.

Dion Knelson (89 – 5’9” 170) was the Hawks 4th round Bantam selection in 2004.  Knelson is currently enrolled and playing for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Nanooks in the NCAA.  He scored 11-22-33 in 35 games last season.

Patrick Wiercioch (90 – 6’1” 180) was acquired along with Lee Morrow in a trade that sent Michael Sauer to Medicine Hat in December of 2006.  Wiercioch played last year for the Omaha Lancers of the USHL, scoring 3-18-21 in 40 games.  Wiercioch had originally committed to the University of Wisconsin, but has now switched and is committed to attending Denver University.

William Wrenn (91 – 6’0 185) is a defenseman that played last year for the US National Development U17 program, posting 0-5-5 in 43 games.  Wrenn is a graduate of the LA Selects program in California and is verbally committed to Denver University in 2009-10.  He is a list player for Portland.

Training camp will start on Saturday, August 23rd, in Portland.  For a full schedule and locations, click on www.winterhawks.com and follow the link to 2008 Main Camp.


  1. Andy, nice update. Any incremental update to this list is appreciated. Do the Hawks have any plans for some of the 93 draft picks showing up at training camp?


  2. They expect most, if not all, of the 93 born players to be at the training camp.


  3. Nice write-up, Andy, thanks.

    Looking forward to a healthy defense this year. Hopefully we won’t struggle clearing our own zone so much this year.

  4. Great preview, Andy. The WHL is a very unpredictable sort of league. Its not uncommon for a bottom dweller one year to win the division, if not the league, the next. Just look at the 1999-2000 team. Its early yet, but we have amassed great prospects and made maybe a small step towards mending our many many management issues. At this point, what do you think it will take for the Hawks to contend in the US Division?

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