Preseason Live-blogging…

We will be venturing into the live-blogging world for the preseason games this weekend in Everett starting on Friday morning.

The Portland/Seattle game will be Friday morning at 11:30 AM from Everett.  We will open the blog session at 11:15.

To enter the live blog and add your questions/comments on Friday, you can do so by linking here.

Good Week at the MC…

There’s an old adage amongst sports people that says “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” when referring to a season and for the Portland Winterhawks, the first section of the marathon passed yesterday afternoon when they wrapped up the first part of the 2010-11 training camp at the Memorial Coliseum.

Of the 80 or so players that took part in the past five days of both on and off ice sessions, the team was expected to keep around 40 for more sessions this week.  From there, they will narrow it down a bit more before heading to Everett for the preseason tournament that starts at 11:30 AM on Friday at the Comcast Arena when the Hawks take on the Seattle Thunderbirds.

For the most part, the players that are heading to pro camp should be around for the games this weekend.  How much they play will be determined by the coaching staff, but they should be around.   One that won’t be there is Ryan Johansen who is off to begin work with the Columbus Blue Jackets.  So, I guess the Ryan and Nino watch is officially on as both players will do their best to show their respective NHL teams that they are worthy of a roster spot as 18 year olds.

The other 11 players leaving to attend camps (Brett Ponich/St. Louis, Spencer Bennett/Calgary, Brad Ross/Toronto, Taylor Aronson/Nashville, Troy Rutkowski/Colorado, Luke Walker/Colorado, Mac Carruth/Chicago, Riley Boychuk/Buffalo, Oliver Gabriel/Columbus, Tayler Jordan/Vancouver and Taylor Peters/Pittsburgh) will depart by early next week.

As far as the last few days of camp went…I was impressed with the skill level of the players in camp and, while the scrimmages were more run-and-gun than a normal game would be, there was a lot to like about the depth of the Hawks 50 man protected list.  Did any newcomer do enough to unseat a current member of the protected list?  That will be determined by the hockey operations staff of the Hawks and as per norm, the protected list changes won’t be made public unless a player signs the WHL agreement.

Looking at potential newcomers to the 2010-11 roster, I focused on the potential 1994 class (16 year olds) and liked what I saw from all of those that have already committed to the Hawks.  A few notes, in no particular order:

Derrick Pouliot – every time that I watch him, I am impressed by his command of the game and his poise and decision making.  He never seems to panic and when he had the puck on his stick, his team was in control.  He did seem to rush some shots on scoring chances, but scored a beauty of a goal to tie the game late on Saturday to propel his team into the final of the Neely Cup on Sunday.

Taylor Leier – Had good chemistry with Johansen on his team and showed that he can get to the scoring spots on the ice and make something happen when he gets the puck in those spots.  Finished with 6 goals and 10 points (unofficially) in the scrimmages and coming up and practicing with the Hawks during the postseason probably helped him in preparation for this season.

Josh Hanson – His skating really impressed me this past week and, much like Pouliot, is very poised with the puck.  He was steady and you didn’t notice him much in the defensive zone, which is a good thing.  Smart, both on and off the ice.

Brendan Leipsic – The little guy…I’m sure he’s tired of hearing that.  Little or not…he plays big and he showed that he has some nice offensive instincts that will go a long way in the WHL.  He had a number of guys after him as the games progressed and that is a sign of the type of game he plays.

Adam Smith – Adam knows only one way to play – physical.  He drives to the net with no fear and often times finds himself being the center of attention in goal mouth scrambles for crashing the crease.  He skates well for a big body and will be a force in front of the net.

Just how many of these five will be with the team this year is still to be determined, but all proved that they can be WHL players and it showed how deep the Hawks are in a lot of areas.  Will we be comparing the 1994 bantam draft class to the 1992 bantam draft class in a year or two?  Only time will tell…

For the 1993 bantam draft class…the three players that played last year in Portland all showed very well in the scrimmages with Ty Rattie leading the way, posting 8 goals and 15 points in the scrimmages.  The puck follows Rattie and he handles it in tight traffic incredibly well, even when on his knees.   Could he have the type of season where is a top 10 NHL draft selection next June?  He’s off to a great start.   The other two, Seth Swenson and Tyler Wotherspoon had solid camps as well and look like they will battle for increased roles in their second years in the WHL.

In net, there will still be a battle for positioning with Ian Curtis recovering from shoulder surgery and not available until October at the earliest.  It will be interesting to see how the remaining goaltenders (I haven’t seen the list of who is still around as of yet) fare this weekend in Everett.

All in all, the past few days have been a chance for players to be seen by the Hawks hockey staff and to get to know what hockey in Portland is all about.   They were put through some rigorous fitness and on-ice sessions and the results were positive.  The talent level of the players in attendance may have never been higher in team history.

The next leg of the marathon starts this weekend in Everett.  I’ll be on hand and I have figured out how to do live-blogging, so look for that for the three games starting Friday morning.  I’ll have more details on that in the next couple of days.

No recap tonight…

Been a busy day…I’m beat…I’ll post a camp thoughts final thing either tomorrow night or Monday…

Day 2 Recap…

Two days in the books for the Portland Winterhawks and the Neely Cup tournament and there was lots of scoring tonight at the ole MC…for the standing on the tournament, go to the Hawks website.

Game 1 featured Team Wesley against Team Turnbull.  In the two 40 minute halves, the squads split the victories with Wesley winning the first half 5-1 and Turnbull winning the second 6-3.

Thoughts:

Team Wesley:

Just like last night the team was led by Ryan Johansen (7th round 2007)  and Taylor Leier (2nd round 2009), each with 2 goals and 1 assist in the two halves.  One of Leier’s markers came on a penalty shot.  Jake Montgomery (11th round 2009) and Connor Hutchins (6th round 2010) chipped in with 1 goal and 1 assist.  It was a game for the Hawks bantam draft players as all eight goals scored by Team Wesley were from drafted players with Paul Stoykewych (2nd round 2010), Connor Hutchins (6th round 2010) and Chase Deleo (9th Round 2010) adding goals.  Deleo’s goal was his fourth in two nights and came on a penalty shot.  In net, Christian Frey allowed one goal for the first half win.

Team Turnbull:

Once again the drafted players shown in this game with Seth Swenson (10th Round 2008) leading the charge with 1 goal and 2 assists.  Taylor Peters (4th round 2007) and Adam de Champlain (10th round 2009) each had one goal and one assist.  The defense got into the offense for Team Turnbull in this one, getting goals from Dylan Bowen (7th round 2010), Tyler Wotherspoon (2nd round 2008) and David Watt (5th round 2006).  Bowen’s goal was on a hard slap shot from the blue line with both Wotherspoon and Watt scored on nice wrist shots from the bottom of the right face off circle.  Brendan Burke (3rd round 2010) got the victory in the second half, allowing three goals.

In the second match-up, Team Nylund took on Team Babych.  Once again, they split the two halves with Nylund taking the first half 5-4 and Babych taking the second half 8-5.

Thoughts:

Team Nylund:

Team Nylund was led by the Hawks returning veterans tonight as Gasper Kopitar (2 goals, 2 assists) and Luke Walker (3 goals, 1 assist) each had four point nights.   Walker scored twice from the slot, one on an up-ice rush and wrist shot, the other on a one-time slap shot, that were tremendous shots and Kopitar’s two goals came off of wrist shots.   Troy Rutkowski added two goals and one assist, including an absolute laser of a slap shot from the top of the right circle to open the game.  Interesting that all three players were list players and all went undrafted in the WHL Bantam Draft.  Adam Smith (9th round 2009) had two assists while Wyatt Noskey (5th round 2010) added a goal as well.

Team Babych:

Who played well?  Well…whoever was on the ice with Ty Rattie.  Rattie (1st round 2008) was the offensive star of the night, contributing on seven of the Team Babych’s 12 goals with 2 goals and 5 assists.  Rattie appears set to have a big year in his draft year and he has been all around the puck the past two nights getting 10 points combined between the two.  Spencer Bennett scored three goals while Sven Bärtschi impressed for the second straight night, adding 1 goal and 2 assists.  Nicolas Petan (1st round 2010) added a couple helpers.

Same plan for tomorrow…practices in the mornings and then scrimmages in the late afternoon.  Hope to see you all at the rink tomorrow…

Day One Scrimmages…

The first day of the 2010-11 Portland Winterhawks training camp is in the books and there was quite a bit of talent on display tonight at the two scrimmages to start the Neely Cup tournament going on through Sunday.

Each of the games was split into two halves – each starting at 0-0.  The first game was a stop-clock 30 minute half while the second game was a running time 40 minute half.

The first game featured Team Turnbull (wearing blue) versus Team Babych (wearing grey)…and they split the halves with Babych winning 4-2 in the first and Turnbull winning 5-3 in the second.

The full rosters are available at the games, but I don’t feel like typing them out tonight (been a long day)…but here is a summary of some names and actions.  All stats are unofficial as tabulated by me…and they don’t necessarily agree with the announced scoring in the building and all ages listed are “hockey age”:

Team Babych:

Early in the first half, the new Swiss Import Sven Bärtschi showed what he brings to the table setting up Ty Rattie and Nicolas Petan for goals sandwiched around a marker of his own.  He also played a more physical game that I envisioned as he worked well along the walls, winning some puck battles and going to the net.  Head Coach Mike Johnston likes to keep pairs of players together and maybe there is some chemistry with Rattie and Bärtschi that will develop like it did last year with Nino Niederreiter and Ryan Johansen.   The Babych squad also got a seeing-eye point shot goal from 17 year old Dylan Mooney and they skated away with a 4-2 win in the first half.

In the second half for Babych, they got a spectacular goal from Riley Boychuk, who roofed a short wrister while falling to the ice that got a rise from the crowd in attendance.   They also got goals from 17 year old William Clark (from Texas, listed at 6’6″ 230), who finished off a two-on-one nicely in tight and then a final goal from Rattie, again set up Bärtschi for a four point outing, in a late rally with the goalie pulled.

While he didn’t hit the scoresheet, Joe Morrow looked very solid rushing the puck out of his zone and jumping into the play.  Brad Ross also played well, being his feisty self and ringing the crossbar in the second half.

In goal, Mac Carruth started and gave up one goal in 20 minutes.  He was relieved by 16 year old Glenn Ferguson who gave up three goals in 20 minutes split over two halves, and then finished with Tyler Read who gave up 2 goals in his 20 minutes.  Shots were not tracked, so I don’t have save numbers.

Team Turnbull:

Team Turnbull also had a pair of players that seemed to mesh well together and they were 18 year olds Taylor Peters and Teal Burns.  Peters scored the first goal of the first half for Turnbull, making a nice move off the end boards and stuffing home a crease shot past Carruth.  Burns scored the other goal, finished off a nice cross ice pass from Tyler Wotherspoon late in the half, Peters had the second helper on that goal.

In the second half, the offense got going a bit more and they got two goals from 15 year old Riley Alferd and single markers from Burns, Peters and Adam de Champlain.  Burns finished with four points while Peters had three points.   Burns second goal came on a nice deflection of a point shot from 15 year old Dylan Bowen.

Brendan Leipsic didn’t hit the scoresheet, but did ring the post twice on shots from the slot.  de Champlain hit the post as well for Turnbull.

On the back end, the pairing of Wotherspoon and Derrick Pouliot looked very good as they handled the puck in their own zone very well and jumped into the rush when they got a chance.   A future top pair for the Hawks in the not so far future.

In goal, 15 year old Brendan Burke played the first half and gave up four goals, but made some strong saves as well.  In the second half, 18 year old Warren Shymko allowed three goals while perserving the victory with some solid play in the final five minutes.

In the second game, Team Wesley (wearing black) knocked off Team Nylund (wearing red) in both halves, by scores of 3-1 and 4-2.

Some notes:

Team Wesley:

In the first half, the two-man combo for Wesley was Ryan Johansen and 16 year old Taylor Leier.  Johansen set Leier up with his patented end-board centering pass and Leier made no mistake early in the first half.   18 year old Jason Trott then got the first penalty shot awarded on the day (they took penalty shots instead of serving penalties) and put home a nice backhand to make it 2-0.  The final goal was scored on a nice finish by Johansen in tight, set up by 19 year old d-man Stephane Robidoux (who saw some time with Brandon the past couple of years) and Leier.

In the second half, it was 15 year old Chase Deleo stepping forward, scoring three goals.  Leier set up the first goal for a three point game.  Deleo’s second goal came from behind the goal line when it pinballed in from the crease.  He wrapped up the hat trick with a roof shot from the slot.  The other goal came from Brandon Burlingame, who also had one assist.

On defense, Brett Ponich was paired with Josh Hanson and they looked comfortable together.

In net, 17 year old Christian Frey played the first half and allowed one goal and 15 year old Jarrod Schamerhorn played the second half and gave up two, but made some nice saves to perserve the second half win as Team Red peppered a lot of shots late in the contest.

Team Nylund:

Their lone goal of the opening half came when Adam Smith made a nice outlet pass to spring Luke Walker on a breakaway and he beat Frey high glove with a wrister.  In the second half, Gasper Kopitar finished off a penalty shot with a nice backhand and then Brayden Low deflected home a Kyle Madsen entry shot to make it close at the end.  Nylund got a lot of looks late in the game, but couldn’t get any closer despite a territorial advantage.

Troy Rutkowski played his normal puck rushing game and looked very good in doing so.

In net, Keith Hamilton allowed three goals in the first half and Kootenay Alder gave up four in his half.  Both made some quality saves as well.

There will be two scrimmages on Friday evening as well…starting at 4:00 at the MC…

Players Arrive…Ready for Camp…

When the stage lot doors opened this afternoon at the back of the Memorial Coliseum, the 80 or so players that will take part in the 2010 Portland Winterhawks training camp checked in, filled out some paperwork and got ready for fitness testing that took place this afternoon.

They were measured and weighed and then put through some physical tests, including weights and a running drill that had them running short sprints for 15 lengths, followed by a two minute break, and then they would do it again two more times.  I think most players are ready to hit the ice now and get ready for the start of scrimmages tomorrow afternoon.

Everyone appeared in tremendous shape and ready to do battle for a roster spot.

A funny thing about hockey players…I ran the scale for the weigh in, and for the most part, when a person steps on the scale, they want the reading to be lower than it actually is.  The players, for the most part, wanted to add a couple pounds…make them bigger, at least on paper, or in their minds.

But, the great thing about hockey is that size doesn’t necessarily overcome heart and a little guy with heart can have just as much of an impact as anyone.

There will be on-ice practice sessions in the morning and then two scrimmages in the afternoon.  Rosters should be available at the scrimmages and I’ll post some post-scrimmage thoughts each day as well.

Hawkey is back in town…and it feels good.

Training Camp Beckons…

It all starts in earnest tomorrow…

The 82 players that are going to battle for positions on not only the opening day roster of the 2010-11 Portland Winterhawks, but also those that are battling for position on the team’s 50 man protected player list, will gather at the Memorial Coliseum for registration and fitness testing.

The on-ice sessions start on Thursday morning with the first public scrimmages and the battle for the Neely Cup starts at 4:00 on Thursday afternoon.

This afternoon, the team introduced the eight players that were drafted in the June NHL Entry Draft this year to the media and the fans in attendance at Buffalo Wild Wing’s in Downtown Portland.  Well, seven of the eight anyway as Nino Niederreiter was not in attendance.

Niederreiter, at the request the New York Islanders, is going to remain in New York and prepare for the start of their rookie camp in early September.  Mike Johnston made that announcement today to the media and said that he has been, and will continue to be, in contact with Garth Snow, the General Manager of the Islanders, as camp progresses.

Nino has had a busy year and a busy off-season and the rest leading up to the Isles camp is in his best interest and the Hawks and Islanders feel that it is best for the player, even if selfishly, it would be great to see Nino in Portland doing what he does, even if it is only scrimmages.

What will happen with Nino as far as the regular season goes is still to be determined.  He either will be an Islander or a Winterhawk…and the teams will decide what is best for his development as we get to the end of September and early October.

In the mean time, it was great to see Ryan Johansen, Brad Ross, Taylor Aronson, Troy Rutkowski, Luke Walker, Mac Carruth and Riley Boychuk standing in front of the crowd in their respective NHL jerseys.  It was an impressive display and one that everyone in the organization can be proud of.

Three of the local TV stations were on hand – KATU, KGW and KPTV – and they should all have video on their newscast and probably their websites tonight.   The local papers were all on hand as well with the Oregonian, Tribune and Columbian all represented.

Hawkey is back in town…it’s going to be a fun ride!

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