Winterhawks Make One Move – Trade Deadline Recap

The 2011 WHL Trade Deadline has come and gone and the Portland Winterhawks made one move, trading a defense prospect in Branden Scheidl to Lethbridge for a forward prospect in Ryley Bennefield.

Bennefield is a 1994 born player (hockey age 16) that is playing for the Wetaskiwin Icemen of the Capital Junior Hockey League in his hometwon of Westaskiwin, AB.   In 16 games, he has 12-8-20 and 6 PIM’s.  He played for the Leduc Oil Kings in the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League last year, producing 21-18-39  and 40 PIM’s in 35 games.  He was the Hurricanes second round selection in the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft.

Scheidl, a 1995 born player (hockey age 15) was Portland’s fourth round bantam selection in the 2010 WHL Bantam Draft and plays for the Saskatoon Contacts in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League.

The big deal of the day was Brayden Schenn moving to the Saskatoon Blades, but I’ll recap the U.S. Divison deals first:

Spokane Chiefs:  made no moves today…their roster (which has been the hottest team in the WHL the last month) remains intact with the exception of sending d-man Kyle Krzyzaniak to Dauphin of the MJHL.

Tri City Americans: Made a significant move to get 91 d-man Matt MacKenzie from the Calgary Hitmen for 92 forward Brooks Macek and 92 d-man Spencer Humphries plus a conditional 3rd rounder in 2012 (probably conditional on if MacKenzie returns as an overager in 2011-12).   MacKenzie was a key on the Hitmen WHL Championship team last year, paired a lot with Michael Stone and he has a wealth of playoff experience.

The Americans gave up quite a bit in Macek, whose numbers have dropped this year, and Humphries, who had been improving a lot this year.  Macek was a point a game player as a 17 year old with 73 points in 72 games, but had dropped this year with 24 points in 38 games.  Maybe a change of scenery will be good for him.

With the move, the Ams get an upgrade on defense with MacKenzie while moving Macek will most likely mean more playing time for 16 year old Connor Rankin, which isn’t a bad thing for the Ams.

Seattle Thunderbirds: The Thunderbirds are a team that has struggled to score goals this year, averaging 2.83/game, so they went out and moved forward Charles Wells (27 points in 41 games and 55 points last year) for defenseman Ryan Button from Prince Albert.  Both are 91 born players.

Button is a good, puck-moving defenseman that had 23 points in 44 games in Prince Albert and he can help bloster an already pretty good power play for Seattle.  Wells, if the rumors I have heard are correct, may have asked out of Seattle and if Button was the return than Russ Farwell did pretty well.

The ‘Birds also made a more minor deal, getting 92 born d-man Mitch Spooner from Regina for a conditional 5th round pick in 2012.  Spooner had left the Pats earlier this year to ponder his hockey future.  Spooner was originally Vancouver Giants property.

Everett Silvertips: They made one trade and it was fairly significant, trading 91 born forward Kellan Tochkin and 92 born d-man Alex Theriau (who was out last night with a lower body injury) to the Medicine Hat Tigers for 92 born forward Ryan Harrison and a 2nd round Bantam Pick.

Tochkin was one of the steadiest contributors to the Silvertips this year with 36 points in 38 games and Theriau is a former first round Bantam selection of the Lethbridge Hurricanes.  Harrison was a second round bantam selection of the Prince Albert Raiders that had 33 points in 40 games in the Hat.

Harrison is a year younger than Tochkin and I’m sure that was part of the reason for the trade from Everett’s side but I don’t see the trade having a huge impact on what Everett does the rest of the way.

The rest of the deals…

The big trade of the day was Brayden Schenn and a 3rd round bantam pick in 2012 to the Saskatoon Blades for first round picks in 2011 and 2012, 2nd round pick in 2011, the 1st round 2012 CHL Import pick and prospects Ayrton Nikkel and Tim McGauley heading to Brandon.

This trade was the worst kept secret this year and it was a matter of when and for how much when it was announced.  The Wheaties did well getting top picks and the top two players the Blades selected in the 2010 Bantam Draft in Nikkel and McGauley.

For Saskatoon, they get the guy who could be the difference in the East and maybe the WHL without losing a roster player.  Schenn is still recovering from a shoulder injury and should be ready in a week or so.  Blades fans will be waiting with anticipation for that date, but shoulder injuries always worry me as they have a lot of reoccurring issues.

The BC Division was very quiet today with just the Vancouver Giants making a small deal, trading Tanner Sohn to the Saskatoon Blades for a 10th round pick in 2013.   Sohn had already gone home awaiting a deal, so a late rounder two years from now isn’t out of the ordinary for a guy who was a 12th round bantam pick and already dealt once before in his WHL career.  Sohn was also drafted by Saskatoon, then dropped, signed by Lethbridge and then traded to Vancouver.

Moose Jaw and Prince Albert exchanged imports with Michal Hlinka and a 3rd and 6th round picks in 2011 heading to PA for Sebastian Svendsen.   I think the Warriors paid a high price for Svendsen who is now on his way to his fourth WHL team (Vancouver, Edmonton, PA and now MJ).  Svendsen has 34 points in 44 games this year while Hlinka put up just six points in 22 games.  Hlinka is a 93 born player while Svendsen is a 91 born player from Denmark.

That’s it…just 8 deals on the deadline…I’m sure that parity had something to do with that…the rosters are set.  The post-season push is on…Hawks and Chiefs Wednesday night at the MC, hope to see you all there.


Mid-Term Central Scouting Rankings

As we all wait to find out what will happen at the WHL Trade Deadline, NHL Central Scouting put out their mid-term rankings for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft today.  The Hawks have four players ranked in the top 33 in the North American skaters:

Sven Bärtschi – 6th

Ty Rattie – 11th

Joseph Morrow – 16th

Tyler Wotherspoon – 33rd

The complete rankings can be found at the NHL website.

All four players will take part in the CHL Top Prospects Game in Toronto on January 19th.


Winterhawks 5 – Silvertips 4 (SO)

It was a weird game tonight at the Memorial Coliseum as the Portland Winterhawks rallied for a three goal deficit to get the shootout victory 5-4 over the Everett Silvertips.

Mac Carruth got the start, and the finish, for Portland but it was Keith Hamilton that held Portland in the game for the Hawks as Carruth allowed 3 goals on 7 shots in the opening eight minutes and was relieved by Hamilton at that point.  Hamilton gave up one more in the period, but shut down Everett after that, stopping 20 of 21 shots in relief.  Once the game got to the shootout, Portland Head Coach Mike Johnston pulled a switch again and put Carruth back in net for the shootout and the move paid off, as Carruth stopped all three shots he faced to get the victory (as he gets credit as he was in net when the winning goal was scored – but as we said on the post-game show, we think he should have got the “save” in baseball terms).

As far as I know, this is the only time in WHL history that a team has changed goaltenders prior to the shootout and won.  I seem to remember one team making a change before the shootout, but they wound up losing.  If anyone can recall differently, leave a note in the comments section.

Some other randoms…

— For the record, Hamilton in his career against Everett has a 1.77 GAA and a .938 save percentage against Everett in four games.

— Craig Cunningham played in his 300th WHL game tonight, 295 of those came in a Vancouver Giants uniform.  With his assist in the third period, he now has 4-2-6 in his last four games.

— The tying goal by Nino Niederreiter was the 50th of his WHL career, coming in his 90th career game.

— Tyler Wotherspoon’s goal was the second of his WHL career and his first on home ice as he scored last year in Cranbrook.

— Some big NHL names in the building tonight, including Al MacInnis of the St. Louis Blues and Ken Holland (the older brother of former Hawk great Dennis Holland), the GM of the Detroit Red Wings.

— The Hawks killed four of five penalties tonight giving them 200 penalty kills on the season.  There are 13 WHL teams that have not 200 penalty kill attempts this season.

— With Oliver Gabriel’s short handed goal in the first period, the Hawks have now scored short handed in the past three games against Everett, two of those by Gabriel.

— The trade deadline is at 2:00 PM, all of the breaking news (if there is any) regarding the Hawks will be at the Hawks site first and on the WHL site.  I will have some commentary on all of the deals later tomorrow…and it will be interesting to see what happens, especially with what Kootenay paid to get Cody Eakin today.

— And lastly, nothing like the Spokane Chiefs coming to town to have the Snowmageddon forecast for Portland…the Hawks take on the Chiefs Wednesday night at 7:00 at the MC…

Winterhawks 2 – Thunderbirds 1

One of my favorite movie quotes is from Bull Durham…as spoken by Tim Robbins’ character, Nuke LaLoosh:

“Winning…its like so much better than losing…”

And after four losses, three coming after the Christmas break it was nice to see the Portland Winterhawks notch one back in the win column with the 2-1 victory over the Seattle Thunderbirds in front of 10,288 at the Rose Garden.

Some randoms…

— This was one of the best goaltended games I’ve seen in a long time with both Mac Carruth and Calvin Pickard playing well.  I love watching offense in hockey, but a good goaltender duel can be equally fun and exciting and tonight was that.  The two combined to stop 70 of 73 shots, some of them highlight reel quality.

— It was great to see all of the guys back in Portland and it was nice that there wasn’t a noticeable post-tournament hangover.  The two 16 year olds – Derrick Pouliot and Brendan Leipsic – both had very good games for Portland while Ryan Johansen, Sven Bartschi and Nino Niederreiter all played well.

— The Johansen/Bartschi/Ty Rattie line had some absolutely dominant shifts, especially in the final two periods where they hounded the puck in the offensive zone and won battle after battle.   If it wasn’t for Pickard, that line could have had four or five goals tonight.  In the end, they get the winner and that was good enough.

— Craig Cunningham continued to show why the Hawks traded for him, scoring the first goal on a nice wrist shot and playing sound in all three zones, and doing some good work on the PK.  Once he gets used to playing with Nino and Brad Ross, they could be deadly.

— A good WHL debut for William Wrenn as he showed good poise in the defensive zone and made some nice plays to clear pucks from traffic and some good outlets.  He played physical in the corners and he looked comfortable.

— Back to back, 10,000 plus crowds in the Rose Garden…been a while since that has happened.

— Everett makes the long drive from Spokane to Portland for the game on Sunday night…the Hawks and Silvertips at 5:00 tomorrow…pregame on Freedom 970 will be at 4:40.

Silver For Johansen…

Photo Credit - Nathan Denette/AP Photo/The Canadian Press

For forty minutes last night the course that Team Canada had set out on since mid-December was right on track.  But a disastrous five minute stretch early in the third period allowed Team Russia back in the game and they rode the momentum wave to an unlikely 5-3 win in the World U20 Championship Gold Medal game.

It was not the finish that Ryan Johansen wanted to be sure.  He had a great tournament for Team Canada and earned All-Star honors for his efforts during the week.  Last night was the first game in the tournament that he was held without a point, but he did have some nice set-ups that weren’t finished and he was beaten by the Russian goaltenders in tight a few times as well.

Johansen returns to Portland and his Winterhawks teammates with a Silver Medal and the knowledge that he can be a dominant player on the international stage in his age bracket.    Will he get a second chance at Gold next year in Alberta?  That won’t be known until the Columbus Blue Jackets decide on Johansen’s fate next fall.  He could stick in the NHL as a 19 year old rookie like Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin.

Either way, it will be nice to have Johan as well as Nino Niederreiter, Sven Bartschi, Derrick Pouliot and Brendan Leipsic back in Portland this weekend and wearing the Hawks sweater.   The early season points advantage in the Division and Conference are gone and it will be a battle to the end to see who comes out on top…and that is how it should be.  No one gets to their heaven without a fight…and the Hawks have a couple new weapons in the arsenal since the five players listed above left to play for their Countries with the additions of Craig Cunningham and William Wrenn.

When I was sitting in the broadcast booth a few years ago, suffering through an 11 win, then a 17 and a 19 win season, I was dreaming of being in a playoff race.  Thinking of how much fun it would be to call games for a contending team.  I got a taste last year with the 44 wins and a first round playoff win.  Now the expectations are greater and the stakes are higher.  Every night is going to be a war and I can’t wait to see what happens over the next few months.

I can’t imagine the disappointment felt by Johansen and his Canadian mates after last nights game, but as much as it hurts, it will make them all stronger on and off the ice, IMO.  As Portland Winterhawks fans you should be proud of what all five of our players showed at the two championships.  But now…its time to get back to the business at hand in Portland.

The stretch run starts Saturday at the Rose Garden against Seattle…

Wednesday Update…

Well, we know that Ryan Johansen will return to Portland with a medal…the question is will it be Gold or Silver?  Johansen and Team Canada will take on the team from Russia at 4:30 local time this afternoon for all the marbles in Buffalo, NY.  The game can be seen on the NHL Network for those that have access.

Johansen has had a great tournament, getting at least one point in every Canada game and has been arguably the Canadians best forward in the last two games.  His numbers (3-6-9 and a +5 in six games) are getting buried by the offensive exploits of Brayden Schenn, but it is quite the tournament for a player that had never played on the International stage at any point prior to this tournament.

The other Hawks playing in Buffalo – Nino Niederreiter and Sven Bartschi – finished their tournament on a good note, knocking off Finland yesterday in a shootout to finish fifth overall in the 10 team tournament.

Neither put up huge numbers but from the two games that I saw on television, both played well and created chances.

At the World U17’s, Team West with Brendan Leipsic and Derrick Pouliot finished sixth overall in the tournament that ended yesterday.  Leipsic had 3-2-5 in five games while Pouliot (who was named a tournament All-Star) had 0-3-3 in five games.

All of the players that took part in these tournaments are expected back in Portland in time for the Hawks two home games this weekend against Seattle on Saturday and Everett on Sunday.

William Wrenn is signed, sealed and delivered and he too will be looking to be in the lineup this weekend.  He will wear #44 for the Hawks.  The physical, stay at home defenseman has been skating the last couple of days with the Hawks and it will be an interesting story to see how he transitions from the NCAA to the WHL.

Not only is the style of game different, but there is a transition from wearing a full face cage to a half visor…not as easy as it sounds.  Having these few days to practice with the visor will help for sure.

Portland will be without Tayler Jordan for the next 4-6 weeks after suffering an abdominal injury.  The Hawks will miss his physical presence and his penalty killing, where Jordan has been really good this year.

With Jordan out, that leaves just Craig Cunningham as the Hawks lone overage player in the lineup this weekend.  With the trade deadline looming at 2 PM local time on Monday, January 10th, we’ll see if that continues to be the case.

One radio note for this weekend, Saturday’s game will be broadcast on AM 750 KXL Newsradio instead of Freedom 970.   Pre-game show will be at 6:40.

Wrenn Expected to Join Hawks

The Portland Winterhawks are expected to sign 1991 born defenseman William Wrenn, who has decided to leave the University of Denver and pursue his hockey career in the WHL.

Wrenn is a native of Anchorage, AK, and has played for the LA Selects as well as the US National Development Team in Ann Arbor, MI, prior to joining the University of Denver Pioneers.  He is known as a defensive defenseman, chipping in 8 assists over 41 games for the Pioneers.

Listed at 6’1, 210 lbs, he is a solid addition to the Hawks blue line without having to give up anything as Portland has had Wrenn on their radar, having added him to the teams protected listed in May of 2006.

Wrenn is a character type of player, including being the Captain of the 2009 Team USA World U18 Championship team (where the photo above was taken).

He is a 2nd round, #43 overall (the same spot as Brad Ross) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by the San Jose Sharks.

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