Looking Forward…

It seems likes months since the Portland Winterhawks season ended on Friday the 13th of May in Game 5 of the WHL Championship Final.  I’ve taken some time away from the blog and to get back in the daily routines of the off-season…but we are approaching a busy stretch with the NHL Draft a few weeks away, the Import Draft (which is a non-event for Portland this year) and before you know it…training camp in August.

It was a great season in 2010-11 by any measure, one that will be remembered for a long time.  But, from being around the organization and the front office staff as much as I have been the past three years, it is safe to say that this wasn’t the end of a fantastic turn-around by the franchise, but what will hopefully be the start of a long run as a WHL contender.  The team has built their strongest protected list ever, with strong scouting and good recruitment of talented players.  The focus is on the future…and while there is still some questions on just who will be back in 2011-12, the team has some great things to look forward to.  So, with that, here is an early look at what the 2011-12 roster may look like.  Granted, it is early June and there could be player movement between now and August and there are always training camp surprises, but looking at things in the available light, here we go:

Goaltenders:

Eligible to return:

31 – Mac Carruth (1992 – 19) – With the trade of Keith Hamilton to Victoria, that solidifies Carruth as the #1 guy heading into next year.  He had a great 2011-12, posting 31 wins and a 3.08 GAA and .913 save percentage.  He is a unsigned draft pick of Chicago, but the Blackhawks have another year to tender him an offer.  A big thing for Mac is to get through an entire year injury free as he missed a number of starts this year while mending minor injuries.

Possible newcomers:

Brendan Burke (1995 – 16) – The 3rd round bantam pick in 2010 has signed with Portland and brings a great pedigree with him as the son of longtime NHL goaltender Sean Burke.  Burke spent almost the entire post-season in Portland working with the team and showed really well in practice.  That experience will give him a leg up heading into training camp looking to earn the #2 role as a 16 year old.  He brings size at 6’2, 175.

Jarrod Schamerhorn (1995 – 16) – Impressed enough as a training camp invite last year to earn a spot on the protected list and signed the WHL education agreement in May.  Another big goaltender at 6’1, 183, he got a chance to work with the team in his hometown of Kelowna during the Hawks playoff series with the Rockets.

Defensemen:

Eligible to return:

2 – Troy Rutkowski (1992 – 19) – Posted 10-37-47 in 72 games in 2010-11, 5th round selection of Colorado that is unsigned.  Always known as a good offensive defenseman, Rutkowski really improved in his own zone last year and he should be poised for a strong season in 2011-12, his fourth full season in Portland after going unselected in the WHL Bantam Draft.

4 – Josh Hanson (1994 – 17) – Posted 1-2-3 in 43 games in 2010-11, draft eligible in 2012. Josh didn’t get a ton of playing time as a 16 year old, but he showed that he has the ability to be a shut-down type defender in the WHL, and I think he has some offensive upsides as well.  He is mature and smart and should have a much bigger role in 2011-12.

6 – Brett Ponich (1991 -20) – Posted 0-12-12 in 45 games in 2010-11, 2nd round selection of St. Louis that has signed a pro contract.  Brett had his season shut down early by knee surgery in January, but prior to that, he had a very good year as Team Captain and being the steady stay at home defender in the Hawks line-up.  Having signed with the Blues, I put the odds at his return as 80-20 against.  He has the size to play at the AHL level and I think that is where he will be.

7 – Joe Morrow (1992 – 19) – Posted 9-40-49 in 60 games in 2010-11, projected 1st round selection in 2011.  He is no longer “Quiet Joe” as he is quickly becoming known around the hockey world for his tremendous skating, hard shot and his solid two-way play.   He averaged nearly a point a game since January 1st, including the playoffs, and will be a key guy in 2011-12.

26 – Tyler Wotherspoon (1993 – 18) – Posted 2-10-12 in 64 games in 2010-11, projected 3rd round selection in 2011.  Wotherspoon is a steady, reliable defender that showed very well in the playoffs on the penalty kill and really stepped up his game after Ponich went down with his injury.  Will most likely be a top 4 guy in 2011-12.

37 – Taylor Aronson (1991 – 20) – Posted 5-32-37 in 71 games in 2010-11, 3rd round selection of Nashville that has signed a pro contract.  Aronson flies under the radar a lot of nights and that is a compliment.  If you don’t notice him, he is doing his job well.  He is steady defensively, but still works the power play as well.  He has signed with the Preds, but they have a lot of defensemen in their system.  I would put the odds of Aronson returning as a 20 year old as 60-40 against.

44 – William Wrenn (1991 – 20) – Posted 2-11-13 in 29 games in 2010-11, 2nd round selection of San Jose that is unsigned, but the Sharks have one more year to sign him.  Started slowly after coming in from the NCAA ranks in January, but really showed his worth down the stretch and into the playoffs.  Plays physical and has a good point shot.  He has a better chance of returning as an overager in 2011-12 because of his draft status and the Sharks not having to offer him a contract this year.  I would put his odds on returning as 75-25 in favor of being in Portland next season.

51 – Derrick Pouliot (1994 – 17) – Posted 5-25-30 in 66 games in 2010-11, draft eligible in 2012.  The sky is the limit for Pouliot as he showed great poise and skill as a 16 year old rookie in 2011-12.  He was the power play quarterback on the second unit for much of the season and he makes smart plays with the puck.  Could he be a first round selection in the NHL draft in 2012?  He has the talent and I think he really shines in his second year in the WHL in 2011-12.

Possible newcomers:

As of this writing, the Hawks don’t have any signed defense prospects, but there are a few from the bantam drafts that could make a push next year, but there won’t be a ton of openings on the blue line in 2011-12.   Some to watch:

Reese Willcox (1994 – 17) – The 3rd round selection in 2009 would be a 17 year old rookie next season.  The 6’2, 185 left hand shot played for the Merritt Centennials in the BCHL in 2010-11, posting 5-9-14 in 53 games as a 16 year old rookie.

Paul Stoykewych (1995 – 16) – The 2nd round selection in 2010 would be a 16 year old rookie next season.  The 6’0, 172 left hand shot played for the Winnipeg Wild in the Manitoba Midget AAA League in 2010-11, posting 5-12-17 in 42 games as a 15 year old.

Layne Viveiros (1995 – 16) – The 9th round selection in 2011 would be a 16 year old rookie next season.  Viveiros is a bit of an unknown quantity as he has played in Europe for the past two seasons where is dad Emanuel (who played in the WHL for Prince Albert) is a coach.  He played in a U20 league in Austria last year, posting respectable 3-4-7 in 11 games as a 15 year old.

Forwards:

Eligible to return:

8 – Ty Rattie (1993 – 18) – Posted 28-51-79 in 67 games in 2010-11, projected 1st round selection in 2011.  Living up to his 1st round bantam selection status as an offensive force for Portland in 2010-11, he will be looked on to continue his growth and be a top-line player in 2011-12.  Has really good on-ice vision and good scoring touch.  Worked on his two-way game this year as well and that will help him develop into a pro player down the road.

11 – Oliver Gabriel (1991 – 20) – Posted 11-21-32 in 41 games in 2010-11, signed by Columbus as a free agent.  Gabriel had his season cut short due to shoulder surgery in January.  He has good offensive skills and could be ready to transition to the pro game having signed a pro contract.  I think his odds of returning as an overage at 70-30 against.

17 – Riley Boychuk (1991 – 20) – Posted 18-17-35 in 60 games in 2010-11, 7th round selection of Buffalo that is unsigned.  Much like Wrenn, Boychuk has another year before Buffalo has to tender him a contract, although there have been rumblings that they will offer him a deal soon.  Boychuk uses his big frame to create chances in front of the net and has good hands in tight.  He has fought injuries his entire WHL career and playing a full, healthy season would benefit him, IMO.  I think his chances of being back as an overage are 80-20 in favor of returning.

18 – Brad Ross (1992 – 19) – Posted 31-38-69 in 67 games in 2010-11, 2nd round selection of Toronto that is unsigned.  It was a bit of a strange season for Ross as he went through stretches where he put up big numbers, and then went quiet for a few weeks.  He still posted over a point per game and lowered his penalty minutes from the previous season.  He will be back and will be asked to play a veteran leadership role as well as providing offense.  I think 2011-12 is a huge season for Ross.

19 – Ryan Johansen (1992 – 19) – Posted 40-52-92 in 67 games in 2010-11, 1st round selection of Columbus, has signed a pro contract.  Now the questions start…is Johansen ready to play full time in the NHL as a 19 year old?  I know that Mike Johnston feels that he is.  He has proven that he can dominate at the WHL level and be a top performer on the national stage at the World Juniors.  The question is does Columbus feel there is enough quality ice time for him to develop next year in the NHL?  Only time will tell…but getting Johansen back in 2011-12 would be a bonus for the Hawks, and certainly not a sure thing.

22 – Nino Niederreiter (1992 – 19) – Posted 41-29-70 in 55 games in 2010-11, 1st round selection of the Islanders, has signed a pro contract.  There are the same questions for Nino that exist for Johansen.  He got a taste of the NHL last year, playing nine games.  Physically, he is ready…and I know the Hawks don’t expect him back.  Again…getting Nino back in 2011-12 would be a bonus.

23 – Seth Swenson (1993 – 18) – Posted 3-7-10 in 59 games in 2010-11, draft eligible in 2011.  Seth didn’t get a ton of playing time this year, but did make his way into the penalty kill rotation later in the season and he showed well.  Will be asked to play a bigger role in 2011-12 and be a larger contributor.  He has a good shot and a big frame to drive to the net.

25 – Taylor Peters (1992 – 19) – Posted 8-11-19 in 72 games in 2010-11, draft eligible in 2011.  Peters was one of the top penalty killers and defensive forwards in 2010-11 that showed flashes of skill and offense as well.  With the graduation of Craig Cunningham and the possible loss of Johansen, Peters will be looked at to possibly step into one of the top two center roles in 2011-12.  He has a real good shot that he will need to use more and we all know what he can do defensively.  Will 2011-12 be Peters break out season, I think it can be.

27 – Sven Bärtschi (1992 – 19) – Posted 34-51-85 in 66 games in 2010-11, projected 1st round selection in 2011.  What a rookie year for Sven in the WHL in 2010-11.  He will (most likely) be back to build upon his first year and should be a top scorer for the Hawks.

28 – Brendan Leipsic (1994 – 17) – Posted 16-17-33 in 68 games in 2010-11, draft eligible in 2012.  Leipsic certainly didn’t waste any time in becoming a fan favorite.  He hits like a truck and has really good hands and offensive abilities.  Put up numbers similar to Rattie’s 16 year old season, is the same growth there for the 17 year old season?  We’ll see, but he will get an opportunity to show what he can do in a bigger role in his second season as a Hawk.

40 – Jason Trott (1992 – 19) – Posted 2-1-3 in 32 games in 2010-11, draft eligible in 2011.  Trott didn’t get much ice time this past season but when he did play, he showed some good signs.  He will have to battle to earn a spot on the roster again in 2011-12.

Possible newcomers:

Nicolas Petan (1995 – 16) – The 1st round selection in 2010 would be a 16 year old rookie next season.  He got a chance to play both in the regular season and playoffs for Portland last year and showed that he belonged in the WHL.  Posted 19-30-49 in 35 games with the Greater Vancouver Canadians in the BC Major Midget League in 2010-11.

Pearce Eviston (1992 – 19) – Listed player that would be a 19 year old rookie next season.  Eviston joined Portland late in the year, scoring on his first WHL shot, and showed great battle and grit and has an opportunity to earn a spot full-time in 2011-12.  He posted 18-20-38 in 44 games with the Victoria Grizzlies of the BCHL in 2010-11.

Taylor Leier (1994 – 17) – The 2nd round selection in 2009 would be a 17 year old rookie next season.  Leier nearly made the roster as a 16 year old last season but felt that another year of Midget hockey would help him prepare for the WHL.  He has good offensive skills and was in the top 5 of scoring of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League this past year, posting 31-43-74 in 44 games for the Saskatoon Contacts.

Brayden Low (1994 – 17) – The 5th round selection in 2009 would be a 17 year old rookie next season.  Low is another player that saw some action in Portland in 2010-11 and showed that he had good compete level and a strong work ethic.  He posted 11-13-24 in 39 games with the Richmond Sockeyes of the PIJHL in 2010-11.

Ryley Bennefield (1994 – 17) – Acquired from Lethbridge at the 2011 trade deadline, would be a 17 year old rookie next season.  Bennefield played in six games for Portland this season, showing good offensive instincts.  He posted 16-13-29 in 26 games for the Wetaskiwin Icemen of the CJHL in 2010-11.

Chase De Leo (1995 – 16) – The 9th round selection in 2010, would be a 16 year old rookie next season.  De Leo is a highly touted forward from Southern California that would have been drafted higher in the WHL Bantam Draft if he had committed to the WHL earlier.  Has good offensive skills and practiced with the Hawks during the playoffs, posting 20-19-39 in 35 games with the LA Selects in 2010-11.

Adam Smith (1994 – 17) – The 9th round selection in 2009, would be a 17 year old rookie next season.  Smith is a big-bodied forward that also got into a few games in 2010-11 for Portland.  Smith likes to bang and crash and play a physical role at 6’3, 210.  He posted 1-2-3 in 30 games as a 16 year old rookie with the Cowichan Valley Capitals of the BCHL.

There may be others on the protected list that step up for Portland in training camp that will earn their way onto the roster, but this is just an early look at some of the candidates for roster spots in 2011-12.

The blog will be fairly quiet over the summer, but I’ll drop by from time to time to throw down some thoughts as the summer progresses…

Enjoy the short off-season!

 

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4 Comments

  1. See when I see this list of players, I do not understand why some are worried about Portland not having a good team next season.
    Sure losing Ryan and Nino would hurt but there is enough talent to compensate for their leaving

  2. I’ve plopped down money for my 4 seats…can’t wait for the season to get started again, because, as Jess said, this is going to be a great season for this team. LOTS of experience this year…its time to step it up a notch. Reminds me of 1982 when a hugely talented Hawk team was humbled in the Memorial Cup, only to return to the Cup the next year and humble everyone else.

    In past seasons when the Hawks have gone deep in the playoffs, they have had to mortgage their future to get there…not this year. SO exciting.

    Go Canucks! ha

  3. This is a great looking roster. I am looking forward to seeing the Hawks go deep again this year. The talent level will be there, and even minus Nino and Ryan this team is going to be just as good as last years, maybe even better with a little more playoff experience to lean on.

    And yeah, Go Canucks!

  4. Andy,

    Thank you very much for the roster summary.
    Well done.

    GO NUCKS!!


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