558 miles to Kimberley, BC, the training camp home of the Portland Winterhawks, from Portland, OR was every bit worth the effort. My travel woes aside, here’s the latest on the Portland Winterhawks and their new breed of NHL prospects.
Impact players for 1999-2000:
Blake Robson (Center, 6’0″, 185lbs) – Blake is playing with a confidence that I only saw a glimmer of last year. He is playing bigger and is definitely a step ahead of the rest of the camp. He’s going to be the offensive leader this year, and already has one tournament under his belt. Blake was selected to Team Canada’s World Under 18 Team and brought home the gold medal playing in a tournament featuring the best 17 year olds from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, USA and Canada. I asked Blake if he thought he would be expected to be a leader this year, “yes, but Kiesman and Walker will also be looked to for leadership.” When asked about some of the new guys, Robson responded, “I don’t know many of them yet, but there’s a big kid from California who everyone’s talking about.” (That big kid is Eric Bowen from Canoga Park, CA, he’s huge and is opening a lot of eyes at this training camp). I asked Blake about playing for second year coach Harold Snepts, “He’s definitely a lot more comfortable this year and with Willy as assistant it’s a great combo to play for. They know a lot about hockey.” Blake Robson will be a top performer in the WHL this year, and he has a bright future to look forward to. Read more»
Last night the Brandon Wheat Kings faithful had a good look at the future of the Wheat Kings as Brandon faced off against the Regina Pats in the first pre-season tilt of the year.
This is definitely a whole new year for the Wheaties as many high profile players have graduated to the pro ranks this past year. Gone are Burke Henry, Andrei Lupandin, Ryan Robson, Jason Chimera and Brett McLean. I fully expect Brad Twordik to hang on in the St. Louis organization, so count him out too.
Hold overs, not including the 20 year olds are: Goaltenders, Jomar Cruz and Jamie Hodson (injury list until December). Defensemen, Brett Thurston, Corey Unser and Wade Skolney Fowards, Richard Mueller, Jan Fadrny, Brett Girard, Petr Kudrna, Aaron Goldade, J.D. Kehler, Mike Wirll, Ryan Craig and Randy Ponte.
Twenty year olds is where it is extra interesting for Brandon. Not including Brad Twordik, the Wheat Kings have four high quality 20 year olds. They are Daniel Tetrault, Les Borsheim, Scott McCallum and Alex Argyriou. I count for sure one too many, three if maybe Twordik comes back.
With a plethora of hold-overs coming back and extra 20 year olds, trades are imminent. Who goes? Who stays?
A look at the future might hold the keys to what Brandon does.
Let’s look at the prospects, those not on the roster last year.
With twenty four days to go before the puck drops on the 1999/2000 Western Hockey League Season all teams in the West Division are well into training camp. Seattle seems like a sure fire pick to lead the division with all their offensive fire power but you can never count out a Don Hay coached team like the Tri-City Americans or perrenial powerhouse Kamloops Blazers. Kelowna returns a solid nucleus and finally have a solid netminder in Kevin Swanson and they could make some noise before all is said and done. Portland and Spokane appear to be two teams searching for a new identity after big runs for the Memorial Cup two years ago and appear headed for very long seasons near the basementof the division. Following are my pre-season picks from top to bottom and a brief synopsis of each team.
A quick look at the Top Players in the WHL.
1. Brad Stuart, D, Regina
2. Robyn Regehr, D, Kamloops
3. Stephen Peat, D, Red Deer
4. Blair Betts, C, Prince George
5. Scott Gomez, C, Tri-City
6. Kyle Rossiter, D, Spokane
7. Brett Allen, LW, Swift Current
8. David Cameron, C, Prince Albert
9. Chris Nielsen, C, Calgary
10. Tyler Bouck, C, Prince George
11. Garret Profosky, C, Saskatoon
12. Todd Hornung, C, Portland
13. Justin Hansen, C, Moose Jaw
14. Jason Beckett, D, Seattle
15. Gavin McLeod, D, Kelowna
16. Jarrett Thompson, LW, Tri-Cities
17. Trent Hunter, C, Prince George
18. Curtis Reich, D, Calgary
19. Brad Twordik, LW, Brandon
20. Paul Elliot, D, Lethbridge
21. Jon Barkman, LW, Saskatoon
22. Jeremy Goetzinger, D, Prince Albert
23. Aaron Goldade, C/LW, Brandon
24. Craig Brunel, RW, Prince Albert
25. Dan Hulak, D, Swift Currentj
26. Blake Evans, C, Tri-City
27. Devin Franco, LW, Red Deer
1. Jomar Cruz, Brandon
2. Jamie Hodson, Brandon
3. Jason Labarbera, Portland
4. Scott Myers, Prince George
5. Kevin Swanson, Prince George
6. Jordan Watt, Kelowna