Hawks Nest

By pbadmin

Late Midterm grades

Yes the grades come after the Christmas break and midway point of the
season, but better late than never. So without further adieu:

Goaltending: Overall grade: A-

Jason LaBarbera has all but stood on his head for the Hawks this
season. Despite a relatively high GAA (3.69 now, about where its been
all season), its the save percentage statistic that is more telling
for Jason. His save percentage is .903 now. He faces a lot of rubber
most nights, and has kept Portland in many a game. His saves have
ranged from ordinary looking from solid positioning, to spectacular
make up for defense mistakes or not clearing a rebound type. Jason
recently recorded his sixth career shutout, shutting out the Moose Jaw
Warriors, breaking a Winterhawk’s record. He was also named to the
West Conference all star team recently. Currently, trade rumors swirl
around Jason, guess we’ll all know on the tenth if he’s still a
Winterhawk or not.

Lanny Ramage has shown that he has the “stuff” to be a solid WHL
goalie, if not a excellent one. The rookie has posted a .915 save
percentage and a 3.33 GAA. He works hard in practices, and seems to be
filling the role of backup well, although with his talents, he
certainly won’t be a backup for long.

Defense: Overall Grade: C- (that might be generous)

This is where the Winterhawks lack, and lack a great deal. Kent Sauer,
a 20 year old overage player who came to the Hawks from the Nashville
Predators, has been a mainstay. He’s played physical and tough all
season, and has stepped up with some impressive point shooting on the
power play. Sauer has had some bone-crushing hits, catching players in
the neutral zone with their heads down. I’d say his NHL future looks
good as a stay at home physical type, who occasionally can surprise
opposing teams by joining the rush.

Matt Walker has had a very uneven season. At times, he looks like the
player the Blues drafted, and at others, he looked like he belongs in
a recreational league. He has been asked to play roles that probably
aren’t natural for him. Walker won’t ever be an offensive
defenseman, yet he has had a solid chunk of power play time. He’s
also had some very very costly giveaways, some that have resulted in
goals against. If Matt keeps his cool, and plays physical, he’s a
solid defenseman. The problem has been, he doesn’t seem to play that
way consistently.

Beyond Walker and Sauer, the D gets dicey. Kevin Young can be a decent
enough offensive D-man, but his defense is lacking, and with his size
(yes he’s 6’2″, but the 183 lbs he’s listed at is liberal), he
certainly doesn’t intimidate opponents. Young will put up points and
have a good game one night, and look completely uninterested the
next. James DeMone has been in and out of the lineup with injuries
and healthy scratches. His play is very inconsistent and at some
moments, downright frightening. At 6’5″ 220lbs, DeMone should play a
physical stay at home game. When he plays much more than that, he
sinks himself with his lacking puck handling skills. Dustin Bauer is
another in and out of the line-up Dman. With his size (he’s listed at
6’4″ but he looks bigger), its easy to forget he’s a 16 year old
rookie WHL’er. Some work (skating and foot speed)and experience,
Bauer could develop into one of those Dmen you never hear about,
which for their type, is a good thing. Nothing flashy, just solid.
Chad Grisdale has the heart of a lion. He comes to play every night,
gives the team 100% and stands up for his teammates. Grisdale is an
18 year old WHL rookie walk on from camp, and his inexperience still
shows. His speed and skating need work, but Grisdale does have the
potential to be a leader on this team in years to come. Christian
is starting to emerge as the #4 defenseman in the depth
chart. After being out a number of games with a dislocated kneecap,
he has come back, skated hard, and has shown some willingness to jump
into the play offensively. He’s also standing rivals up at the
blueline with strong checks. Bolding could be a dark horse this
season, and in seasons to come. His play is certainly starting to
turn some heads.

Forwards: B-

Marcel Hossa is stepping out from behind his brother’s shadow and
emerging as a star in his own right. The younger Hossa can pass, shoot
and glide up the ice with surprising speed, using a graceful long
stride. He should pick up right where he left off when he returns from
WJC (provided he’s over the flu that struck the Slovak team).

Jozef Balej continues to fly up and down the ice, creating scoring
chances with his speed. He does have a tendency to try and make the
perfect goal or pass. Once he learns that every goal doesn’t have to
be highlight reel quality, watch out.

Michael Kiesman, team captain, has impressed many with his hands, and
checks. Always among the team’s leading scorers, Kiesman is showing he
is the complete package. His play in this, his overage season, should
generate some interest for an invite to an NHL camp as a free agent
this fall.

Dean Beuker has been on fire recently. Be it scoring goals, fore
checking, penalty killing, or whatever the team needs, Beuker’s done
it. He plays with spirit, heart and a love of the game that’s
infectious. The Second half should be an emergence of great
proportions for Beuker.

Blake Robson is a solid play making center, who has some scoring
touch. He can play “soft” here and there, and does tend to hold the
puck too long.

Nick Marach has been part of the Hawks turnaround this season. His
skating is fun to watch, he turns on a dime, and uses that ability to
forecheck, or to curl with the puck in the zone. Has quickly become a
fan favorite.

Shawn Roed, the new kid on the block, came to Portland with much
anticipation and buildup. With his blazing bursts of speed, he’s
electrified the Portland crowds, and developed scoring chances. His
size (5’9″ 180lbs) may limit his NHL potential, but so far, he’s
proving himself quite capable at this level. Roed is downright

Paul Gaustad, the first Portland produced player to play for the
Hawks, has given the Hawks a legitimate 3rd line center. His play has
a feisty edge to it, and after his first goal Wednesday, perhaps the
snakebite effect will be gone for Gaustad. The goal posts had been his
worst enemies prior. Hopefully the first goal will open the flood gate
for Gaustad.

Dan McIvor is another mite size wise (5’9″), and is barely 16. The
skills are there, they just need to be put together. McIvor needs time
and confidence.

Ryan Kehrig isn’t flashy, and sometimes gets caught in between the
coach’s line combinations, but he always seems to get the job done as
a forechecker and hard skater.

Brant Middleton has seen limited ice time, but he has moments of
impressive enough play to bear mentioning here.

Eric Bowen, a converted inline player, still needs a great deal of
work on his skating, and even more work on his puck control. Sometimes
fills the enforcer role well, and has had some good scraps this

Jonathan Lupul and Tyler Cronk have seen very limited ice time, and
haven’t made much of an impact, positive or negative.

Should be an interesting second half of the season for the Hawks, one
that should have more bright spots than the dark ones that filled the
early season.