2013-14 Season Preview: The Newcomers.
Over the next few weeks we’ll be previewing the 2013-14 season. Today we look at a few of the team’s key newcomers, while future installments will breakdown the roster by position, with separate looks at the forwards, defensemen and goalies.
If you were to chart the fortunes of junior teams, it would look like a Pacific Northwest seismograph, with the needle moving up and down all over the place. Teams struggle while grooming young prospects, watch them (hopefully) grow, load up on veterans to take a run when the time is right, then start the process all over again at the bottom when those players graduate.
The Winterhawks, however, want to break that cycle.
Fresh off a WHL championship and a trip to the final of the MasterCard Memorial Cup, the team isn’t entering the season projecting a drop-off. The Hawks don’t want to rebuild, they want to reload.
There was no complacency over the summer, no prolonged victory tour. The team used that time to acquire three NHL-drafted players, and have two 16-year-old blue-chip prospects also expected to step in and play a role. It’s a bounty that signaled to the rest of the league that things won’t get any easier when they see the Winterhawks across the ice from them.
General Manager & Head Coach Mike Johnston acquired three players over the summer who have been drafted by NHL teams: forward Shane McColgan and defensemen Anton Cederholm and Garrett Haar.
High-scoring winger Shane McColgan was acquired in a trade from the Saskatoon Blades. The 20-year-old, a New York Rangers draft pick in 2011, has been a model of offensive consistency in his WHL career with 268 points in 281 career games with the Kelowna Rockets and Saskatoon Blades. McColgan’s annual point totals since becoming a full-time player are 69, 66, 64 and 66.
On the back end, with some key losses on the blueline, Cederholm and Haar are expected to step into the top-four and play key roles right away.
Cederholm is a brick house of a defenseman the team selected in the CHL Import Draft, which came on the heels of him being taken in the fifth round by the Vancouver Canucks in the NHL Draft. He played 36 games with Rogle of the Swedish SuperElit League last season, registering five goals and eight assists for 13 points, along with a +27 rating. He has also represented Sweden numerous times in international tournaments.
Shortly after taking Cederholm, the Hawks added to the defensive corps with the acquisition of Garrett Haar from the Medicine Hat Tigers. Haar enters his first WHL season after playing the previous two campaigns with Western Michigan University, where last season he played 22 games as a sophomore and posted three goals and six assists for nine points.
Haar was drafted in the seventh round by the Washington Capitals in the 2011 National Hockey League Entry Draft, and has impressed Capitals brass with his all-around game.
The Winterhawks have had success recruiting players like Haar from the college ranks- defenseman William Wrenn was named team captain in his second season with the club, while forward Cam Reid averaged a point per game upon joining the Hawks in 2011-12.
Rookies to Watch
While those acquisitions are expected to pay dividends early, the team didn’t just push all its chips into the middle of the table.
Ethan Price burst onto the scene at last year’s Neely Cup when he was all over the ice and scored the championship-winning goal. The Nebraska native spent last season with the Omaha Lancers AAA 16U team of the North American Prospects Hockey League, where he led his team with 38 points (15 goals, 23 assists) in 22 games. His 38 points also tied him for sixth in the league, and he was named to the NAPHL 16U’s First Team.
Sixteen-year-old Keoni Texeira is a high-flying defenseman who had 82 points in 67 games as a bantam two seasons ago, leading the Hawks to take him in the second round of the 2012 Draft. He moved to the Los Angeles Junior Kings major midget team last year and led all blueliners on his team with 24 points in 32 games.
They’re part of a young core who will form the nucleus of the next generation, a group that includes fellow Americans like Paul Bittner (Minnesota), Brendan Burke (Arizona), Chase De Leo (California), Keegan Iverson (Minnesota), Alex Schoenborn (North Dakota), and Dominic Turgeon (Colorado), each of whom has at least three years of WHL eligibility remaining.
Two 20-year-old players with NHL Draft pedigrees, an 18-year-old defenseman fresh off the NHL Draft and two 16-year-olds with a high ceiling. Not a bad way to follow up on a championship.