Welcome to Winterhawks Weekly, where every week we bring fans an inside look at the team. Your weekly contributors will be Hawks play-by-play voice Todd Vrooman, PR Director Graham Kendrick and Community & Events Coordinator Lesley Dawson.
First up is Todd Vrooman.
With the preseason now complete, it’s a good time to look back once more on the training camp and exhibition schedule before we turn to the regular season’s opening next Friday against Seattle. The Hawks had a highly successful preseason, compiling a 4-1 record in their five games, and giving a multitude of players the opportunity to impress new coach and general manager Jamie Kompon. I’ll pick out a couple individuals that stood out to me over the course of the preseason:
Heinrich led the Hawks’ defense in scoring in the preseason, picking up three goals in the three games he appeared in, and seemingly slotting in right away into the Hawks’ top-four on the blueline. The fifth round selection of the Washington Capitals already showed he has a calm head and can handle pressure when he made his WHL debut during the league championship series last season, and will be relied upon to help the Hawks’ defense make up for the losses of Derrick Pouliot, Garret Haar, and Matt Dumba from last season.
Two of Heinrich’s three goals came on the power play, a strong indication that he will be a viable option to quarterback the man advantage this season. Plus, as a former captain of Sioux City in the USHL, he’ll provide some leadership and much needed experience to the defense this season.
Michael Bullion has not tread a typical path in his pursuit of his hockey dream. A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Bullion developed the last couple of years far away from home in Toronto, Ontario. The greater Toronto area is thought to be one of the best places for a bantam/midget hockey player to develop, and Bullion backstopped the Toronto Marlboros last season for the majority of the year, posting a very solid 2.15 GAA in his time in midget.
He also has already experienced junior hockey, having played in the Jr. A OJHL briefly last season as well, and looked very comfortable in net for the Hawks this preseason. His 2.01 GAA and 93.6% save percentage were tops of the 3 Winterhawks goaltenders in the preseason.
Bullion has shown he’s ready to compete with Adin Hill for the backup role for the Hawks this season, and whether it is this fall or next that we see him in a Hawks’ sweater permanently, this preseason he’s shown that the Portland faithful can be confident with Bullion in the crease.
Evan Weinger is a player that, for me, flew under the radar for the last 12 months or so, but really impressed in the preseason. I probably should have been paying closer attention to his career before now, because he certainly impressed during Neely cup a season ago.
A solid two-way winger with decent size, Weinger developed in the Los Angeles Jr. Kings system the last two seasons. He posted solid offensive statistics in midgets the last two seasons, and he has the capability to go to the net and finish. But his greatest attribute that I noticed in the preseason was his work ethic. He is going to annoy opposition defenses with his forechecking, and, with more experience at the WHL level, should become very dependable defensively.
I’m looking forward to seeing how he adjusts to the Western Hockey League this season, as I think his combination of size, speed, and work ethic have him well set up to become a very solid contributor to the Winterhawks.
• Nick Heid is going to be a defenseman opponents hate to play. He skates well, has a booming shot, and above all else is very hard-nosed. He’s going to become a fan favorite quickly with his physical defensive style.
• Adin Hill has grown. 6’4” now, and with very good lateral quickness, he’s going to be difficult to beat down low. He made a handful of excellent kick saves in his preseason work.
• Alex Schoenborn led the Hawks in assists in the preseason with five in four games. I don’t think he’s going to suddenly become a pass-first guy, nor should he, as his direct and aggressive style is what drew the attention of the NHL scouts. But it was nice to see increased vision added to his game, and it should help him try to solidify a role in the top-six forwards this season.
• The Winterhawks have a plethora of options in the “bottom six” forwards. Alex Overhardt impressed with his knowledge and defensive acumen, as he was quickly relied upon as a key penalty killer in the preseason. Ethan Price and Tyson Predinchuk return from a season ago and both look ready to take on increased responsibility. The aforementioned Weinger, as well as newcomer Jack Flaman both impressed with their work ethic, and Colton Veloso looks like he’ll be a thorn in opponents’ sides this season with his forechecking and ability to force turnovers. Adam De Champlain was his usual physical self, and drew a few power plays for the Hawks. Jamie Kompon could theoretically use a different combination every night, depending on how he feels opponents lineup, and be confident that every player is capable to perform his role. Particularly with the busy schedule of the WHL, that kind of depth is invaluable for a coach at this level.
THIS WEEK IN MAIL:
Steve Berry on Twitter writes,
Good question Steve. This time of the year always has been marked by the start of NHL training camps, but it’s been a bit different the last couple of seasons. Two years ago the NHL was in a lockout, and no players from any WHL team missed any fall game action due to NHL camps as there were none. Last season was an Olympic year, and as a result, the NHL schedule was altered, starting on October 1 due to the fact that the Olympic break would occur in February and cost the league two weeks during the regular season.
This season, they go back to their more traditional start in the second week of October, on the 8th. If you look back to “Normal” NHL seasons, they start anywhere around the second week of October, the last two years have been the exception. Last year NHL “main camps” started league-wide on September 11 with physicals, and the on-ice sessions began the 12th. In 2011, the last normal year before the NHL lockout/Olympic confusion, teams opened main camps on the 17th.
So, what does this mean for the Hawks? Well, it’s no guarantee that any NHL selected player will miss the opener on Sept. 19. This is because NHL teams don’t necessarily pack their NHL main camp with prospects. Honestly, picking out random players and handicapping whether they’ll be in their respective team’s NHL main camp would be guesswork on my part. There’s every possibility that any NHL draftee can impress and stick at NHL main camp for a while, and that they’ll be more prepared and ready to compete when they return to the Rose City.
To submit a question to be considered for the mailbag each week, ask on Twitter with the hashtag #WinterhawksWeekly.
TWEETS OF THE WEEK:
Okay, this is tweet of the preseason, as I’ve had to cheat a little bit to get the tweets in. And yes, it’s also a cheat because I’m including two tweets instead of one. Deal with it. My week to write, my rules:
First comes this tweet from goaltender Brendan Burke.
Now, we don’t condone violence to resolve our issues with traffic, Brendan. But any excuse to include Liam Neeson’s speech from “Taken” is fine by me. I find myself talking about my “particular set of skills” when doing such mundane things as doing the dishes.
“I don’t know who caked on ranch dressing in this bowl for two weeks and then casually tossed it in the sink. I don’t know why they thought it was now my job to clean it. But what I do have are a particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a life of dishwashing. Ranch dressing, if you rinse off this bowl easily, that’ll be the end of it. I’ll throw you in the dishwasher, I will not destroy you. But if you don’t, I will grab you, and I’ll steel wool you.”
I… May need to get out more. Umm… Let’s go for another Liam Neeson tweet!
Clearly Mr. Hanson hasn’t seen this.
Alan Rickman is also in Love Actually, and let me tell you, seeing the throatpunchy Liam Neeson and Severus Snape (or Hans Gruber if you prefer) mixed into a romantic comedy with Hugh Grant (Oh, I’m so delightfully befuddled, let me stutter oh so charmingly for a moment) is a bit of a jarring experience.
YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK
This clip is a Youtube legend, with over 14 million hits:
The cat almost seems to be listening to the music himself, and choreographing his movements perfectly. I could try to break down frame-by-frame what makes this video so incredible, but my skills fall far short of encapsulating the wonder and humor I feel each time I watch this clip. It truly does speak for itself.