Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

From the Dub: Hangover Cure

Here in the Western Hockey League, the holiday season is synonymous with the World Junior Championship. It’s the Stanley Cup of junior and college hockey. Flash forward to January 6 and the hangover from non-stop tournament hockey hit like a ton of bricks.The cure? The NHL Central Scouting Midterm Draft Rankings and the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. Fifty-one WHL players are ranked and 14 of those will play in the game.

We’re all on the same team: Team Canada goalie Joel Hofer rejoined the Portland Winterhawks for their road games in Victoria, B.C, where he got a warm welcome from local fans. He’s made a few uncharacteristic mistakes since returning, but nothing that would get him pulled. In fact, the Winterhawks have continued their dominance this week.They rolled to a 9-4 win over the Regina Pats on Tuesday night. Scoring four goals against Joel is a victory in itself. He still leads the WHL with a GAA of 2.00. Joel already has a WHL Championship from his days with the Swift Current Broncos and he’s a signed prospect of the St. Louis Blues (107th overall, 2018). Hang tight, St. Louis. I expect you’ll see him for yourselves at training camp this fall.

Make it official: Seth Jarvis was drafted 11th overall in the first round of the WHL Bantam Draft in 2017. Midway through his second season with the Winterhawks, he’s ranked 19th on the Midterm Rankings. Seth is a master playmaker, with 20 goals and 39 assists in 37 games played this season. He does it all and he’s one of the best players to blow through Portland since Ryan Johansen. Seth scored his first WHL career hat trick on January 4 and was named WHL Player of the Week on January 13. I can officially make the prediction I’ve believed in from day one: Seth Jarvis. First Round. 2020 NHL Entry Draft.

Lead the way: Portland leads all WHL teams with five players on the midterm rankings. The Prince Albert Raiders, Everett Silvertips and the Lethbridge Hurricanes each have four players ranked. It’s not a coincidence that those teams are also on or near the top of the current league standings.

  • Portland Winterhawks: First in the U.S. Division and Western Conference and second in the WHL.
  • Everett Silvertips: Second in the U.S. Division (10 pts behind Portland with one game in hand), third in the Western Conference and sixth overall in the league.
  • Lethbridge Hurricanes: Third in the Central Division and the Eastern Conference and fifth overall in the WHL.
  • Prince Albert Raiders: The defending WHL champions are second in the East Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference. They are a little further back in the league overall, coming in just under the top 10 wire at ninth place.

Inside scoop: In addition to Seth Jarvis, WHL skaters ranked inside the top 31 of North American skaters include:

  • Defensemen: Kaiden Guhle (7th, Prince Albert Raiders), Braden Schneider (Eighth, Brandon Wheat Kings) and Daemon Hunt (22nd,  Moose Jaw Warriors).
  • Forwards: Connor Zary (12th, Kamloops Blazers), Ozzy Wiesblatt (14th, Prince Albert Raiders),  Justin Sourdif (23rd, Vancouver Giants), Ridly Greig (25th, Brandon Wheat Kings), and Jake Neighbours (30th, Edmonton Oil Kings).

Lights and display contest: 14 of the players on the midterm rankings will be playing in the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game later today.

Names to watch on Team Red:

  • Moose Jaw Warriors goalie Brock Gould (4th among North American Goaltenders) has a record of 13-21-2-1 with one shutout in 49 games played.
  • Spokane Chiefs forward Jack Finley (46th among North American Skaters) is tied for third in team scoring and he has 36 points in 40 games played.
  • Prince Albert Raiders forward Ozzy Wiesblatt had 10 points in 23 games in last year’s championship run. Wiesblatt will serve as an assistant captain for Team Red. Plus, the story of the Wiesblatt family is absolutely one of the best hockey stories out there. 

Team White's star attractions include Seth Jarvis and the following: 

  • Dylan Garand (7th among North American Goaltenders): The Kamloops Blazers goaltender is currently leading the WHL in wins, with a record of 23-9-1-1 with two shutouts.
  • Kaiden Guhle: The Prince Albert Raiders defenseman and first overall pick from the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft is ranked 19th in defensive scoring this season, with 25 points (7G-18A) in 43 games, scoring four of his seven goals on the powerplay.
  • Braden Schneider: The Brandon Wheat Kings defenseman has 29 points (5G-24A) in 39 games including two power-play goals and two game-winning goals. 
  • Connor Zary: The Kamloops Blazers forward is a name you’ll hear more of in the coming months. The Blazers are first in the B.C. Division. Zary is one of the reasons why. He has 53 points this season (25G-28A). Zary has scored nine power-play goals and is tied for the league-lead with three short-handed goals. I’ve seen his prowess on the special teams in person and yes, he’s that good. 

BTW: One of my favorite Prince George players is goalie Taylor Gauthier (27th among North American Goaltenders). Closer to home, I recommend keeping your eye on Portland’s import players Simon Knak and Jonas Brøndberg, who both played in the World Junior Championship for Switzerland and Denmark, respectively. Simon is ranked 61st and Jonas is ranked 107th on the midterm rankings. 

This is where I leave you: I couldn't resist concluding with this fun tidbit I found while researching this story. The Prince George Cougars win the all-time first prize for best intermission entertainment. On January 25th, a local couple is going to get married during the first intermission in the game against the Kamloops Blazers. If you want to watch it online, whl.ca offers per-game pricing on all games throughout the season. Back to topic: The top prospects game airs on the NHL Network at 7 pm Eastern, 4 pm Pacific. 

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About Above the Glass

Welcome to Above the Glass, a definitive anti-expert’s guide to hockey. I started blogging in 2009 as part of an effort to learn all 87 rules in the NHL Rulebook in 107 days before the 2010 Olympics, 30 years after I discovered the sport. You can peruse the archival results here. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t even know hockey existed until February 22, 1980, when the USA played Russia in the Olympics. And just like that, the game of the century changed my life. I still don’t quite understand the icing rule or which faceoff circle goes with what offense, but I do know that every aspect of hockey has something to teach us about life. That’s what you’ll find here, along with my unadulterated passion for the game.

I live in Portland, Oregon, home of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. I invite anyone who wants to know more about hockey in the Rose City to visit here, where I blog exclusively about the Winterhawks. I’ll post an occasional musing about the Hawks, the WHL and junior hockey here as well.

Follow me on Twitter: @AbovetheGlass

Email: samantha@kuklaskorner.com