Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

From the Dub: Onward!

2014 is turning out to be the year of new beginnings, on and off the ice. In the past three weeks, the Portland Winterhawks have seen four players get drafted, bid farewell and best wishes to Head Coach and GM Mike Johnston and Assistant Coach Karl Taylor, and welcomed Jamie Kompon as their new Head Coach and GM. Further north, the coaching merry-go-round is in full swing as Derek Laxdal and Ryan Huska recently transitioned to head coaching duties in the AHL. In the middle of it all, I found a new job. In light of recent developments, I have changed my summer plans to move to a cave and embraced my mother’s attitude. Whenever the Winterhawks lose, she’s only interested in three things: 1) Did Chase De Leo score? 2) Did the boys try their hardest and play a good game? 3) If the answer to the previous questions is yes, then she simply declares “onward!” and carries on with her life. She’s right: the magic of hockey is that each new season is a chance for all 22 teams in the WHL to renew their commitment to winning.  If this summer is any indication, it’s going to be another highlight-reel season here in the Dub.

Everybody’s All Americans. The only reason I get up at 7 am on a Saturday morning is to watch four American Winterhawks get drafted into the NHL. It seems like Dominic Turgeon, Alex Schoenborn, Keegan Iverson and Chase De Leo just arrived in Portland yesterday. In addition to being drafted, Chase, Dominic and Keegan will attend US National Junior Evaluation Camp in early August. Among the things I’ve learned about them since then: I’m not smarter than a teenage hockey player, I’ll never again wear sneakers with jeans and I’ll leave being gingered to the opponents.

Are you smarter than a teenage hockey player? If the player is Dominic Turgeon (drafted 63rd overall by the Detroit Red Wings) and “you” is yours truly, the answer is no. There’s one thing you can tell about Pierre’s son right from the start: he’s wise beyond his years. That and he looks exactly like his dad. Some players just stand out. They transcend the average. Dominic is one of them. He once told me that the most important thing his father taught him about making it to the NHL is “to always work hard. That’s the most important thing.” Dominic Turgeon is a thoughtful, well spoken, impeccably professional and polite young man who will do just that. Any team would be lucky to have him. To which I say well played, Ken Holland. Well played. 

"You’ve been gingered." Redhead Alex Schoenborn wasn’t listed on the preliminary Central Scouting Service Rankings. He ended up at 78th on the final CSS rankings, so it’s no surprise that he was drafted 72nd overall by the San Jose Sharks. Alex is a big, physical player who combines youthful enthusiasm with the fearlessness of a grown man. He instantly became a fan favorite when he rejoined the Winterhawks full time this season after a stint with the Wenatchee Wild. Friendly tip of the day for San Jose Sharks fans: Feel free to carry on the tradition of making t-shirts and signs with the expression “you’ve been gingered.” It started here in Portland, in reference to Alex winning fights with the opponent. Whatever you do, I’d definitely suggest tuning into Alex’s frequency this season, because it’s about to get very loud. 

Fun with numbers. I should have known Keegan Iverson would be chosen 85th overall by the New York Rangers. It was fate: Keegan’s final CSS ranking was 85. He’s a physical player who also comes up clutch with the perfect goal at the perfect moment. if Jamie Kompon picks up where Mike Johnston left off and cultivates the offensive side of Keegan’s game, the Winterhawks’ new Head Coach and GM will be helping the New York Rangers double down on a sound investment in their future.

Jet Power. On the morning after the NHL Entry Draft, I opened Twitter to find that Chase De Leo was trending in Canada after being drafted 99th overall by the Winnipeg Jets. Hello Winnipeg, welcome to Portland’s world, where he’s been trending since making a splash at training camp in 2010. His signature moves are hard work and endless energy; he never, ever gives up on a play and he’ll do anything to help his team. Like I’ve said before, he may not be the biggest player on the ice, but he definitely has the biggest heart. Off the ice, the Jets will find that their newest recruit has a megawatt smile, impeccable manners and a keen fashion sense. When queried in a live chat about his teammates’ fashion choices, he poked fun at teammate Josh Hanson because he wears running shoes with jeans. He also wins the first prize for the craziest fan experience: apparently, he once got flipped off by a little girl in Seattle. Friendly tip of the day for local Jets fans: If you want to make a good first impression with Chase, opt for fashion over comfort. You’ll thank me later. 

Welcome to Portland. New Head Coach and GM Jamie Kompon needs no introduction. After picking up two back-to-back Stanley Cups as Assistant Coach with the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks, it’s clear that he will indeed pick up where Mike Johnston left off. I started my new job on the same day the Winterhawks officially announced his new role, so I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him yet. Judging by all the local media buzz, Kompon has been well received and confidence is high that he’s the right man for the job.

Time flies. Central Scouting has already released its “Futures List” for 2015. Naturally Connor McDavid is on the list of North American skaters, which also includes a number of notable WHL players: Winterhawks forward Paul Bittner, Tri-City Americans defenseman Parker Wotherspoon (younger brother of Calgary Flames prospect Tyler Wotherspoon), Seattle Thunderbirds center Mathew Barzal and Kelowna Rockets forward Nick Merkley, who led all 16-year-old rookies in scoring this season (25 goals and 58 points in 66 games). All are worth watching this season, although none of them hold a candle to Niagara Ice Dogs forward Hayden McCool when it comes to hockey names. He wins that one hands down.

Onward! The magic of hockey – especially major junior – is that hope springs eternal every season. Here in the Dub, hope comes to town every August, when 15- 20 year old hockey players will report for training camps. It's that festive time of year when anything and everything is possible. That being said, my number one Hockey New Year resolution for the forthcoming season is to embrace change. Because for all the great things that WHL teams achieved this past season, each new season holds the potential for even greater things to come. Or, if you're the Edmonton Oil Kings, one that's just as good as the last. In short, I believe the other thing my mom says after games: “They’ll do better the next time.”

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Comments

TreKronor's avatar

You are fortunate to have a successful youth hockey club to follow in your locale!  Sounds like you get some great opportunities to keep up with the team and the players.

Posted by TreKronor on 07/14/14 at 09:51 AM ET

Hippy Dave's avatar

Thanks for the update on the Hawks, Samantha!

Posted by Hippy Dave from Portland by way of Detroit on 07/14/14 at 12:35 PM ET

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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