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Above the Glass

From the Dub: ‘Tis the Season

As a hockey fan, I live by a different clock than the average person. It's comprised of the pre-season, the regular season, the post-season and the off-season. Using this logic, the year doesn't really start until August and it hits the halfway mark around January. The true holiday season is starts with  World Junior selection camps, runs through the tournament itself and ends after the WHL trade deadline. I might argue that January 11 is the real start of the WHL season. World Junior players have returned with world-class tournament experience under their belts, draft year players are turning up the heat and trades brought new talent to town. Indeed, here in the Dub it's starting to look like a whole new hockey season. 

Follow the leader: Following their elimination at World Juniors, Team Canada and particularly Maxime Comtois were the targets of some very unsportsmanlike attacks from Canadian fans and that's putting it mildly. The social media attacks were even more vicious when you consider that it's now known that Comtois was playing through an injury. We can all learn from his mature and meaningful response, in which he used the attacks to educate others and speak out against online bullying. It is just a game after all, and this is just junior hockey. Those are young men and teenagers out there doing the very best they can. Team Canada entered the tournament with the assumption they would defend their gold medal on home ice. But as in life, the best laid plans never quite work out exactly as planned. And if it's too good to be true it probably is. More importantly, never underestimate the opponent. Finland has produced some of the best talent in both the junior and major leagues, including former Portland Winterhawk Henri Jokiharju. He doesn't just have the talent needed to make it onto the Blackhawks' roster, he has the right attitude: 

It's just a game: That's what Henri recently told a reporter and it explains a lot about his perspective on the big picture. I only know Henri and what I can tell you about him at least is that he's one of the calmest, most professional and businesslike players I've ever interviewed. Nothing rattles him. He is focused, positive, smart and wise beyond his years. World Juniors were proof that he's not the only one. That pretty much sums up Team Finland and one of the big reasons they won gold. Meanwhile back on the home front: 

Raiding party: The Prince Albert Raiders remain the team to beat this year. Their record of 37-5-0-1 is the best in the league. Among the top NHL prospects on their roster are World Junior standout Brett Leason, goalie Ian Scott (Team Canada's back up at World Juniors) and San Jose Sharks prospect Noah Gregor. The rich just got richer at the deadline, as the Raiders made several key trades last week. My personal favorite is Nic Petan's cousin Dante Hannoun, acquired from the Victoria Royals. Now that he's on the WHL's top team, he may just make it to the NHL via free agency. Other key acquisitions were draft-eligible forward Bryce Bader and draft-eligible goalie Boston Bilous, who was given a "C" rating on the latest NHL Central Scouting Players to Watch List. Bilous was one of just seven goaltenders to make the list. A "C" rating indicates that he is a potential fourth to sixth round pick.  You have probably already heard of Leason. With World Junior behind him and what is expected to be a deep playoff run ahead of him, he is already being talked about as a first round pick in 2019 NHL Entry Draft. The hype about the Raiders is real. Following their trade activity, expect more of the same. 

Home away from home: The Portland Winterhawks made two notable trades of their own at the deadline. The first was a necessary move that attracted the most attention. They traded six WHL Bantam Draft picks to the Swift Current Broncos for WHL champion goaltender Joel Hofer. Portland included two first round picks and a second round pick in the deal. Hofer was chosen in the fourth round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft by the St. Louis Blues, 107th overall. He was the second Canadian goaltender taken in that draft. One day later, they retained a second round and fourth round pick in a trade with the Saskatoon Blades. They sent forward Ryan Hughes to the Blades for forward Josh Paterson. The second trade happened at the deadline on January 10th, while the Winterhawks were on their East Division swing. Two nights later, they faced the Blades in their final game of the road trip. Paterson made the case for Blades' buyer remorse when he scored two goals for Portland, earning the first star of the night. 

Tip of the Hat: The Seattle Thunderbirds sent standout Zack Andrusiak to the top team in the U.S. Division, the Everett Silvertips. The Tips are the defending Western Conference champions and they show no signs of relenting this year. Two days later, the T-Birds sent goalie Liam Hughes to the Lethbridge Hurricanes, along with an eighth round pick in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft. In return, they received Keltie Jeri-Leon, prospect Michael Horon and a fourth round pick in the 2019 draft. With regard to Andrusiak, this is another case of the rich getting richer. Everett's hard enough to beat as it is. Andrusiak has already scored goals in four of six games with the Silvertips. Prince Albert is the team to watch in the East. Everett and the Vancouver Giants are the teams to watch in the West, with Portland finally making their move in the second half of the season. 

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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