Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

Gone prospecting…be back soon

The Portland Winterhawks recently dispatched four players to the NHL Combine, including the son of Pierre Turgeon, the hero of Game 6 in the WHL FInal and the Rose City’s resident ladies man.  Dominic Turgeon, Keegan Iverson, Alex Schoenborn and center Chase De Leo were among 23 WHL players invited to the annual event, where they were put through the mother of all job interviews by NHL scouts. But I find that you don’t truly know a player until you also know his favorite childhood TV show, which Selena Gomez song is on top of his iPod list and whether or not he likes zombie movies.

Cut to the Chase. When I first met Chase De Leo in the fall of 2011, he didn’t have his driver’s license (his birthday is 10/25/95) and his roommate Josh Hanson was driving him around town. The most embarrassing song on his iPod was Selena Gomez’ “Love You Like a Love Song.” Today, the Rose City’s resident ladies man and all-around heartbreaker is a legally responsible adult who just had a standout draft year in which he played in all 72 regular season games, earning 81 points along the way (39 goals, 42 assists). In December, Chase served as an alternate captain while key players were away at World Juniors. I hope the A becomes a permanent part of his jersey next season; he's earned it. Chase was not the biggest player at the NHL Combine (5’10”, an inch taller than he was last year at this time) but he definitely has the biggest heart. He will outwork anyone on the ice and he never, ever gives up on a play. The same goes for his off-ice enthusiasm. NHL public relations managers, have no fear; if you’re looking for a player who can handle himself off the ice and would make a good poster boy for your team, Chase is your man. In a team photo that was part of this year’s season ticket perks, you can spot Chase’s well-coifed, photo-ready hairdo and megawatt smile in a heartbeat. The rest of the team opted for the more subdued expression that tends to make otherwise enthusiastic players look like they’re posing for a mug shot, but not Chase. He approached it like everything else he does: with 150 percent heart and soul. 

Final CSS rank: 36.

Top prospect fact: Chase was the only Winterhawk invited to the CHL Top Prospects Game, where he and Nikolay Goldobin were fastest in the 30m sprint for Team Cherry. He also joined Keegan Iverson and Dominic Turgeon at the All-American Prospects Game last fall in Pittsburgh.

Notable NHL Combine results: 4th in 4 Jump Mat (0.27 seconds), 7th in pull ups (11), 6th in Left Hex Agility (3.25 seconds) and 7th in Right Hex Agility (3.36 seconds).

Fun fact: When I first profiled him in 2011, Chase’s goals for the season were to “get a good feel for the league and hopefully, rack up some points. And try to help the team get to the Memorial Cup.” In 2013 -- with help from Chase and linemates Taylor Leier and Oliver Bjorkstrand -- the Portland Winterhawks went all the way to the Memorial Cup final before falling to the Halifax Mooseheads.

Bottom line: I will follow the fine example of hockey players everywhere and keep it simple. The NHL team that bets on Chase in this year’s NHL Entry Draft will be glad it did. 

"You’ve Been Gingered." You know you’re popular when fans make a t-shirt dedicated to you. Last year, it was “You’ve Been Mahondled” in reference to Joe Mahon’s taking care of the opponent’s business in fights and “Free Mike J” when Coach Johnston was suspended. This year the honor goes to resident redhead Alex Schoenborn for his fighting skills. Alex spent most of the previous season in the stands with other scratched rookies before being assigned to the Wenatchee Wild, where he used his time wisely. He played in all 72 regular season Winterhawks games this year, finishing with 36 points (18 G, 18A). While Alex has some growing up to do when it comes to discipline (he led the team in PIMs with 121), he has come a long way in a short time. Judging by the t-shirt and the buzz about Alex here in the Rose City, look for an increase in points and a decrease in PIMs next season. He’s easily one of my favorite Winterhawks to interview after games: his youthful enthusiasm, positive attitude and appreciation for Portland are infectious.

Final CSS ranking: 78.

Notable NHL Combine result: Alex was fourth in the VO2 max test.  

Fun fact: Last year, before leaving Portland, Alex was responsible for introducing Oliver Bjorkstrand to the latest “Resident Evil” movie. Oliver gave the film two thumbs down in his rookie profile, saying simply “It was bad. I didn’t like it.” Otherwise, the roommates get along very well, but something tells me they don’t sit around their billet’s house watching the latest episode of “The Walking Dead” on Sunday nights.

Bottom line: I highly recommend that the NHL "get gingered" and draft Alex. They’ll thank me later.

Lucky #13. Keegan Iverson has been on the Winterhawks’ full time roster for the past two seasons, during which time he won the silver medal with Team USA at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and he was named MVP of the 2013 All-American Top Prospects Game. But it’s what he did in Game 6 of the 2014 WHL Final that cemented Keegan’s place in Winterhawks history. Facing elimination from the series and down 5-2 going into the third period, the Winterhawks mounted an epic comeback to tie the game and push it to a 6-5 OT win. Keegan scored the game winning goal by tipping in a razor-sharp shot from Dominic. He’s better known for playing a more physical game, which resulted in two suspensions that he assures me he’s learned from. You could see his maturity improve as the team hit the stretch run, during which time Keegan stepped up his game and clearly committed to becoming a more reliable player. Having met his family, I can also attest to his commitment to family, friends and hockey, the most notable of which he wears on his jersey: #13. He is the first player in Winterhawks history to wear it and he does so for deeply personal reasons: Jack Jablonski is his best friend from back home in Minnesota.

Final CSS ranking: 85.

Notable/fun facts: His favorite movie is Step Brothers. In Round 1 of the 2014 playoffs, Keegan gave his stick to Garrett Haar after Garrett's stick broke.

Bottom line: Up close, Keegan looks much older than 18, so it's no surprise that he has matured emotionally and personally this season as well. Look for even bigger and better things to come from Keegan next season, as I expect his progress towards becoming a more reliable and higher scoring player to continue.

The Son Also Rises. Let’s face facts; when local fans who also admired Pierre Turgeon heard that his son had signed with the Winterhawks, we all got excited at the idea of meeting the five-time NHL All-Star in person. The rise of his son Dominic after two seasons with the Winterhawks has turned out to be equally exciting. Dominic is carving his own path to the NHL, but he brings the added bonus of his father’s wisdom and experience to the table. He once told me that the best advice his father gave him about succeeding in hockey was “you have to work hard. That’s the most important thing.” Dominic's hard work could be seen on the ice this season, in every game and every shift. He didn’t always score the pretty, highlight reel goals, but he has earned the trust of his team and coaching staff as a hard working, reliable player. Dominic gets my personal vote for most improved player, along with his linemate Alex Schoenborn. In a recent interview with The Hockey News, Mike Johnston agrees. One thing that has always been noticeable from day one is that Dominic looks and acts like someone much older than his 18 years. His signature on-ice move is the wrap-around curl, but his maturity and confidence are his secret weapons. If you need a reliable player who comes up clutch, Dominic Turgeon is your man.

Final CSS ranking: 97. His midterm ranking was 130.

Top prospect fact: He won a silver medal with Team USA at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.

Fun fact: His favorite TV show growing up was “Power Rangers” and like most of the Winterhawks, there are a few Taylor Swift songs on his iPod.

Bottom line: The best is yet to come from Pierre’s son. I believe his post-draft year will be a breakout season for Dominic.  If you live in the town that has the smarts to snatch him up in the NHL Entry Draft, I recommend tuning into his frequency this season for a glimpse of his very bright future.

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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