Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

Welcome to the future

Well, part of it anyway. After a trip to the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, I’m happy to report that hockey’s future is bright. And a good chunk of it is from the WHL, including my hometown boys Sven Bartschi and defenseman William Wrenn.  You may see some of the same players in this week’s pre-season action, so I’d suggest tuning in to their frequencies. Because if a few days in BC were any indication, hockey’s future is secure and they’ll be coming to an NHL rink near you.

But first, a pit stop for a tournament in Tri-Cities (Kennewick): You can read all about it here. The Portland Winterhawks up and comers were on display, and if you are already on 2012 draft watch, these are the names I’d put at the top of your list: Derrick Pouliot, Brendan Leipsic, Josh Hanson and Seth Swenson. Looking down the road, keep an eye on Nic Petan and Chase De Leo.

It’s the all-WHL line: Patrick Holland (Tri-City Americans), Max Reinhart (Kootenay Ice) and Sven Bartschi (Portland Winterhawks) were a powerhouse for the Calgary Flames at the Young Stars Tournament. Reinhart and Bartschi play against each other back at home, but they enjoyed played on a line together. Really. As Sven put it, “I hate to play against him [in the WHL], but I love to play with him.”

Biggest typo in the tournament program: Sven was listed as playing for Eastern Conference champions the Portland Winterhawks, who were in fact, the WHL’s Western Conference champions. The Kootenay Ice were the Eastern Conference winners, and it was they who had the honor of representing the league in the Memorial Cup.

When I told Sven I was coming to Penticton to cause trouble, I was kidding: I could only stay for the first two Calgary games, both of which they lost and in neither of which he scored. I don’t even remember the last time Sven didn’t assist or score in a game. It was hard to watch, but I made it home in time to watch while he led the way in the mini battle of Alberta at the tournament. He scored twice and the Flames won 4 -3 over the Oilers. Of course, the Nuge wasn’t playing that night so that might have helped Calgary. But I also know there’s one place and time you don’t want to be playing against Sven, and that’s in the wake of him either not scoring or not winning. Because when he’s had enough of that, it’s really best to just give him the puck and get out of the way. That final game of the tournament was proof, as was his play two nights later, when he went on to lead the scoring in an exhibition game against the University of Calgary Dinos, where the Flames shut them out 4-0.

In case you’re wondering where to find Sven during pre-season action: Try the front of net. Even the two fans sitting next to me in Penticton could tell “that Bartschi’s always in front of the net.” Stay tuned…it looks like Sven is on the roster for the game in Vancouver this week. When he’s not there, he’s in position to set up his linemates to score. Either way, he’ll be easy to spot.

First prize for best warm and fuzzy kitten moment: A Calgary fan brought his little newborn baby in red footie pajamas, a baby Calgary jersey and a knit Flames cap. All you could see poking out were his little hands and his face. Plus, he was asleep most of the time. Considering how the first two games turned out, maybe it was best he slept through them.

It was warm and fuzzy, but I’m not sure what the prize would be: There was a dude in my section wearing furry Edmonton Oilers pants. Could be pajamas, could be leisure wear. But that’s more balls than I have - I have several fashion rules at the rink, one of which is if the clothing item looks like pajamas, it stays in the dresser drawer.

Attention must be paid: Nathan Longpre was playing for the Vancouver Canucks on an amateur tryout contract. He was never drafted by an NHL team and is currently playing for the AHL’s Worcester Sharks. He was one of the older players at the tournament: ancient at 23. But maybe not. He scored the game tying goal in the Canucks vs. Flames game in the final 15 seconds of the game, and he set up the Canucks’ OT game winner. Also on the Canucks’ roster was another late bloomer to watch: Stefan Schneider. He was never drafted in the WHL and found his way onto the Winterhawks’ roster and he wasn’t drafted by an NHL team until the end of his junior career, when he signed with Vancouver as a free agent. He’s currently playing with their AHL team, so it may be a bit before you see him in a Vancouver uniform again. Stefan is a steady, sturdy, reliable player who will pretty much do anything his team asks of him. Stay tuned Vancouver…he’ll be worth the wait.

They came from the WHL: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins isn’t the only WHL player bound for the NHL. Keep an eye out for Jared Cowen, Kevin Connauton, Levko Koper, Tyler Wotherspoon, William Wrenn,  Blake Gal, Mitch Wahl, Patrick Holland, Curtis Hamilton, Tyler Schmidt, Drew Czerwonka and Sena Acolatse. 

Reminder to Calgary: As if you couldn’t tell from previous posts, Sven is one of my favorite players. I could tell when I met him he was special and I’ve since come to the conclusion that he’s the bravest, smartest, most honest and charming player I’ve ever interviewed. So do take the greatest of care with our prize, Calgary. And if you see him around town, remember to feed him a burrito or a Tim Horton’s breakfast sandwich now and again. Oh, and be sure to tell him Portland will be behind him. Always.

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Can’t wait to see all these guys in the NHL.  Nice post Samantha.

Posted by William Morrison on 09/20/11 at 10:07 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