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Above the Glass

From the Dub: We Just Got Here

It seems like only yesterday that I traveled to Everett for the WHL Preseason Classic over Labor Day weekend, but here we are. It's March already and the WHL regular season ends in less than two weeks. The top ranked teams have already clinched a playoff spot, including the Portland Winterhawks, Everett Silvertips, Kelowna Rockets, Medicine Hat Tigers, Swift Current Broncos and the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Even more intriguing are the individual players who have come into their own this season. The starring players include Cody Glass, Henri Jokiharju, Kailer Yamamoto, Carter Hart, Tyler Steenbergen and yes Detroit, Dennis Cholowski. But if you ask me, it's the supporting players who are going to take center stage during playoffs. 

North Stars: Labor Day weekend has become synonymous with the WHL Preseason Classic in Everett, WA. On and off the ice, you never know who you will discover. It was only three years ago that I found myself sitting next to Spokane Chiefs rookie Kailer Yamamoto at the Holiday Inn. He was discovering life on the road for the first time and his teammates were teasing him about it. At the 2017 tournament, all eyes were on Yamamoto to see what the Edmonton Oilers' first round pick had in store for us. Ditto for Cody Glass, Carter Hart and Michael Rasmussen. In Everett, it was all about the A-listers and first round picks. Look closer, and you could see other players coming into view: 

Don't look now: As the 2017 - 2018 WHL regular season comes to a close, second-year players, back-up goalies and sixth or seventh-round NHL draft picks are coming on strong. In Portland, keep an eye on Lane Gilliss, Jake Gricius and WHL Goaltender of the Week Shane Farkas. Looking north to our U.S and B.C. Division opponents, I'm watching Seattle Thunderbirds  Zack Andrusiak, Noah Philp and Donovan Neuls, along withe Victoria Royals Tyler Soy and Matthew Phillips. Notably, Phillips just set a new franchise record for most points in a single season (104) on March 3. 

2018 NHL Entry Draft watch: The Portland Winterhawks signed defenseman John Ludvig right as the preseason tournament was about to get underway. Most of us hadn't really heard of him before that, but Mike Johnston and his scouts work in mysterious ways. They don't limit their talent pool to the WHL or Euro Drafts; it comes from everywhere. John at first seemed like he would be relegated to the role of enforcer, but he has emerged as a key player this year. He is currently ranked 107th in the NHL Central Scouting Midterm Rankings, indicating that he will be drafted in the fourth, fifth or sixth rounds this year. As for his quickness to drop the mitts, I recently learned that boxing is one of his off-season workouts. Fun fact: HIs favorite part of being a Portland Winterhawk is "the girls." At last, a player actually admitted it out loud. It says everything about him; he's a lot of fun, refreshingly honest and more talented than his midtern ranking indicates.

Sign here, please: Former Portland Winterhawk forward Evan Weinger just signed with the San Jose Barracudas, where he will play alongside former teammate Alex Schoenborn. Evan was the last overage player to be traded this year, and he's been having a career year with the Brandon Wheat Kings. Vancouver Giants forward Ty Ronning has signed a three-year entry deal with the New York Rangers. he was drafted in the fifth round of the NHL Entry Draft in 2016, 201st overall. Hockey is in his blood. His father is former NHL player Cliff Ronning. Team Canada World Junior star Tyler Steenbergen just signed an entry level deal with the Arizona Coyotes. 

USA, USA, USA!: Ever since Islanders prospect Kieffer Bellows returned from World Juniors, Portland fans chant this whenever he scores or goes out for the shootout. After nearly a whole season of scoring two goals per game, Kieffer finally scored his first WHL hat trick on Sunday night in Seattle, where he led the way to a 7-4 win.  

FYI: Detroit fans already knew that Dennis Cholowski was the real deal, but it took some Portlanders time to warm up to him. He has turned out to be quite the offensively minded defenseman and playmaker. Mike Johnston even chose him as one of the shooters in a shootout last Friday. 

Playoff picture: Click here to view the complete, current WHL playoff standings. Most of the teams that have already clinched are not surprising, as they had been on top of the standings for most of the season. One team that stands out is the Vancouver Giants. They just punched their ticket to the playoffs for the first time in four years. 

Gone Hollywood: Now that the NHL has accepted Seattle's application for an NHl team, it's time to get serious. Seattle began a season ticket drive on March 1. They received 10,000 deposits in the first 12 minutes and 25,000 in total. By March 2, they were no longer accepting deposits. A wait list is now open on NHLSeattle.com, if you want to sign up. The ownership group is led by Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

We just got here: Many of the pre-season predictions that were made back in September 2017 have come to fruition, but there's a lot more to the Dub than meets the eye. That's why I'm watching the players listed above and teams like the Victoria Royals and the Vancouver Giants, who may suprise us all. It's like Taylor Peters once told me; "playoffs are like a whole new season," one where anything can happen. We still have a few more weeks to go in the regular season, but something tells me that now more than ever, the WHL Playoffs are going to be a whole new hockey game.  

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What’s your theory regarding Michael Rasmussen’s Tri-City Americans recent late season swoon? We’ve lost 4 in a row, including two games to the Winterhawks- 9-0, and 5-0, and neither was that close. Injuries do not appear to be an issue, but lack of chemistry does. Raz has been invisible during the streak.

Posted by pnwwing on 03/07/18 at 11:33 PM ET


It’s funny you should ask. I’ve actually been wondering the same thing myself. I’ve really been impressed with the Ams this year. It could just be me, but I’ve noticed a change in chemistry since the Jake Bean acquisition. Another factor is that Detroit just made room in their roster for younger talent, including Rasmussen. Ken Holland seems to think he’s ready. Sometimes when players know they are off to the NHL, they do become a bit invisible with their WHL teams. Players like Rasmussen don’t stay dormant forever though. I think he’ll pick it back up before the season ends.

Posted by Samantha from Portland, Oregon on 03/08/18 at 12:24 AM 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

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