BEAVERTON, Ore. — Here’s something opponents of the Portland Winterhawks probably don’t want to read:
Sven Bartschi’s hip injury didn’t slow him down. In fact, it helped him get faster.
Because of a bruised hip, Bartschi missed the first six of the nine games on Portland’s recent 17-day road trip. Upon his return, the 19-year-old left wing helped the team to close the trip with three consecutive wins with a goal and five assists — plus a shootout winner.
“Our team had an extra gear there when he came back in Kamloops,” said Ty Rattie, Bartschi’s linemate and roommate. “It just shows how much we need him.”
Despite playing in only 11 of Portland’s first 20 games, the Calgary Flames draft pick is tied for second on the team with 24 points from six goals and 18 assists.
“He can make a difference every shift. He’s an explosive guy,” Winterhawks general manager and head coach Mike Johnston said. “On the road he received a lot of checking pressure the last couple of games and he was able to handle it well.”
Bartschi also had no trouble with the good-natured ribbing from teammates because he missed much of the bus travel through Alberta.
“I had the experience last year of a big trip, so I had enough,” a laughing Bartschi said.
Bartschi was not exactly cooling his heels while his teammates were piling up bus miles. He spent a week in Calgary rehabbing with the Flames staff, where he went through two off-ice workouts and one on-ice session daily.
Bartschi said the Flames worked to adjust his skating style to relieve some pressure on the hip. He does special exercises and stretches to help with that process.
“I learned a lot in one week,” he said. “I feel a little bit faster and a little bit quicker.”
A year ago, Bartschi was still adjusting to life away from his family in Langenthal, Switzerland. But he adjusted to life in the Western Hockey League well enough to put up 34 goals and 51 assists and earn the WHL’s Western Conference rookie of the year award. And in June he was the 13th pick in the NHL Draft.
Bartschi credits Rattie, the 32nd pick in June’s draft by St. Louis, for helping him on and off the ice. Bartschi and Rattie developed on-ice chemistry from the first day of training camp in 2010. They also became close off the ice and this year are house mates.
“I don’t know if I’d be doing as well right now without Rattie,” Bartschi said.
Rattie is having a breakout season of his own. The 6-foot, 173-pound right wing leads the Winterhawks with 15 goals to go with 15 assists in the 19 games he’s played.
“The biggest thing for me right now is confidence,” said Rattie, 18. “As a 16 and 17 year old you’re kind of timid. But when you’re 18 and 19 you know the game and you have a lot more confidence.”
Last season Rattie and Bartschi were teamed with veteran centers Ryan Johansen and Craig Cunningham. Johansen is now in the NHL with Columbus and Cunningham is with the Boston Bruins minor league team in Providence, R.I.
“Last year was my first year and Rattie’s second year (in the WHL), so having a guy on our line with a bit of experience was really good,” Bartschi said. “Now it’s my second year, Rattie’s third year, so we can really help out the young guys.”
This season, Rattie and Bartschi have been playing with rookie centers Nicolas Petan and Chase De Leo, both 16.
“They’re ready to handle big minutes, maybe not all the time, but they’re certainly ready to handle them periodically,” Johnston said of those rookies. “We’re really confident they’re going to be excellent players in the long term.
“All this experience they are getting now is going to help them mature faster.”
Bartschi has quickly matured into one of the most dynamic and productive forwards in the WHL. The way he’s started his second WHL season, Bartschi has the look of a player on a fast track to the NHL.
“Confidence is a big part of it,” Johnston said, explaining Bartschi’s productive start to this season. “It’s knowing that he can make a difference. He works at his skill set so hard that he’s always improving and evolving as a player.”