Random ramblings ahead of Game 4 of the WHL Western Conference finals at the Rose Garden on Thursday:
I don't know if the Winterhawks can get defenseman Seth Jones to the Rose Garden tonight, but I bet they are trying. They traded this week for the rights to negotiate with Jones' family, hoping to convince the standout defenseman to choose the Winterhawks over college hockey.
A crowd of 10,000 plus is expected to attend today's game, which I'm guessing might make an impression on the son of former of former NBA player and current New Jersey Nets assistant coach Popeye Jones.
Some might have thought the Winterhawks gave up too much when they sent a couple of first-round bantam picks to Seattle for Marcel Noebels. I doubt they feel that way now. Noebels has a nice mix of size and savvy, and the German center has thrived after leaving the struggling Thunderbirds to play between Ty Rattie and Sven Bartschi the most explosive line in the WHL. No wonder he seems to be smiling whenever I see him.
Noebels is one of nine 19-year-olds on a Winterhawks roster built to win now. Seven of the 1992-born players are key contributors. Add in the three (the WHL maximum overage players per team) 20-year-olds — team captain William Wrenn, Cam Reid and Oliver Gabriel — and the Winterhawks have a core of junior hockey veterans to rely upon. Wrenn an d Reid, by the way, each left NCAA college hockey in the middle of a season to join the Winterhawks.
Ty Rattie, is just 18, so he should be a Winterhawk for at least one more winter,
There was a significant upset on Wednesday in the WHL Eastern Conference Finals. The Moose Jaw Warriors beat the Edmonton Oil Kings 5-1. They extended the series to a fifth game and ended Edmonton's astonishing 22-game win streak. Not that the Winterhawks are looking ahead.
Winterhawks coach and general manager Mike Johnston believes his stable of defensemen is the best in the WHL. So far in this series, it would be hard to argue.
Some evidence: Troy Rutkowski leads the WHL in plus-minus through 14 playoff games. Rutkowski is a plus-13, which means the Winterhawks have outscored their opponent by 13 goals at even strength when Rutkowski is on the ice. Tyler Wotherspoon is tied for fourth in the league at plus-11 — with Ty Rattie. Between those two are Sven Bartschi and Marcel Noebels at plus-12. Portland defenseman Joe Morrow is tied for seventh at plus-9.
Speaking of arguments, Bartchi thought he had scored the go-ahead goal on a powerful drive to the net in the third period. He put the puck between goalie Ty Rimmer's pads as Bartschi was being dragged to the ice. The puck bounced off the post, then off of Rimmer. But the goalie got his glove over the puck before it completely crossed the goal line, so the play was correctly ruled no goal, both on the ice and after a video review.
Of course, Rattie scored on the resulting power play, so all was right as far as the RG crowd was concerned.
Do you think some of the Tri-City Americans might hesitate to step in front of a Joe Morrow shot tonight?
Late in the second period on Wednesday, the Pittsburgh Penguins prospect knocked the mask off of Tri-City goalie Ty Rimmer with a blast. Then, with the Winterhawks on a power play early in the third period, Morrow shots stung Justin Feser and Patrick Holland in rapid succession. Kudos to those Americans for taking one for their teammates,
One more reason to attend tonight's game: to see if Brendan Shinnimin, the 20-year-old Phoenix Coyotes prospect, can play all 60 minutes. OK, I exaggerate. But it seemed the guy whose name has "typo" written all over it, seldom left the ice on Wednesday. I had the impression he played the whole third period; after playing most of the first period on the Tri-City power-play unit.