As unusual as it is for two Western Hockey League teams to meet in the championship series three consecutive seasons, it is not surprising to find the Portland Winterhawks and the Edmonton Oil Kings back in the finals.
A glance at recent NHL Drafts provides evidence. Since 2010, 19 Winterhawks have been drafted by NHL teams. The Portland team that hosts Game 1 tonight at the Moda Center has nine players who have been drafted by NHL teams: forwards Oliver Bjorkstrand (Columbus), Taylor Leier (Philadelphia), Brendan Leipsic (Nashville) and Nic Petan (Winnipeg), defensemen Adam Cederholm (Vancouver), Matt Dumba (Minnesota), Garrett Harr (Washington) and Derrick Pouliot (Pittsburgh) and goalie Brendan Burke (Phoenix). Leipsic is suspended for Game 1.
Eleven Oil Kings have been drafted by NHL teams since the franchise joined the WHL in 2007-08. Five current Edmonton players have been drafted: forwards Mitch Moroz (Edmonton), Henrik Samuelsson (Phoenix) and Curtis Lazar (Ottawa), defenseman Griffin Reinhart (N.Y. Islanders)and goalie Tristan Jarry (Pittsburgh).
Reinhart, the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft, missed last season’s WHL finals because of injury. This is Jarry’s first finals after backing up Calgary Flames prospect Laurent Brossoit the past two seasons.
Additionally, Portland and Edmonton each have four draft-eligible skaters among the top 200 from North America as ranked by NHL Central Scouting.