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Sunday, February 25, 2024
Feb. 25, 2024

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Jr. hockey notebook: Winterhawks still settling roster

Trio back from NHL camps; decisions loom for Johnston

By , Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter

Facing a few significant roster decisions after the return of Caleb Jones, Keegan Iverson and Rodrigo Abols from National Hockey League camps, Portland Winterhawks coach and general manager Mike Johnston will be patient.

The Winterhawks have 27 players on their roster. The WHL standard is 23 — teams must be down to 25 by Oct. 10. Johnston said the staff will take a close look at each player. His timetable for trimming the roster is “once we are sure” about who to keep.

Among the decisions facing Johnston and his staff is which import player to let go. WHL teams are limited to two players from outside North America, and the return of the 20-year-old Abols from Vancouver Canucks camp puts Portland at three imports.

Finnish defenseman Henri Jokiharju, 17, and Danish forward Joachim Blichfeld, 18, are WHL rookies. The Winterhawks have two weeks to make a move.

The Winterhawks spend most of the next two weeks on the road, making their one swing through the East Division. Johnston has always favored making the Eastern swing early in the season, but said that two weeks into a season is a bit earlier than he would choose.

“It will be good from a team building standpoint,” Johnston said.

Portland Winterhawks

This week: Host Everett, 7 p.m. Friday (VMC); at Seattle, 7:05 p.m. Saturday (TV: KRCW); at Swift Current, 6 p.m. Tuesday; at Prince Albert, 6 p.m. Wednesday; at Moose Jaw, 6 p.m. Oct. 7.

Last week: Beat Seattle 7-3, beat Tri-City 7-3.

Where they stand: At 2-0, Portland is tied with Everett atop the U.S. Division.

Shared scoring: Nine players scored goals and 16 Winterhawks were on the score sheet during the opening weekend of the season. Johnston said that getting offense up and down the lineup is going to be key to success this season. Among the highlights: Third-year defenseman Brendan De Jong had a goal in each of the first two games, matching his career high for a season; Skyler McKenzie, who scored 12 goals in his first two full seasons, scored three in the first two games. Johnston was pleased that every available player saw action over the opening weekend — and that his team came away with two wins against division rivals.

Goalies alternate: Against Seattle, Michael Bullion made 27 saves on 30 shots. Against Tri-City, Cole Kehler stopped 26 of 29 shots. Johnston said the plan for now is to continue to alternate goalies.

New replay screens: The new video screens Veterans Memorial Coliseum will debut with Friday’s game against Everett.

Scouting shift: Eric Doyle, who has served as the Director of Player Personnel since 2014, has been hired as a scout by the New York Rangers.

On TV: Saturday’s game at Seattle will be live on KRCW (CW32), channel 32 over the air and DirecTV, and Comcast channel 3.

Vancouver Rangers

This week: Host Seattle, 7 p.m. Friday and 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Mountain View Ice Arena (season openers).

Looking ahead: The Rangers visit the defending WSHL champion Idaho Junior Steelheads next weekend. The next home games are Oct. 14-16 against the Ogden Mustangs.

Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter