PA’s Klassen ready for hometown return as Portland Winterhawk captain

Megan Connelly/Portland Winterhawks Prince Albert product and Portland Winterhawks captain Gabe Klassen (centre) during a game earlier in the 2022-2023 season.

When the Portland Winterhawks travel to the Art Hauser Centre to take on the Prince Albert Raiders on Tuesday night, there will be plenty of friends and family in the stands for Portland Winterhawks captain Gabe Klassen.

Klassen is a product of Prince Albert and will be making his first career WHL appearance in his hometown on Tuesday night. Klassen was drafted by Portland with the 19th overall selection in the 2018 WHL Prospects Draft.

Klassen says he is looking forward to playing in front of friends and family.

“It’s really exciting. It’s my first time in four years getting to play there. I’m mostly excited to have my family and all my buddies there. Just growing up playing there, It’s going to be different being on the opposing side but it will be a lot of fun.”

The 2022-2023 WHL season is the first to feature interconference games on the regular season schedule since 2019-2020, before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Klassen says the Winterhawks are excited for their East Division road trip, as well as the opportunity to host the Central Division in the Pacific Northwest.

“It makes a big difference. It gets a little old playing the same teams 10 or 12 times in a season. So, it’s good to see some other competition and what it is like over here. We’re really looking forward to this trip to see how we stack up against this side of the league, and it’s really fun to host teams in our building showing them what it is like in the US.”

In terms of individual and team success, it’s been great on both ends for Klassen. Portland currently sits in second place in the Western Conference with a record of 26-6-2-1 and trail the Seattle Thunderbirds by 3 points. Klassen has recorded 36 points in 31 games for the Winterhawks this season, including 20 goals.

“It’s been a good season for not only me, but our whole team,” Klaassen says. “We got a lot of guys contributing. It’s not like we are a top heavy team. We got four good lines that can put the puck in the net and a lot of our d-men are scoring as well. It’s been a full team effort and they’re helping me out, I’m helping them out and we’re just looking to keep that going on this road trip and in the second half.”

Klassen is an alumni of the Prince Albert Mintos organization recording 72 points in 54 games in parts of two seasons from 2018-2020.

Several of Klassen’s former Minto teammates have moved onto success in the WHL and he says he is looking forward to playing in front of current Mintos in Prince Albert

“It’s pretty cool. It’s a great organization, there’s been a lot of guys to come out of there to play in the WHL. We’ve got 5 or 6 from our team when I was there when I was 15 that are playing in the league right now. It’s a great organization and it’s going to be cool to hopefully have the boys out watching us while we are there.”

With a majority of Portland’s roster being originally drafted by the Winterhawks, not many have played at the Art Hauser Centre. Klassen says he is looking forward to playing in the unique atmosphere of his hometown rink.

“It’s a different barn for sure. We’ve got maybe 3 or 4 guys that have been there. Not a lot of guys will be familiar, I will let them know it is a smaller ice surface and the glass is rock hard. So, try and play our game and be fast. We’re all looking forward to it.”

Puck drops between the Raiders and Winterhawks on Tuesday night at 7pm from the Art Hauser Centre.