Prior to the Pandemic
Although they had lost Joachim Blichfeld and Cody Glass to the pro ranks from the previous season, the Winterhawks were strong once again as a bevy of offensive weapons and an excellent campaign by netminder Joel Hofer gave the team a one-point advantage over the Everett Silvertips when the 2019-20 campaign came to an end.
Off the ice, things weren’t quite as rosy as the Winterhawks went into receivership in May following a bankruptcy filing by former owner Bill Gallacher. A new ownership group, which includes Prince Albert Raiders alumni and former Monsanto executive Kerry Prette, took charge of the team in December and made no changes to the hockey staff.
While the Winterhawks roster ended up looking quite different from what it would have been in a normal season as a quartet of players (Cross Hanas, Jack O’Brien, James Stefan and Clay Hanus) went on loan to the USHL’s Lincoln Stars, Portland still had a strong campaign as they ended up second in the U.S. Division with a 13-8-3-0 mark.
There were some slight differences in Portland’s overall stats compared to last season. Their goals per game average dropped slightly from 4.28 to an even four per night, while their goals against per game average went up to an even three per night after posting a 2.60 mark a year ago.
- Mason Mannek (10-7-17 in 24 games – 0-2-2 in nine games for the Utah Grizzlies)
- Jaydon Dureau (10-21-31 in 24 games – Tampa Bay Lightning Draft Pick)
- Kishaun Gervais (1-1-2 in 19 games)
- Reece Newkirk (9-18-27 in 24 games – New York Islanders Prospect)
- Robbie Fromm-Delorme (2-10-12 in 24 games)
- Cross Hanas (2-2-4 in six games – 3-13-16 in 27 games for the Lincoln Stars – Detroit Red Wings Draft Pick)
- Seth Jarvis (15-12-27 in 24 games – Carolina Hurricanes Prospect)
- Simon Knak (16-13-29 in 24 games)
- Tyson Kozak (3-8-11 in 18 games)
- Ethan Leyer (Unsigned 10th round pick in 2017 – 1-5-6 in 10 games for the Whitecourt Wolverines – Committed to the St. Cloud State Huskies)
- Aidan Thompson (Unsigned 7th round pick in 2017 – 10-23-33 in 52 games for the Lincoln Stars – Committed to the Denver Pioneers)
- Chase Yoder (Unsigned 11th round pick in 2017 – 3-3-6 in 25 games for the Providence Friars – Pittsburgh Penguins Draft Pick)
- Jonah Bevington (0-2-2 in 14 games)
- Chaz Lucius (Unsigned 4th round pick in 2018 – 13-5-18 in 12 games for the US NTDP – Committed to the Minnesota Golden Gophers)
- Gabe Klassen (8-3-11 in 19 games)
- Aidan Litke (1-0-1 in 10 games)
- Jack O’Brien (0-4-4 in six games – 1-6-7 in 23 games for the Lincoln Stars)
- Dawson Pasternak (4th round pick in 2018 – 6-17-23 in 51 games for the Chicago Steel)
- James Stefan (0-3-3 in six games – 10-18-28 in 41 games for the Lincoln Stars)
- Kyle Chyzowski (5-1-6 in 20 games)
- Maddox Fleming (Unsigned 12th round pick in 2019 – 6-8-14 in 27 games for the US NTDP – Committed to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish)
- Marek Hejduk (Unsigned 9th round pick in 2019 – 2-7-9 in 21 games for the US NTDP – Committed to the Harvard Crimson)
- Marcus Nguyen (1-1-2 in 16 games)
- Luke Schelter (0-1-1 in six games)
- Jimmy Snuggerud (Unsigned 10th round pick in 2019 – 7-7-14 in 29 games for the US NTDP – Committed to the Minnesota Golden Gophers)
While their lineup was a bit different than they had planned, the Winterhawks offence really didn’t miss a beat. Jaydon Dureau and Reece Newkirk both continued their strong play, while Swiss forward Simon Knak became a point per game player in his second season and Carolina Hurricanes prospect Seth Jarvis finished off the year with nine points in his final four games.
Although they didn’t play in every contest, second year forwards Gabe Klassen and Tyson Kozak both worked their way into the double digit mark in scoring and have been ranked by NHL Central Scouting for the 2021 NHL Draft, which will be held next month.
At the moment, the Winterhawks have yet to sign any of their picks from the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft, but the player they’d want to bring in the most is Jayden Perron. The 16-year-old from Winnipeg, who was the 23rd overall pick last April, had 104 points in 36 games last year for the Winnipeg Under-15 Warriors and is currently slated to suit up with the USHL champion Chicago Steel this fall.
- Nick Cicek (5-16-21 in 24 games – Signed with the San Jose Barracuda for next season)
- Jonas Brondberg (0-6-6 in 20 games)
- Clay Hanus (1-7-8 in six games – 7-20-27 in 36 games for the Lincoln Stars)
- Kade Nolan (3-5-8 in 24 games)
- Ethan Edwards (Unsigned 8th round pick in 2017 – 6-21-27 in 51 games for the Sioux City Musketeers – Committed to the Michigan Wolverines – New Jersey Devils Draft Pick)
- Ryan Helliwell (Unsigned 3rd round pick in 2017 – 3-8-11 in 18 games for the Trail Smoke Eaters – Committed to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish)
- Tyler Kleven (Unsigned 10th round pick in 2017 – 5-2-7 in 22 games for the North Dakota Fighting Hawks – Ottawa Senators Draft Pick)
- Kurtis Smythe (1-4-5 in 24 games)
- Trey Taylor (Unsigned 9th round pick in 2017 – 1-8-9 in 20 games for the Vernon Vipers – Committed to the Clarkson Golden Knights)
- Max Burkholder (Unsigned 10th round pick in 2018 – 2-2-4 in 42 games for the Dubuque Fighting Saints – Committed to the Colorado College Tigers)
- Ryan McCleary (2-5-7 in 18 games)
- Ty Murchison (Unsigned 3rd round pick in 2018 – 3-2-5 in 23 games for the US NTDP – Committed to the Arizona State Sun Devils)
- Brody Tallman (1-1-2 in eight games)
- Luca Cagnoni (0-3-3 in 10 games)
- Josh Mori (8th round pick in 2019 – 1-1-2 in four games for the St. George’s School Under-18 Prep Team – 10-27-37 in 30 games for the St. George’s School Elite 15’s Team in 2019-20)
- Ryder Thompson (0-1-1 in 14 games)
With 62-point performer John Ludvig turning pro in the Florida Panthers system, the biggest question for the Winterhawks defence was who was going to step up as their offensive leader.
As it turned out, it was overager and team captain Nick Cicek who filled that hole on the roster, as he put together the best season of his WHL career and earned a contract with the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda.
Veteran Kade Nolan and rookie Ryan McCleary also had strong campaigns in Portland, but the most exciting development might be the point per game production by Hanus after his stint in the USHL. If he can keep that up going into his overage season, he might end up leading the league in defensive scoring.
- Brock Gould (4-1-0 with a 4.08 GAA, an .877 save percentage and zero shutouts)
- Dante Giannuzzi (9-7-3 with a 2.60 GAA, a .904 save percentage and zero shutouts)
- Jesper Wallstedt (Moose Jaw’s unsigned 2019 import draft pick – 12-10-0 with a 2.23 GAA, a .908 save percentage and two shutouts for Lulea HF in Sweden)
- Lochlan Gordon (3rd round pick in 2018 – 1-3-2 with a 3.67 GAA, a .902 save percentage and zero shutouts for the Sherwood Park Crusaders – 1-16-3 with a 4.02 GAA, an .898 save percentage and zero shutouts for the South Side Athletic Club Under-18 Team in 2019-20)
As a backup to Hofer, Dante Giannuzzi only suited up in nine games during the 2019-20 season, which came after a brief four-game stint in 2018-19. Despite the limited experience, the 18-year-old from Winnipeg had a really solid year as the starter and should solidify himself in that role going forward.
With Brock Gould only playing in a handful of games after coming over from the Moose Jaw Warriors, it would appear that a spot is open on the depth chart, which took an interesting turn earlier this month when the Winterhawks acquired the rights to Sweden’s Jesper Wallstedt from the Warriors. If the potential top ten pick in next month’s NHL Draft ends up in Portland, it might give them the best one-two punch between the pipes in the WHL.
There will be a number of changes in Portland next year, but they come in the staffing department. President Doug Piper announced his resignation in June, long-time head equipment manager Mark “Peaches” Brennan retired at the end of the season and assistant coach/associate general manager Kyle Gustafson has joined the Vancouver Canucks coaching staff.
In terms of their actual roster, the Winterhawks are in really good shape. While Mason Mannek and Cicek age out and Newkirk could start his pro career in the New York Islanders system, everyone else is eligible to come back to the roster. They are easily the favourite in the U.S. Division and might end up being a popular choice to reach the league final if Perron or Wallstedt come to town.
The only drawback for the Winterhawks is that their first round pick in December’s prospect draft, which moved up from 14th to seventh overall in last month’s lottery, belongs to the Swift Current Broncos as a result of the Hofer trade in January 2019.
However, they still have their picks in the second, third, fourth and fifth round for that draft, along with Saskatoon’s fourth rounder that they acquired for Ryan Hughes in 2019. They also have all of their picks in the first five rounds of the 2022 draft, which can be used to strengthen the current roster if need be.