PA product Klassen ready to face Raiders in Portland

Megan Connelly/Portland Winterhawks Portland Winterhawks captain Gabe Klassen fires a shot on goal during WHL action in Portland last season.

For the second time in his WHL career, Portland Winterhawks captain Gabe Klassen will face his hometown team when the Prince Albert Raiders travel to the Veterans Memorial Colosseum in Portland on Friday night.

The 20-year-old Klassen is in his fourth season with the Winterhawks, after being selected 19th overall in the 2018 WHL Prospects Draft.

The overage forward says he is enjoying his final season of junior hockey with the Winterhawks who are off to a hot start with a 12-4-0-1 record.

“It’s been good so far. Obviously, we got a really good team this year, there’s a lot of buzz around the building. We got pretty much the same group coming back as we had last year (with) a couple new faces. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s kind of weird being the old guy but it’s been a really good start to the year.”

In 17 games so far this season, Klassen has posted 12 goals and 19 assists for a total of 31 points. The Winterhawks were listed at number 3 in the most recent CHL Top 10 rankings, behind only the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads and the Prince George Cougars.

Klassen credits the chemistry Portland has built over the last couple of seasons as the reason why he was gotten off to a fast start individually and the team being ranked so highly.

“With how many guys we have coming back from last year and even the year before that, we’ve been together for a long time. We can pick up right where we left off at the end of last year. A couple of tough playoffs series (and) we’ve kind of learned from that. Obviously, expectations are super high, we’re just trying to build on that and just keep rolling forward.”

Klassen was named the captain of the Winterhawks ahead of the 2022-23 WHL season and is donning the ‘C’ in the Rose City for the second straight season.

Klassen says he is humbled to be given the chance to serve as Portland captain for a second season.

“It’s an unbelievable honor wearing it here in Portland. Obviously, there’s a ton of history in this organization. Just getting to wear it (the ‘C’) and trying to lead these guys as far as we can for the second time, it’s going to be really exciting to see what we can do and come springtime.”

Klassen will play his second career game against his hometown team when the Winterhawks take on the Prince Albert Raiders on Friday. In his only previous game against the Raiders, he earned first star honors with two goals and one assist in a 5-3 Portland win at the Art Hauser Centre in January.

Klassen says facing the Raiders has a little extra personal meaning than the average game.

“Growing up a Raiders fan my whole life and going to every game give (it) a little bit extra meaning and I’ve only got to play them once in my life. There’s going to be a little bit extra nerves probably for that game and I definitely want to try and beat them. I’m really looking forward to it though.”

Puck drops between the Raiders and Winterhawks at 9 p.m. Sask Time on Friday night.