Winterhawks Drop Out Of CHL Rankings, Have 2 Big US Division Battles This Weekend
Friday, September 28, 2018
Stuart Kemp, Oregon Sports News
As expected with two losses this past weekend, the Portland Winterhawks dropped from the Canadian Hockey League rankings. Portland lost games against Seattle and Everett but lost by a closer margin than Spokane, which got hammered 6-1 in its only game of the week. Vancouver, which beat Everett twice in the home-and-home series, vaulted to number eight. Lethbridge split the weekend games and still remains atop the WHL leaders in the CHL Poll at number three. Saskatoon picked up a pair of wins and takes the number ten spot. Also given consideration was Prince Albert, which picked up an honorable mention. The poll is highly controversial at this time of year with not all teams having players from the NHL back yet, nor fully gelled. It can be taken as a barometer during the season to see how teams are doing. Eight teams remain in the top ten poll after two weeks, expect that number to reduce this upcoming weekend.
The Hawks, meanwhile, made additional moves this past week after dropping overage MacEachern and reassigning Ryan Miley. This still leaves them with 25 players; I figure there will be two more assignments. Portland continues with games against Tri-City, which blasted Spokane 6-1 last week and a rematch with Seattle as their first home game of the regular season.
With the Hawks reduced to three overagers on their team, another team went the other direction. The Swift Current Broncos, the defending Memorial Cup champions, are two games into the season and a rebuild is already the way. They made a deal to get two former players back. After getting mauled by Saskatoon by a mild 2-1 score then an 8-0 score, Swift Current made a deal with Lethbridge. One was a waiver deal to acquire Matt Stanley and another saw an eight-round choice to re-acquire Owen Blocker. Stanley, a defenseman, is shoring up a defense that gave up ten goals in two games and Blocker adds punch to the offense line which score just twice in its first pair of games.
The Broncos will have to pare this down in the next couple of weeks to just three overages from five currently and have a few games to make those decisions. There is still an impending rumor that will see goaltender Stuart Skinner come back from the NHL which will further add to the woes of Swift Current, but the word circulating is that Skinner will find a new home before he lands with the team. The big two on the list are Lethbridge, who had Skinner before, and Spokane which although it has two older goalies, would be a powerhouse if they added Skinner.
The weeks leading into the cutoff for overage players will be hotly contested as teams look to get to the 23-player maximum and three overage players and as NHL teams make their final decisions as to what players they will look to carry forward. The poll which arrives late in the day during the week, will have more volatility as they look to finalize the rosters.
Portland will have heavy homestand in November with eight home games and four games on the road December with all but four games on the road versus seven at home. The road games are heavier in September with three road versus one home and the October run with five at home against four on the road
Portland made a quick trade yesterday getting eighteen-year-old winger Rylan Bettens for a conditional 2021 draft pick. Bettens played two full seasons with Brandon and suited up for one game in the MJHL and one game this season for Brandon before the trade. He has yet to be assigned a jersey number or placed in the roster yet, conditional on his reporting to Portland. Ryan Hughes is hoping to be ready on under two weeks. Hughes had surgery in the offseason and will be ready to go soon. Lukas MacKenzie is home now which could play in the trade announced today. Lukas came to the Hawks from Red Deer and was heavily adored by fans for his gritty play. This was reported by a source close to the organization.