Winterhawks piece things together
Return of Bartschi gives coach more options at forward
The Portland Winterhawks are still assembling their pieces, awaiting the arrival of one or two more players to make the team complete and start their run at a Western Hockey League championship.
Defenseman Joe Morrow, a first-round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins, has stuck with the NHL team for the time being. He could be reassigned to the Hawks at any time, or start the season with the Penguins and play some games in the big league.
'He's playing well,' Portland General Manager/coach Mike Johnston says. 'He's been scoring, creating.'
Forward Riley Boychuk, a 20-year-old, has been sent to the camp of the Rochester Americans, the Buffalo Sabres' American Hockey League affiliate. But he hasn't signed a contract, leaving open the possibility of a return to Portland.
The New York Islanders' Nino Niederreiter and Columbus' Ryan Johansen are still long shots to return to the junior Winterhawks.
But the Hawks got some good news this week, as Calgary returned skilled forward Sven Bartschi, its first-round pick, to Portland. He'll be in the lineup this weekend when the Hawks play host to Tri-City at 7 p.m. Friday and Seattle at 7 Saturday night ('Dash for Cash' night) at the Rose Garden.
If Bartschi produces in the same way that Ty Rattie did, the Hawks will be happy. Rattie played an NHL exhibition game for St. Louis last Friday and then played the next two days for the Winterhawks, notching six points on four goals and two assists.
Rattie, who gained about 10 pounds and is listed at 6-0, 175, says playing with NHL guys ramped up his game and speed.
'Mike talked about keeping that pace, to separate myself from other players,' Rattie says. 'I'm trying my best to keep it up.'
Johnston is still experimenting with forward combinations, and he may or may not team Bartschi and Rattie together, as was the case last year. 'Both of them have the ability to be dominant on their own,' Johnston says.
'He complements me, I complement him,' Rattie adds, of Bartschi.
Johnston was happy with several Hawks in the first three games, wins against Everett and Seattle and a 6-5 loss to Tri-City in which the Hawks rallied from 5-0 down.
'(Rookie) Taylor Leier played well,' Johnston says. 'He's now 17 and mature and ready for this league.'
Defenseman Derrick Pouliot, a projected 2012 NHL first-round pick, had six assists. Brad Ross, back from NHL camp, had two goals and three assists. Taylor Peters, also back from NHL camp, had three goals.
Rattie's overall impression of the Hawks: 'We're going to be a younger team. We're a little smaller, but skilled and fast. We're going to use our speed.'