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Hawks stand out again in draft

by: Christopher Onstott Sven Bartschi, Winterhawks forward, was the club’s top pick in last week’s NHL draft, going 13th overall to the Calgary Flames.

The pomp and ceremony are still fresh in the minds of the Portland Winterhawks who took part in last week’s NHL draft. Ain’t nothing like sitting there and hearing your name announced. For defenseman Joe Morrow, it was first round, No. 23 overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins. “Excruciating, sitting there through those first 22 picks,” says Morrow, who attended the draft in Minneapolis, along with teammates Sven Bartschi, Ty Rattie and Tyler Wotherspoon. “I was there with a bunch of family, and we tried to make it as fun as we could. But it was extremely stressful. “Stunned, shocked, impressed … flip through a dictionary for a word,” he adds, of the outcome. “I still have no clue.” Bartschi, a quicksilver forward, went 13th in the first round to the Calgary Flames. Forward Rattie went No. 32, early in the second round, to the St. Louis Blues and the defenseman Wotherspoon went No. 57, also in the second round, to the Flames. Draft day marked another glorious day for the resurgent Winterhawks organization, which had eight players selected by NHL teams last year, including Ryan Johansen and Nino Niederreiter in the first five picks. “There were only eight guys from the Western Hockey League taken in the first two rounds this year,” General Manager/coach Mike Johnston says, “and we had four of them. “It’s exciting for the fans in Portland. We’re getting a little bit more of a hockey market back at the rink and, if you’re a fan of hockey or a sports fan in general, to watch future pros as young players is exciting. A lot of teams have three or four (drafted players), and we might have 12 next season.” Actually, combined with free-agent NHL prospects, it could be more. The Hawks might have another first-round NHL pick next year in defenseman Derrick Pouliot, while forward Brendan Leipsic figures to be second-round material and defenseman Josh Hanson is another possible pick. “Pouliot will be very close to a first-rounder,” Johnston says, “and if we get a first-rounder next year, it’ll be incredible. It’s extremely hard to do, (first-rounders) three years in a row.” It was somewhat surprising that Rattie dropped out of the first round. “But the difference between first round and one of the first picks of the second round is not much,” Johnston says. “We knew St. Louis was interested.” The four new picks will attend their first NHL training camps this summer. For the 5-10, 180-pound Bartschi, who is Swiss, and the 6-0, 170 Rattie, who is from rural Airdrie, Alberta, it’ll be a time to show their stuff, despite being smaller forwards. As Winterhawks next season, they’ll have to be stronger. “For them, it’ll be about strength (improvement),” Johnston says, “so they can really handle bigger players, bigger defensemen. They have to get more power. They have the skill and vision and all of those things; Bartschi is more dynamic, quicker side-to-side, whereas Rattie has great vision, pulls people into areas and makes plays.” Bartschi led WHL rookies with 85 points (34 goals, 51 assists) and added 27 more points (10 goals, 17 assists) in the playoffs. Rattie tallied 101 total points (37 goals, 64 assists). Johnston says it was cool to see the rebuilding Flames take the skilled Bartschi and the physical Wotherspoon. Says Wotherspoon, who hails from Surrey, British Columbia, a Vancouver suburb: “(The Flames are) looking to make a big step forward, and I’m happy to be part of that transition and part of the organization. … I’m glad to go to a city like that. It’s a little quieter, but it’s getting bigger, and it’s a nice, clean city. It’s also a great hockey town; being in a Canadian market, there is no shortage of hockey fans.” Morrow, from Sherwood Park, Alberta, a suburb of Edmonton, says the same thing about Pittsburgh, which won a Stanley Cup recently with star Sidney Crosby. “Because of Sidney Crosby, it has such a large Canadian fan base,” Morrow says. “They’re probably one of the only U.S. teams with such a Canadian fan base. I like that.” The 6-1, 200 Morrow and the 6-2, 200 Wotherspoon also have some work to do. Morrow wants to improve on his defense; his reputation is as an offensive D-man. Wotherspoon wants to improve his offense. Johnston says NHL scouts started watching Wotherspoon and admired his solid all-around play. He says Wotherspoon needs to work on mobility — turns and pivots and such, to handle faster forwards. “I want to work on perfecting all of my skills,” Wotherspoon says. “And making no mistakes. When you get to the next level, there are not many mistakes made. That’s how I try to play my game —a perfect shutdown guy who you can rely on.” Johnston says Morrow has skill as a D-man but needs to refine his defensive game to become a reliable two-way player. “You can never be too good in your own (defensive) end,” says Morrow, who followed his father Dave (1977, Vancouver) and brother Josh (2002, Nashville) as NHL draftees. “I’ll have to bump up that part of my game, definitely.”