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Meet the Winterhawks

by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - Coach Mike Johnston (left) and assistant coach Travis Green talk to the Portland Winterhawks during the final game of their playoff series with Kamloops last season. Johnston and Green offer their comments now on the 24 players Portland has on its roster going into Friday's season opener at home against Seattle.Winterhawks coach-general manager Mike Johnston and assistant GM-assistant coach Travis Green give the Portland Tribune their assessment of the 24 players who will start the season with Portland on Friday night. The Hawks play Seattle at the Rose Garden at 7 p.m.

Meet the Winterhawks, by position and in alphabetical order:

CENTERS

Chase De Leo

Johnston: We expect any 16-year-old who had the experience he had last year to take a big step this year. He's a very smart player. He's good with the puck. He's a strong two-way center. The step for him this year would be to get opportunities in special-team situations. Whether it's penalty kills or on the power play, he'll get more opportunities there this year.

Keegan Iverson

Johnston: He's a guy with a lot of potential. He's a big guy for a young kid (6-0, 215). He still has a lot to learn, and everything is going to be new for him. He's an upbeat, energy guy. He could be a top player in our league.

Presten Kopeck

Johnston: He plays with energy and has a great work ethic. It'll be interesting to see how he produces offensively. He has a good offensive upside, but he's a bit of an unknown because we haven't seen him a lot.

Brendan Leipsic

Green: We're expecting a lot more of what we've seen in the past. His game last year was very good but at times a little inconsistent. He was good in the second half of last year. He raised his game in the playoffs. As a young guy, we're expecting that his game will continue to mature. He looks faster and stronger on his skates. We're hoping he takes that next step and becomes a top-line guy in the league.

Nicolas Petan

Johnston: He's going to get a lot more special-teams work this year, a lot more opportunities to play in tough situations consistently throughout the year. He has great speed.

Taylor Peters

Green: He's a great guy on the ice, off the ice. He's a big part of our leadership group. He's been through a lot over his career, good and bad. So he can really help our young group of forwards. And we're expecting him to take a jump in his game. Offensively, he has more to give. He's probably one of the premier defensive guys in the league.

Dominic Turgeon

Johnston: He's a very smart player on the ice. He's your typical center who can play both ways. He can really move the puck, and he sees people all over the place. He could be a top-end, two-way center.

LEFT WINGERS

Paul Bittner

Johnston: He's the youngest player on our roster. So he's a guy like any other young kid coming into the league; it's going to take a while for him to adjust and adapt. He has great potential. He's a big player (6-4, 195 pounds). He handles the puck really well. We think he could be a very good two-way power forward.

Adam De Champlain

Johnston: He's coming to the league as an 18-year-old, so he's a bigger guy (6-1, 175). As a new player on the team, I don't think he'll be intimidated by the league. He should be able to adapt and adjust. He provides us with a lot of versatility because he can play center or wing.

Taylor Leier

Johnston: He's a very valuable player for us. He really can do everything. He can score. He can play defense. He has good speed. He's a competitive guy who works hard. We see him as one of our top all-around players.

RIGHT WINGERS

Joey Baker

Johnston: He'll give us probably the same as what he did last year, but he'll have a little bit more experience in the league. He's an energy guy, a physical guy. He's a great skater. He does everything through his skating. He's the best skater on the team. This year, he'll probably chip in a little bit more with goals.

Oliver Bjorkstrand

Green: For a young guy coming (overseas, from Denmark) who's never played here, he's shown that he has great offensive instincts. You can tell he thinks the offensive part of the game. But there's still a lot of upside in his game. After three weeks, that's what excites us. We see a lot more that's still in the tank. We're only seeing him at 70 percent of what I'm hoping he'll be by the end of the year.

Joe Mahon

Johnston: He came out of nowhere for training camp. He's a big guy (6-5, 210). We thought we needed some size last year. He's a guy, coming into training camp, we thought might push for a spot, but he's had a way better camp than we expected.

Ty Rattie

Johnston: I still expect that Ty is going to take another step this year. Last year, he took a big step in his overall play. He became a penalty-killer. He became a guy you could trust late in games in defensive situations. That was very important in his development. He wants to be a pro.

Alex Schoenborn

Johnston: He's in his first year and a young kid. He's going to have his ups and downs. He's going to be in a situation where we see him as a power forward. He's strong. He's a powerful skater. He has a good shot. But there's going to be some growing pains.

DEFENSEMEN

Josh Hanson

Green: He's had to take a back seat to some pretty good defensemen over the years. This year, we're hoping he can take the step and become one of those guys. He's learned a lot over the last few years.

Seth Jones

Green: No surprise, he's really solid and a great player. We're excited to see him and add him to our team this year. The level of play he brings every night is a great opportunity for our team. One thing he brings to the table other than his skill is you can tell he's a leader and wants to win. With all the top guys I've played with over the year, as good as they were, they were just as competitive. And I can see that in him.

Derrick Pouliot

Green: The challenge for him is to push himself to be better than he is now. His whole mindset should be, 'How do I lead this team to win again, and how do I push myself to get ready for the next level?' He's come into camp in great shape, and he looks like he's ready to take that next step.

Troy Rutkowski

Green: He was outstanding in the second half of last season. He's an underrated player on our team. He's become a reliable guy defensively, where people used to knock that part of his game. Through hard work and listening, he's turned that into a strength. As far as leadership goes, he's going to be one of those guys we lean on.

Layne Viveiros

Johnston: He's a young guy who played last year as a 16-year-old. We expect him to take a big step this year. He's a very smart player. He's gotten stronger over the summer. He'll add some good depth to our defense. And I like his intelligence on the ice.

Kirill Vorobev

Green: He's our (Canadian Hockey League import draft choice) we didn't know much about. He works extremely hard. He's as hard a worker as we've had. He skates well. He has good skill. It's going to be a change playing in this league, like all the Europeans coming over. He's someone we're looking forward to see as he progresses.

Tyler Wotherspoon

Green: He's been a rock for us the last few years. Defensively, he's one of the top guys in the league. He's another guy we're going to challenge this year to take his game to another level. The game comes easy for him

GOALTENDERS

Brendan Burke

Green: He's been a real nice surprise this year. Probably one of the most improved players over the summer. He's a lot stronger this year. He's a lot more comfortable in net. We're hoping he takes that step toward providing us with some great goaltending for the next few years. We're excited to see him get into more games this year and see how he does.

Cam Lanigan

Green: He's a veteran guy who's been in the leauge. He's looked good so far this year. We know what we're getting with him; a guy who's capable of being a starting goalie in the league. If he's here, he's going to battle to get the starting job. We'll look for a lot of leadership out of him, as well.



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