Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Can Winterhawks maintain momentum?


COURTESY: DAYNA FJORD/PORTLAND WINTERHAWKS - Defenseman Brendan De Jong of the Portland Winterhawks is on NHL scouts' radar.The Portland Winterhawks play at Kelowna, 7 p.m. Friday, and at Kamloops, 7 p.m. Saturday, hoping to continue momentum from last weekend.

The Hawks lost to Seattle 3-0, but then ralled to beat the Thunderbirds 5-2 and topped Tri-City 4-3.

They are 25-21-2-0 for 52 points, more safely in the Western Hockey League Western Conference playoff picture and three points behind Seattle for second place in the U.S. Division (behind Everett, which has 60 points).

Portland plays only nine games in the next three-plus weeks and won’t play at home again until Feb. 5 against Seattle.

• Jamie Kompon, Portland general manager and coach, doesn’t use the term “streaky,” but his team has been streaky most of the season.

“It’s about our consistency,” he says. “Our season has been filled with challenges,” including a slow start and a hip injury/surgery for Paul Bittner.

“How you respond to adversity tells you the true character of your team. Our team is finally understanding how we need to play and how consistent we need to be. I’m hopeful we can continue on that path.”

Kompon doesn’t dismiss a possible run at the U.S. Division title. Last year, the Hawks rallied to challenge for the division, only to lose out on the title to Everett in the season’s final weekend.

“Divisional games are where you get your separation,” he says, and there’ll be plenty upcoming.

• Goalie Adin Hill has been terrific. In the 3-0 Seattle win, the T-Birds scored a shorthanded goal, a power-play goal and an empty-net goal. The first two goals the next night came on the power play.

Hill has been and will continue to be a workhorse in net.

“He played three games in three nights, and he spends (usually) 60 minutes on the ice and sees 30 shots a night,” Kompon says. “He’s done a great job for us. He’s sharp right now, and we want him to stay fresh. We want to make sure he’s engaged and gets rest when he needs rest.”

• Alex Schoenborn registered his first career hat trick against Seattle, as the Hawks rallied from 2-0 down to win, and then scored the game-winning goal against Tri-City.

A San Jose prospect and third-round 2014 NHL draft pick, Schoenborn has played a checking/defensive role with the Hawks, but he now has a career high in points (37) and has tied his career high in goals (18).

“His compete level is at an all-time high,” Kompon says.

• The Central Scouting Bureau midterm rankings have center Rodrigo Abols at No. 121 and defenseman Brendan De Jong at No. 181 among North American skaters. It’s a good indication that both could be drafted this year.

Kompon uses another indicator — what scouts tell him.

“Rodrigo is on the tip of everyone’s tongue when (scouts) come to the game,” he says. “There has been a lot of buzz around Rodrigo, and Brendan. They’ll both be on the radar.”

Whereas Abols is an experienced player from Latvia just earning more exposure playing here, the 6-5, 190-pound De Jong, 17, is a good defensive prospect.

“He’s got to fill out; you look at (him) as a project,” Kompon says. “He has good feet for a big man, really good hockey sense, a good stick. Once he fills into that package, how does he handle different things?”

• Bittner had a good visit with a doctor recently, Kompon says. The Hawks hope the big forward can return for the playoffs, which would start in late March.