Winterhawks unveil schedule
The Portland Winterhawks' 2017-18 schedule came out last week.
The Hawks, who figure to contend for U.S. Division and Western Conference supremacy in the Western Hockey League, open the regular season on Sept. 23 at Everett.
The home opener is Sept. 30 against Seattle.
The regular season ends March 18 at home against Spokane.
The complete promotion schedule (and start times) will be announced later, but the popular Teddy Bear Toss game has been set for Saturday, Dec. 9. And, yes, Seattle will visit for the annual New Year's Eve spectacle.
The Winterhawks will make their six-game Central Division swing from Nov. 21-29.
The most unfortunate aspect of the schedule? That Portland and Kelowna play their four games over eight days in mid-October. The Rockets and Hawks have developed quite a rivalry and again figure to be two of the teams contending in the West.
It is not unusual for teams from the B.C. Division to play their two games in Portland back-to-back to limit travel. Still, it would be more interesting if the Hawks and Rockets crossed paths at least once over the final five months of the season.
• The Winterhawks' selection of Swedish winger Samuel Fagemo in the Canadian Hockey League import draft might be nothing more than insurance against Henri Jokiharju or Joachim Blichfeld winding up in professional hockey next season.
WHL teams can have only two players from outside North America on their team.
Fagemo will be in his 17-year-old season.
Blichfeld, who will be 19, and Jokiharju, entering his 18-year-old season, became big contributors as Hawks last season. Given that the team seems primed for a title push, it makes sense that Blichfeld, a 2016 pick of the San Jose Sharks, will return.
On the other hand, given Portland coach/general manager/vice president Mike Johnston's track record of landing special talent from overseas, who knows?
• Ryan Hughes was not drafted last week — his first year of eligibility — but the Portland Winterhawks' 5-8, 155-pound forward was invited to NHL Nashville's developmental camp.
Johnston says Hughes needs to develop physically and can raise his draft stock by building on his 27-goal, 30-assist output last season.
"He's going to get stronger. He's going to get a little bit bigger. Certainly that will help him from a pro perspective," Johnston says.
• Cody Glass, taken No. 6 overall by Las Vegas, was not the first Winterhawk to join the expasion Golden Knights organization.
• Former Hawks Brendan Leipsic and Luca Sbisa were selected by Las Vegas in the expansion draft.
Leipsic played in Portland from 2010-14, scoring 132 regular-season goals and adding 170 assists. He has spent most of his three pro seasons in the American Hockey League. He played six games in the NHL with Toronto in 2015-16, scoring one goal and adding two assists.
Sbisa, a defenseman who joined Portland as a 20-year-old in 2009-10, has played nine NHL seasons (he played 47 NHL games while still in junior hockey). He spent the past three seasons with the Vancouver Canucks.
• Former Winterhawk Keegan Iverson has signed with the Ontario (California) Reign of the AHL for next season.
Last season's captain, Iverson played in six different playoff seasons for the Hawks, including on the 2013 WHL championship team.