Winterhawks look at young defensemen
Several young defensemen will spend the next couple of weeks trying to earn a spot on the Portland Winterhawks roster.
After four days of Neely Cup scrimmages ended on Sunday, Mike Johnston says he is interested to see who emerges from a group of talented young D-men.
The Winterhawks vice president, general manager and head coach, Johnston says defensemen Nick Cicek (age 17), Darren Gisti (18), Clay Hanus (16), John Ludvig (17) and Ryan Miley (17) will play in the Winterhawks' six preseason games over the next two weekends.
"We've got a lot of good young defenseman trying out," Johnston says.
The Hawks figure to have at least two new D-men this season, with Caleb Jones moving on to professional hockey and Sean Dosanjh graduated.
The Neely Cup scrimmages provide a chance for Johnston to get a look at the Winterhawks' future. His focus during the tournament is on 16- and 17-year-olds who are competing to make the roster, and to evaluate 2002-born players who were selected in the bantam draft.
Those players won't factor into this season, but Johnston says he was pleased with the talent level of the Hawks' draft picks. Forwards Seth Jarvis, Robbie Fromm-Delorme, Cross Hanas and Aidan Thompson played well, he said.
The Hawks have 40 players in camp this week as they prepare for three preseason games in Everett beginning Friday.
Ten Winterhawks will head to NHL camps beginning next week: Cody Glass, Keiffer Bellows, Skyler McKenzie, Joachim Blichfeld, Henri Jokiharju, Brendan De Jong, Cole Kehler, Ryan Hughes, Alex Overhardt and Evan Weinger.
• Another defenseman, Henri Jokiharju, who suffered a knee injury playing in the World Juniors Summer Showcase, is expected to arrive on Tuesday. He should be cleared to skate pending the Winterhawks' own physical, according to Johnston. Jokiharju was a first-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in June's NHL draft.
• Samuel Fagemo, the Swedish forward who the Winterhawks selected in the Canadian Hockey League import draft, is not in camp and is not expected to come to Portland.
"We knew it was kind of a flier if the team (in Sweden) was going to let him go or not," Johnston said.
With Jokiharju and forward Joachim Blichfeld both returning, Portland has the maximum two international players on its roster and would have needed to make a decision about who to part with had Fagemo come to Portland.
• The Winterhawks have five 20-year-olds on their roster. The WHL limit is three overage players per team.
Johnston said he will see how NHL camps play out before sorting out who will play one more season of major junior hockey in Portland.
• The Winterhawks open their preseason in Everett at 3 p.m. Friday against Spokane. Then comes an 11:30 a.m. Saturday game against Tri-City and a 7 p.m. Sunday game against Everett.
On the weekend of Sept. 7-9, Portland will play Spokane, Kootenay and Red Deer in preseason games at Kennewick, Washington.
The regular season opens Sept. 23 at Everett. The home opener is Sept. 30 at Moda Center against Seattle.