FONT & AUDIO
Good start gives Winterhawks confidence
The Portland Winterhawks are 8-5-0-0 heading into Tuesdays home game against Tri-City, having lost two games in a row after winning six of eight games on a road trip.
I think weve had a good start, a good road trip to get adjusted to the team, captain/forward Keegan Iverson says. Everyone contributed, which was nice, not just one line leading the way.
Iverson has been playing with Cody Glass and Skyler McKenzie, the two leading scorers. Glass has six goals, 13 assists and 19 points, and McKenzie os at 8-8-16.
A lot of guys are are playing with confidence right now, which is huge, Iverson adds. We have a lot of depth. Winning games is big for us, because we have a young team.
The 17-year-old Glass, who could be a first-round NHL pick next June, has been as good as billed, says Mike Johnston, general manager and coach.
Hes had a good start to the year; hes still a young guy who needs strength, needs to fill out, Johnston says of the 6-2, 180-pound Glass. Thats going to happen as he matures, gets older. He definitely has skill and vision a good two-way centerman. When he gets physically strong, well see his true potential.
Iverson and defenseman Keoni Texeira are regulars who played for Johnston in his previous seasons with Portland, including 2013-14, before Johnston went to coach the NHLs Pittsburgh Penguins.
I see a lot of the same stuff from him, Iverson says. He brings another mentality, being with NHL guys.
Rodrigo Abols returned from pro camp to play two games with Portland, before the Winterhawks waived him, as they already had two younger European import players on the roster: Joachim Blichfeld and Henri Jokiharju.
Abols cleared Western Hockey League waivers, and Johnston had heard that Acadie-Bathurst of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League had showed interest in him.
Johnston is happy with Blichfeld and Jokiharju.
Theyre both good players, offer skill to our team, and give us balance, he says.
On Texeira, Johnston says: He has really taken a step. His game has matured, playing a good all-around game, a leader on the team.
Overall, I like our team speed, Johnston says. We have some guys who can create offensively and score. Our power play has been good.
Texeira, Jokiharju, Caleb Jones and Brendan De Jong form a pretty good top four on defense.
We really need our defense to be stronger, Johnston says.
Like any team, we have to work on our defensive play, and how we play away from the puck. Night in and night out, we have to compete and battle, which is hard for young players.
Goaltender Cole Kehler has played the most games in net, ahead of Michael Bullion. Kehler isnt considered the No. 1 goalie, though. We just tell them game to game who is going to play, Johnston says.
Early on, Johnston says, right now I havent seen a team in our (U.S.) division that is definitely better than us, or anybody that is really weak. Im more of a realist, and I know where we fit in the league.