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BY PAUL DANZER/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/Portland gets at least another season with the Golden Knights' first draft pick

COURTESY: DAYNA FJORD/PORTLAND WINTERHAWKS - Cody Glass brings the puck up the ice for the Portland Winterhawks during the home opener last week against the Seattle Thunderbirds.The first taste of the NHL increased Cody Glass' appetite.

A strong rookie camp and two preseason games showed the 18-year-old forward that he belongs in the NHL — just not quite yet.

The Vegas Golden Knights made Glass their first draft pick in June, selecting him with the sixth pick in the NHL draft. But the expansion franchise wasn't looking to put Glass' name in lights right away.

That is good news for the Portland Winterhawks, who will get at least one more season with the savvy forward — a season they hope will produce a push for a Western Hockey League championship.

Glass had two assists in his first NHL preseason game — they were the first two assists in Golden Knights' preseason history. The quick assists were "kind of a weight off my shoulders," Glass says.

That performance in a game at Vancouver came days after Glass had a goal and two assists in a rookie tournament game against the Los Angeles Kings.

But some skilled play in preseason was not going to change the Golden Knights' vision for Glass.

"They didn't really expect me to make the team this year just based on size," Glass says, understanding that he needs to add strength.

"I know the hockey sense and skill is there. It's just a matter of being more muscular."

Glass is a hair taller than 6-2 and still weighs about 180 pounds.

"I know I've been growing. I'm just waiting to fill out a little bit more into my body," he says. "Time will tell when that happens, so I'm not too worried about that."

Glass emerged as a star for the Winterhawks last season. He had 32 goals and 62 assists in the regular season and added four goals and five assists in 11 playoff games.

That production vaulted him into the first round of the draft. And, yes, the media attention was intense on the first draft pick in Golden Knights history.

"After the draft, there was a lot of media coming after me. You get sick of it sometimes. But it's another part of the job you have to take care of," Glass says. "For me, I always love doing it because I love being the star. I'm really humbled by it, but it's something I love doing."

The opportunity to practice alongside and to visit with NHL players he watched growing up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, was both exciting and helpful for Glass.

Glass calls Marc-Andre Fleury "the nicest human being ever." And not because Glass scored a couple of scrimmage goals against the veteran goalie.

He appreciates words of encouragement and explanation from veterans such as 30-year-old forward James Neal, who told Glass to be patient.

"He knows what I'm going through. He knows size is going to come later, especially the muscle part of it," Glass says.

Glass did not know Las Vegas was going to pick him until his name was called, but he is thrilled to be a part of history as the club's first draft pick.

Glass said he is impressed with the level of fan excitement for the expansion team.

"I think they're more excited than even we are to play in the first-ever game," he says.

"It's a lot nicer than Winnipeg. I'm really looking forward to the day when I get to play there," Glass says.

During his "short" summer, Glass attended the first camp for Canada's World Juniors Championship team and played in two games during the World Juniors Summer Showcase in early August. He hopes to play for Canada at the 2018 World Juniors tournament, Dec. 26-Jan. 5 at Buffalo, New York.

"That camp was a real good experience, playing against the top talent. You're trying to make a good first impression going into the year because that's when they really make the team," Glass says. "I'm going to try my hardest because World Juniors was always a dream of mine."

Among those Glass skated with this summer was former Winterhawk and fellow Winnipeg native Brendan Leipsic, who is now with Vegas after spending most of his first three pro seasons with Toronto's American Hockey League team.

"He's been a really great guy to me," Glass says, noting that Leipsic's advice helped him prepare for training camp.

Glass says Knights coaches have not given him specific instruction — just to keep training hard on and off the ice.

Now that he's back with Portland, Glass is excited about the potential of these Winterhawks. Paired again with Skyler McKenzie and with new Winterhawk Kieffer Bellows, Glass had two goals and three assists in the first two games of the season.

The three years on the NHL entry-level contract Glass signed in July with the Knights won't start until he plays in 10 NHL regular-season games. Vegas might have incentive to keep Glass in Portland for two more seasons to slide the start of those three years into the 2019-20 season. But Glass is motivated to get to Vegas sooner.

"I want to be a top-six forward for the Vegas Golden Knights. That's something I'm going to push for," Glass says. "If I can do that next year, I'd love to. I'm just going to keep working hard." 

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