Player swaps pay off in goals, backstops for Winterhawks
The Portland Winterhawks play their first home game of 2019 on Saturday, returning home from an extended road trip with a couple of new faces.
Forward Josh Paterson and goalie Joel Hofer made a good first impression after joining the Hawks before last Thursday's Western Hockey League trade deadline. Paterson scored twice against his former team on Saturday, helping Portland to a 5-4 win at Saskatoon. Hofer made 23 saves in a strong debut as Portland battled league-leading Prince Albert to the final seconds in a 4-2 loss on Friday.
The acquisition of Hofer, an 18-year-old who was drafted last summer by the St. Louis Blues, was not a surprise. Winterhawks VP/GM/coach Mike Johnston had been shopping for another experienced goalie for a while. As Johnston noted, it isn't often an NHL-drafted goalie is available, so he was willing to send six future bantam draft picks to Swift Current to beef up his backstop options.
The trade to add Paterson was a bit of a surprise only because Portland parted with Ryan Hughes in the swap with Saskatoon. Each player in the deal had played his first 3 1/2 years in the league with the team that traded him away.
Hughes finished his Portland career with 64 goals and 87 assists in 223 regular-season games and four goals and eight assists in 27 playoff games.
Paterson, like Hughes a native of Edmonton, had 74 goals and 64 assists in 247 games with Saskatoon.
The one notable difference between Paterson and Hughes, each in his 19-year-old season and an alternate captain for his team, is size.
Paterson (6-2 1/2, 205) was an alternate captain for the Blades and is six inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than Hughes. Johnston said gaining added size was not a priority, but Paterson's two goals on Saturday came by camping out in front of the goal on the power play whereas Hughes' game is built on speed and puck-handling.
Johnston described Paterson and Hughes as similarly versatile players who play on both the power play and the penalty kill. Paterson's two goals against Saskatoon came on the power play.
Johnston said getting two bantam draft picks made the move attractive — especially after shipping six picks to acquire Hofer, who at 18 figures to play in the WHL through next season.
Hofer and Shane Farkas were two of the busiest goalies in the WHL over the first half of this season. Hofer, 18, faced a league-leading 41.9 shots per game in 30 starts for Swift Current, a team in rebuild mode after winning the WHL championship last season. Farkas started 38 of Portland's first 40 games.
Each goalie has played once since the trade, with Farkas earning the win Saturday at Saskatoon. It will be interesting to see how Johnston manages playing time for the two netminders.
Johnston remains excited about 16-year-old Dante Giannuzzi, who played in four games. Johnston plans to bring back Giannuzzi as a third goalie come playoff time.
"Giannuzzi is going to be a really good goaltender, but at 16 he wasn't ready" to play regularly at the WHL level, Johnston said.
• Joachim Blichfeld (38 goals and 79 points in 43 games) continues to lead the WHL in goals and points. Cody Glass, despite missing 13 games, is ninth with 58 points in 30 games.
The Winterhawks have had plenty of scoring depth, too.
Rookie Seth Jarvis, 16, had goals in the last four games and is up to 12 for the season. Jarvis and Mason Mannek recently became the sixth and seventh Winterhawks to reach double-digit goals this season. Two Hawks — rookie Jaydon Dureau and 19-year-old Lane Gilliss — have nine goals apiece.
• The next five games are at home as Portland works to close the gap on Western Conference leader Everett. The Silvertips, who lead the Hawks by 11 points and play on Friday, will be at Memorial Coliseum for Saturday's welcome-back game.
• The Winterhawks went 5-1 on their swing through the U.S. Division, and the loss was a down-to-the-wire battle with Prince Albert, the top-ranked team in junior hockey. Portland scored at least five goals in four of the six games on the trip — despite a 3-for-21 performance by its power play, which still ranks second in the league at 27 percent.