It’s Overreaction Monday where we take a look at a story line from the weekend and … well overreact. While some good points will be made, these are meant to drive a particular narrative and have fun.
This week’s overreaction: Blichfeld and Gregor will be among the top scorers in 2018-19
Overage players in the WHL tend to dominate the top of the scoring list each year. This makes sense for many reasons. First, they are not going to be missing any games due to the U20 World Junior Championships. Also, they are older, stronger and more experienced in the league than a vast majority of the players they are battling with. They also are desperately trying to earn a pro contract as they know for most, it is their last chance to get a lot of scouts to take in their games.
Last season, overage players Jayden Halbgewachs, Glenn Gawdin and Brayden Burke were three of the top four scorers in the league. Each one earned a pro deal and is playing in the AHL this season.
Those three also were key reasons why their two teams (Moose Jaw and Swift Current) were the top two teams in the WHL.
So if a WHL team can get an overage player back from an NHL team, there’s history there that shows they should not only be among the league’s top scorers, but their teams could have their seasons dramatically effected in a positive way.
A couple seasons ago, the New York Rangers unexpectedly sent Ryan Gropp back to the Seattle Thunderbirds. The end result was Gropp being a key player on Seattle’s Ed Chynoweth Cup winning team.
This year the San Jose Sharks made two different WHL teams and their fanbases very happy by sending Danish import Joachim Blichfeld back to the Portland Winterhawks and center Noah Gregor to the Prince Albert Raiders. Both players have paid immediate dividends to their teams.
Blichfeld was signed by San Jose in late December of 2017 and Gregor was inked on April 6th of 2018.
Both were eligible to play in the AHL or ECHL this year as overage players per the collective bargaining agreement. However, the Sharks have a plethora of forwards in their system with several being forwards who played as overagers in the WHL last year. Those being former Portland and Brandon speedster Evan Weinger, the aforementioned Halbgewachs and Everett center Matt Fonteyne.
So San Jose sent Blichfeld back to Portland, where he has paired with Vegas Golden Knights first round pick Cody Glass to light up the stat sheet in the early going.
Blichfeld scored in his first game back with the Winterhawks, a loss to Seattle and then has had at least a point in each game since. He currently leads the league in points with 17 in seven games. Over Portland’s current four-game win streak, Blichfeld has 12 points.
The Winterhawks have lost just one game (in a shootout) since Blichfeld and Glass have been reunited. Outside of that duo, the Winterhawks are pretty young up front with three, 2002-born players in the lineup most nights and two 17-year-olds.
Blichfeld is shooting an impressive 25 percent so far this year, which is a drastic change from the nine percent he shot over the regular season and playoffs a year ago.
Even if he cannot keep that percentage up in that area, Blichfeld figures to be a huge key for Portland, especially when Glass likely misses a bunch of games during the World Juniors.
Gregor was not returning to a WHL team, but rather joining a new one. The former Moose Jaw Warriors forward was traded at the deadline last year to the Victoria Royals. The Royals ended up losing in the second round of the playoffs.
Gregor was one of many 1998-born players that Victoria had, so his rights were traded during the summer to the Prince Albert Raiders. Gregor, who had 65 points last season between Victoria and Moose Jaw joined a Raiders team that figures to be one of the favorites in the East Division.
Prince Albert rolled out to a 5-0 start this year, outscoring opponents 24-11. Then they added Gregor. After back-to-back 5-1 wins over Central Division contenders Lethbridge and Medicine Hat, they stumbled in Red Deer.
Just like Blichfeld, Gregor has at least one point in every game he’s played in this year in the WHL. Overall, he has six points in three games. Gregor has been key in the faceoff dot as he took the most draws for the Raiders in each game he’s played in.
So with the season a little over one-tenth done, there is every sign that experienced overage forwards Gregor and Blcihfeld will be near the top of the league in points just like Halbgewachs, Gawdin and Burke were last year.
On Canadian Thanksgiving, we have American and Canadian fans in Portland and Prince Albert feeling very thankful to the San Jose Sharks.