You would be hard pressed to find a 2017 NHL draft prospect whose stock has risen more this year than Portland Winterhawks centre Cody Glass. The 17-year-old Winnipeg native has gone from being rated a “C” prospect on NHL Central Scouting’s futures list in August to an “A” rating in November. The scouts polled by the NHL assign an “A” rating to prospects they believe could be a first-round pick.
Glass’s trajectory arguably started all the way back at Hockey Canada’s U-18 camp, where he was cut from the team that went on to finish fifth out of eight countries at the Ivan Hlinka tournament in August. Glass said he used being cut from his country’s national team as motivation.
“I just tried to play my game, stayed comfortable, and I’m here where I’m at now,” he said.
Where he’s at now is tied for fifth in WHL scoring with 13 goals and 24 assists for 37 points in 26 games. He launched himself into the scoring race with 12 points on an eight-game road trip in October. He did this while playing on a line with 20-year-old Keegan Iverson and 18-year-old Skyler McKenzie.
“During that road trip, I wasn’t expecting the points I got,” Glass said. “We were really comfortable with each other. When we are rolling, we are really good offensively.”
Glass got used to playing with older players last season when he was matched with overagers Alex Schoenborn and Rihards Bukarts.
“Playing with Schoenborn and Bukarts really set me up for this year,” he noted. “Last year, I was a bit more timid with the puck and didn’t really know what to do with it. This year, I’m using my vision a lot more with Skyler and Keegs (Iverson).”
Glass’s coach has taken notice of his confidence with the puck. Portland head coach and general manager Mike Johnston described him as “one of the top players in our league at 17.”
“He’s a big centre, has great vision, really handles the puck well and plays a 200-foot game,” Johnston added. “His reads are very good and his hockey IQ is high. He’s our No. 1 centre, plays on our power play and just started killing penalties. He’s playing a lot of minutes.”
Recent injuries to 19-year-old forwards Alex Overhardt and Colton Veloso, integral parts of Portland’s penalty kill, have opened up an opportunity for Glass.
“At the beginning of the year, I didn’t really play on the PK,” he said. “With injuries, you have to step up in the lineup.”
With so much ice time in every situation, Glass will continue to get many chances to improve in the areas he thinks need the most attention this year.
“I’m going to work on my strength,” he said. “Rich Campbell (Portland’s strength and conditioning coach) and I are working at keeping my weight up and building more explosiveness.”
Glass added that he wants to work more on playing in his own zone, “when it’s more of those one-on-one battles and faceoffs and stuff like that. I want to do a lot of defensive zone work because I like to take pride in that.”
Johnston agrees that Glass needs to improve his strength and said that with that size, “he’s going to drastically improve his game.”
Johnston and Glass were also on the same page in regards to the need for Glass to improve his shot and protect the puck a little longer.
“With his skill and skating, I just project where he’s going to be when he’s 10-15 pounds heavier, so he can be stronger in those battles and protect the puck,” Johnston said. “He does well, but he can protect it longer. His shot’s going to improve.”
One of the more unique assets Glass has is his ability to carry the puck while on his backhand.
“It was just something I wasn’t always strong with through my younger years, so I tried focusing on it,” he said. “Obviously, I watch a lot of Sidney Crosby highlights too and see what he can do with his backhand. I try working on it every practice and try to get more comfortable with it.”
Over the rest of this season, Glass will likely catch more attention from the NHL scouts and could see his stock rise even higher. One thing is for sure: Glass will be out to prove himself every game after being snubbed by Hockey Canada. That type of drive could be enough to carry the Winterhawks up the U.S. Division standings with him.