The Portland Winterhawks officially start training camp on Tuesday, August 20, with Neely Cup games beginning on Wednesday.
84 players will make their way to the Rose City for a week which includes physical fitness testing, off-ice training, team bonding, on-ice practice, as well as four intrasquad games.
The Neely Cup is a fan favorite in Portland as both the present and future all skate together. Portland does not break up their camp between rookies and returning players. This is a rare opportunity for a 15-year-old to skate with a 20-year-old, or for a rookie goalie to face shots from a NHL-drafted forward like Reece Newkirk.
Under-the-radar players can use the Neely Cup to make a name for himself. Two recent examples are Haydn Delorme and Johnny Ludvig. Last year Delorme used a stelar training camp to sign a WHL Standard Player Agreement. Haydn was traded to the Regina Pats earlier this summer. In 2017, Ludvig made the team out of training camp after playing Junior B in Kamloops the season prior and was drafted by the Florida Panthers at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
Which player(s) will seize the opportunity over the course of the next week?
Each year the Neely Cup teams are named after famous alumni. For 2019, Troy Rutkowski, Dave Scatchard, Mike Williamson, and Brent Peterson each receive the honor.
Williamson’s team will wear black, Scatchard’s in white, Rutkowski’s in gray, and Peterson’s team will put on the red sweaters.
Two names expected to be at camp were not included on the roster, and per team representative, no further update is available at this time. Josh Paterson and Evan Fradette will not be attending the Neely Cup. More information will be shared once an update from the team is released.
Camp Roster Breakdown by the Numbers
Of the 84 players scheduled to appear, 17 played in at least one game with the Winterhawks in 2018-2019, 10 more are signed by Portland, 13 are drafted by the Winterhawks but unsigned, five are on Portland’s protected list, and 39 are camp invites.
A breakdown by age shows 15-year-olds, players born in 2004, have the most representation:
- 1999 – 3
- 2000 – 4
- 2001 – 7
- 2002 – 15
- 2003 – 21
- 2004 – 34
A positional breakdown features nine goalies, 34 defensemen, and 41 forwards across the four different teams.
Stats were not readily available for all skaters, but based upon the 67 where stats were found, this year’s group combines for 2,645 games played, 736 goals, 1,185 assists, 1,921 points, and 2,547 penalty minutes during the 2018-2019 season.
James Stefan netted the most goals with 49. Teammate Jack O’Brien, with 57, led the way in the assist category, and second-round import selection Jonas Brøndberg racked up the most penalty minutes with 130 (Dawson Pasternak was two behind).
Portland has six players who were drafted in the WHL Bantam Draft, and are without an NCAA commitment, who will not be attending training camp.
Signed Players Breakdown by Age and Position
Portland has yet to sign any players from their 2019 WHL Bantam Draft class. The most recent signing, besides imports Simon Knak and Jonas Brøndberg, came in May with 2003-born forward Jonah Bevington. In speaking with Mike Johnston earlier this summer, I expect to see some activity shortly after the Neely Cup.
The Winterhawks are most noticeably short on younger defenseman. Kurtis Smythe is the only 17-year-old or younger defenseman currently signed. Portland has five forwards with a birth year of 2002 and 2003. In net, Portland has one player signed each year from 2000-2003.
Prospects to Watch
With 84 players in attendance, it is an unrealistic expectation for any one individual to watch all 84 players for a length of time. All players attending camp are worthy of a mention, but again, listing all 84 proves problematic. However, I have created a cheat sheet fans may print/download/view on their phone while attending the games.
The cheat sheet provides additional information on each player (when available) including birth year, 2018-2019 team & league, height & weight, handedness, stats, their status with the Winterhawks, and how they were acquired by Portland.
Download my latest Cheat Sheet in PDF format
Download my latest Cheat Sheet in Excel format
In no particular order, I’ve highlighted some non-returning Winterhawks players to watch Wednesday through Saturday:
Devin Benson and Ethan Bono – The two most recent additions to Portland’s protected list. The Neely Cup is the first opportunity to view both players as prospects for the Winterhawks.
James Stefan and Jack O’Brien – Teammates and linemates on the Little Caesars U15 team who won the USA Hockey Youth Tier 1 15-Only National Championship. Stefan is the son of former NHL 1st overall selection Patrik Stefan. O’Brien is known more as the setup guy, while Stefan is not afraid to shoot the puck.
Gabe Klassen – Portland’s first round selection at the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft.
Simon Knak and Jonas Brøndberg – The Winterhawks two most recent import draft picks. Knak just finished representing Switzerland at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup for the second year in a row. Brøndberg is tied (Blake Samida) for the tallest player in camp standing six-foot-four.
Jonah Bevington and Dawson Pasternak – Both 16-year-old forwards are signed and competing for a roster spot after attending the Neely Cup a season ago.
Kishaun Gervais – 18-year-old, signed forward looking to impress the coaching staff with a strong training camp.
Kurtis Smythe – The Winterhawks traded for Smythe’s rights from the Saskatoon Blades. Smythe signed shortly thereafter and played in four preseason games for Portland last season.
Trystan Swiger and Bennett Turley – Two local players who played for the Jr. Winterhawks in 2018-2019.
Shai Buium – A 16-year-old six-foot-three, 225 pound defenseman. Shai attended Neely Cup last year as a 15-year-old and spent the past two seasons playing with Shattuck-Saint Mary’s. Shattuck is known for having some of the most prestigious alumni playing in the NHL including Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon, and Jonathan Toews. Buium is unsigned on Portland’s protected list.
Blake Samida – Tied with Brøndberg for the tallest player, but most notably, Samida is the only right-shot defenseman in camp who is 17-years-old or older.
Marek Hejduk – Selected by Portland in the ninth round of the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft. Son of former Colorado Avalanche player Milan Hejduk. His twin brother was selected by the Everett Silvertips six picks after Marek.
Kyle Chyzowski, Matthew Gallant, and Josh Mori – All three played for the same Delta Hockey Academy Bantam Prep team in 2018-2019. Delta is also the academy where Kurtis Smythe plays, but is two years older and plays in the Midget Prep division. Chyzowski was Portland’s first selection (third round) in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft, Mori was selected five rounds later, and Gallant is attending camp as an invite.
Tyson Kozak – Played most of the year with the Southwest Cougars, Kozak was called up to the Winterhawks twice during the 2018-2019 campaign. Tyson played five regular season games along with four playoff games against the Spokane Chiefs. Kozak is considered a 17-year-old by birth year, but with a December 29 birthday, he is one of the youngest players in his age group.
Jim Snuggerud – A standout Bantam player in Minnesota who Portland selected in the 10th round of the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft.
Carter Streek – There often is not much physical play during the Neely Cup; however, each year there is always a player or two who wants to showcase his ability to finish a check. Streek may be the leader there as he is not afraid to hit bigger players while utilizing his speed.
Goalies – With each goaltender historically playing one half of each game, fans can keep a close eye on all goalies in camp. I expect Joel Hofer may not see as much time in net as others given he will be Portland’s starter when the season opens on Saturday, September 21 against the Tri-City Americans. Dante Giannuzzi and Lochlan Gordon are both signed, Ty Shumanski was drafted in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft in the seventh round, Parker Sawka and Jack Stark are on Portland’s protected list, Eli Pulver, Rocco Stolz, and Dominik Wasik are camp invites. Stark, Gordon, and Giannuzzi all attended training camp in 2018.
The Neely Cup is an exciting time as live hockey returns to Portland for the first time since the end of March.
Throughout training camp we will have recaps, player interviews and more, so make sure you are following @dub_network, @jjcritzer, @hawkeyblog, @pucklandia, and @briversWHL on Twitter for all the latest information.
See you around the rink!