(Red Deer, AB) On Wednesday afternoon the WHL announced the 2018-2019 awards in Red Deer, Alberta. The Portland Winterhawks, along with Joachim Blichfeld, heard their name called.
The afternoon of accolades kicked off well for the Winterhawks as they were announced as the WHL Scholastic Team of the Year. This is the sixth time since the 1999-2000 season where the Winterhawks won the award.
In a press release from the team, “Sixteen players combined for 96 college credit hours at Clackamas Community College and eight players enrolled in high school combined for an average GPA of 3.0. After graduating high school, all players take at least two college courses each season that can be transferred to either U.S. or Canadian universities.”
Winterhawks associate coach and assistant general manager Kyle Gustafson accepted the award on behalf of the team.
Gustafson mentioned at the awards ceremony how much the award means to the organization, “It means a lot to our program. It is always nice to get recognized for off ice achievements that’s for sure. I have to tell you, it is Sue Johnson that makes this award. It is her hard work, her dedication, not only to the education program, but to the players. Without her we couldn’t do this.”
He continued saying, “We talked to our group early in the season, it definitely is a trophy we strive for. It is the extra tutors. In Portland we ask our college players to take two online courses, so it is that kind of dedication to make this happen.”
Cody Glass earlier this year was announced as a first-team all star for the third year in a row. Despite only playing in 38 games this season, the Winterhawks captain finished with 69 points (15 goals and 54 assists). He was named a first-team all star three consecutive seasons with Portland.
Glass was nominated for the Brad Hornung Trophy for the WHL Most Sportsmanlike Player of the Year. Justin Almeida of the Moose Jaw Warriors, the Eastern Conference representative, won the award. Last season Swift Current Broncos forward Aleksi Heponiemi was the recipient of the trophy.
Joachim Blichfeld also was awarded a first-team all star, his first time being recognized. The 20-year-old from Frederikshavn, Denmark led the WHL in scoring after registering 114 points while scoring 53 goals. As a result, he was awarded the Bob Clarke Trophy on Wednesday. Blichfeld is the first Winterhawks player to win the award since Oliver Bjorkstrand in 2014-2015.
Blichfeld shared via video what winning the award meant to him after apologizing for not being in attendance. He is currently trying out for the Danish National Team set to compete at the World Championships later this month. “I just wanted to truly honored to be getting the Bobby Clarke Trophy. I obviously couldn’t have done it without all of my teammates, the coaching staff. I want to thank Mike [Johnston], Gusy (Kyle Gustafson), and Don [Hay]. Those guys have been the best coaching duo I’ve had. I want to thank my parents for helping me out all these years and especially my billets for taking so good care of me.”
Portland Winterhawks Head Coach Mike Johnston accepted the award on behalf of Blichfeld. He commented saying, “He has the big shot, I think everybody in our league would say that about him when you are pre-scouting our team. He loves to score, and I think the probably the third thing was, you are always looking as a coach to put combinations of players together.”
Johnston continued talking about Blichfeld returning to Portland, “When he came back from San Jose, we didn’t play him together a lot last year, we decided to put Glass and Blich together. They were like magic, they found each other all over the ice, and at times Blich was banging his stick waiting for that pass from Cody. They just had unique chemistry.”
The Winterhawks coach was asked about the success the organization experienced with players from Denmark, “I don’t think we would have looked there expect I remember with Kyle and Travis Green. We were sitting at Christmas watching World Junior and Denmark was playing in Canada. They had two young kids playing for them, one of them was Bjorkstrand. We looked at them and said, ‘Maybe that is a country that is starting to produce players and kids are going to Sweden to play. Maybe that is a country we should look to.’ We had [Sven] Baertschi and [Nino] Niederreiter from Switzerland. Then we had Bjorkstrand and we had Blich from Denmark. Both real quality players, but more importantly, great kids.”
The awards didn’t end there for the San Jose Sharks signed prospect. Blichfeld was nominated for the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy awarded to the WHL Player of the Year as the Western Conference representative. Trey Fix-Wolansky of the Edmonton Oil Kings was chosen as the top player in the Eastern Conference.
On Wednesday, Blichfeld won the overall league MVP and becomes the first Winterhawk to win the award since Bjorkstrand also in 2014-2015. Joachim also joins former Portland Winterhawks Steve Konowalchuk (1991-1992) and Perry Turnbull (1978-1979) as winners of the top honor.
Once again Johnston accepted the award on behalf of Blichfeld and said, “As you saw in the video, Blich was thrilled to not only win the scoring title, but this award. Especially in our league when you look at the talent in the league and the depth in our league. If he wasn’t where he is right now, which we are really proud that he is trying out for Denmark and hopefully going to play in the World Championships, but it means a lot to him and a lot to our organization.”
Johnston said about Blichfeld on off the ice, “he is a great person. That was probably one of his best speeches. He is usually a comedian in the dressing room, the life of the party. Just a treat to coach, one of those low-maintenance players.”
Next up for the Winterhawks is the Bantam Draft which starts on Thursday at 7:30 A.M. Pacific. Portland’s first selection is currently in the third round. Their first round pick belongs to Swift Current as part of the Joel Hofer trade. Portland’s second round selection is owned by Prince George as a key piece in the Dennis Cholowski trade last season.
The Winterhawks currently have 12 selections including an extra pick in the fifth round. They will select in Lethbridge’s place as this was the draft pick acquired in the Ty Kolle trade earlier this season.