Sunday, February 13, 2011

Get ready Columbus, Ryan Johansen is coming your way

The game: Portland Winterhawks vs. Seattle Thunderbirds.

The stats:

-- Winterhawks 8, Thunderbirds 2.

-- Portland went 6 for 7 on the power play, a season high.

-- Rookie defenseman Josh Hanson netted his first WHL career assist. Stay tuned. He graduated from high school at 16...imagine what he'll do once he starts getting more ice time.

-- Seth Swenson scored his second goal of the season, one week after scoring the first (which by the way, was the first time he'd scored in a year). The player to watch in the playoffs.

-- Columbus Blue Jackets' top prospect Ryan Johansen scored two goals in two minutes in the second period, and was thought to have scored a third for the hat trick. A video review led to the final ruling that the goal was in fact scored by his linemate Brad Ross on a deflection.

-- Oh, and the almost hat trick goal? Brad scored that 39 seconds after Riley Boychuk dove to put one into the Seattle net. And, it was on a power play.

-- Later, in the third period, defensemen Taylor Aronson and Joe Morrow scored three minutes apart. Are you with me so far?

You can read all about it here:

Like I said, when Brad and Riley stay out of the box, they know how to dazzle: Brad did not rack up one single penalty minute. Riley only got a four minute minor early in the game, and then he got on with the business of scoring.

Taylor and Joe never give me but a few words in interviews, but who cares?: Defensemen who score like that can stand there and pick their noses while I'm talking, I'd still be impressed. Well, ok, maybe that's a bit extreme. Hold the boogers and give me a quote whenever possible. And by all means, do carry right on with the scoring.

So Portland's getting on with the business of scoring, but meanwhile back in Pittsburgh: That goonfest against the New York Islanders was just the start of the Twilight Zone that is the Penguins:

First, Mario Lemieux isn't pulling any punches either. He issued this statement about the events of the other night:

Second, when your bus collides with a car and you are in full gear and need to get to an outdoor practice in Central Park: Hail a cab, of course. It is New York City, after all (

About that almost hat trick and the player who scored it: I first took notice of Ryan Johansen during an early season game in 2009, when he gave a good shove to an opponent and laid down a play that led to the Winterhawks scoring. I don't remember who the opponent was, or what period it was or what the score ended up being. But I remember looking down to take note of the player: Johansen, number 19. Little did I know that about five months later, I would meet him.

It was all a single moment of chance. I picked the winning ticket at the Portland Winterhawks Booster Club pizza night, where I bought him a pizza and he got to sit at my table. In the course of about an hour, I learned the following:

-- Why hockey players love golf: it's outside and non-hockey related. But contrary to my belief, it has nothing to do with being allowed to wear ugly pants in public.

-- That Nino Niederreiter does not in fact ride around in a town car with Troy Rutkowski at the wheel, chirping orders at him ("turn left up here, it's faster....turn up the heat, it's cold in here...can we stop for a snack?")

-- That Ryan had no idea he would go fourth in the 2010 Entry Draft, one spot ahead of Nino. In fact, he was more interested in talking about how cool Nino is than he was in talking about himself.

Moral of the story: Get ready, Columbus. Something very special is coming your way.

As for the rest of the NHL's future: If you've not already done so, I'd suggest you tune into the frequency of the following Winterhawks prospects and rookies:

-- Ty Rattie. It took me three tries before he realized I was talking about him and not the team when I asked him "what's it like to be awesome?" I don't remember the last time he went without an assist or a goal in a game.

-- Sven Bartschi. Switzerland's newest gift to Portland puts Swiss cheese on his Subway sandwiches, gives the very best soundbites, scores one-handed breakaway goals (, and has already played in the World Juniors and the Top Prospects game. Easily a top ten draft pick this year. Ditto for Ty.

-- Joe Morrow. First, let me be clear. Joe is one of the most quiet, shy, polite and totally upstanding players on this team, who would never pick his nose during an interview. Never. Period. Exclamation point. He likes to score breakaway goals whilst diving ( When he's not doing that, he likes to score slapshots from the point. And he knows how to drop the mitts. In the latest midterm draft rankings, he was ranked 16th overall. Defensemen tend to go later in the draft, but Joe is my dark horse candidate for a surprise first round pick.

-- Tyler Wotherspoon. He's racking up the points of late, including a perfect beauty (or two) in a recent 8 - 2 routing of the Tri-City Americans (

-- Seth Swenson. As he picks up more ice time, he's picking up more goals. I spoke to him recently, and the coaches have been pushing him to work on all aspects of his game, especially finishing his scoring chances. Mission accomplished. Look for a big finish this season and a stronger 2011 - 2012 season. He shared the Portland Winterhawks' academic achievement award last year with Vancouver Canucks' prospect Stefan Schneider (currently playing for the AHL's Manitoba Moose).

-- Josh Hanson. Graduated from high school at 16, just in time to come to Portland and play hockey. I've only met him once, during which interview I goofed and asked him where he was going to high school. In case you want to know just how dinged out I was: the article about his graduating early was located on, where I also blog. Way to go, Scrappy Doo. Not one of my finer moments, to be sure.

-- Jason Trott. Still working his way up to some serious ice time, but he has already notched up his first WHL goal and he must be taking fighting lessons from Riley, because he's pretty good with dropping the mitts too.

-- Brendan Leipsic. I believe he's officially the smallest player on the Winterhawks' roster. Not that you'd notice, because he gets back up when you knock him down, he likes to chirp and he doesn't take anyone's crap. Oh, and if you need someone to score on penalty shots and shootouts and what not, he's your boy. And, he wins hands down for best goal celebrations. When he notched his first WHL career goal, he went totally airborne when he slammed into the glass. I don't mean like he just jumped off his feet a little bit. I'm talking totally, completely airborne. Genius. Along with teammate Derrick Pouliot, he was recently chosen to wear one of the As for Team West at the Under-17 World Challenge. Keep him on the radar for the following in 2012: World Juniors, Top Prospects Game and the NHL Entry Draft.

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