Winterhawks new old coach and rookies brings excitement to preseason

Sam Beebe

By Ryan Dexheimer
Sam Beebe

With the return of head coach Mike Johnston and the release of five starting players, the Portland Winterhawks will prove to be an underrated threat as the Western Hockey League season approaches.

Former NHL coach Mike Johnston returned to the Winterhawks during the offseason after being fired from the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL. Johnston helped the Winterhawks become the number one team in the WHL in his six years before being promoted to a role as a NHL coach.

Popular Winterhawks players and leading points scorers Paul Bittner, Blake Heinrich, Alex Schoenborn, and Dominic Turgeon all joined the NHL during the offseason. Adin Hill, playing 65 out of 72 games last season also joined the Arizona Coyotes, leaving 19-year-old Cole Kehler to take his spot. 10 rookies will be making their WHL debut with Portland this season hoping to fill the spots of drafted players.

Portland proved their excellence winning five of their six preseason games, while only losing one game during a shootout. In the six games Portland scored 24 goals while only allowing 14.

Seven games into the 2016-2017 season and the Winterhawks, posting a 5-2-0 record, remain a threat to any team . Portland currently leads the league in goals  with 34 but show a weak defense with 22 goals against them. 17-year-olds Cody Glass and Ryan Hughes have 25 points combined, leading the team in points and to their spot in third place in all of the WHL.

Backed by young talents such as Glass and Hughes and captained by the returning Keegan Iverson, the Portland Winterhawks pose a threat to anyone hoping to win the Memorial Cup. Although they face many challenges in the upcoming months as fatigue and injuries become an issue, the young talent they possess will at least guarantee them future championships in upcoming years.