The Portland Winterhawks are going to be a team to watch in the Western Hockey League this year. Portland has played 13 games so far this year, racking up a total of 21 points. They're currently tied for 1st in the league with the Kootney Ice and the Tri-City Americans.
Portland has a stacked offensive squad, with players such as Ryan Johansen, Brad Ross, Ty Rattie, Steven Bartschi and recently cut New York Islander prospect Ninno Niederreiter.
Ryan Johansen was recently drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets 4th overall in the 2010 NHL entry draft. Johansen put up 25 goals and 44 assists with Portland last year. Since being released by the Columbus Blue Jackets, Johansen has put up 11 points in 10 games for Portland. He's currently slated as their first line centre, and will be a huge part of their team in the 2010/2011 season.
Brad Ross was the second-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2010 NHL entry draft. Ross has been compared to players such as Darcy Tucker and David Clarkson. Ross brings offensive power with a gritty edge to Portland, racking up 68 points last year, with 12 points in 12 games this season.
Ty Rattie is currently 3rd in the Western Hockey League in points, with 23 points in 13 games. Rattie has yet to be drafted into the National Hockey League and is currently rated as a 1st-round pick by central scouting in the 2011 NHL entry draft. Rattie has been a pleasant surprise this year for Portland as he has taken it upon himself to become a leader both on the ice and in the dressing room.
Steven Bartschi is a rookie in the Western Hockey League and he's taken the league by storm. Bartschi currently has 20 points in 13 games, on pace for a 110-point season. It will be interesting to see if Bartschi can maintain his role as goal scorer in Portland with the return of sniper Ninno Niederreiter.
El Niño, as they call Niederreiter, was recently cut by the New York Islanders. Portland got Niederreiter back, and he is looked at by many as the icing on the cupcake, as Portland is already dominating the Western Hockey League this year. Niederreiter put up 36 goals and 24 assists last year in his rookie season in the the Western Hockey League. It's expected that “El Nino” will be a force this year, having a full year of WHL hockey under his belt, and some National hockey league experience as well.
Will we see the Portland Winterhawks at the Memorial Cup in Mississauga, Ontario? Time will tell, but at this point it would be hard to count them out. With their offensive power it will be hard for any team in the Canadian Hockey League, let alone the Western Hockey League, to stop them.
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