Today, we bring hope for followers of the Portland Winterhawks.
If you fall into that category, ask yourself this: Why wouldn’t the Winterhawks get F Nino Niederreiter back from the New York Islanders one of these days?
Niederreiter, who is from Switzerland, had a tremendous freshman season with the Winterhawks last season. He finished with 65 points, including 36 goals, in 60 games. He captured our imagination while playing for Switzerland at the World Junior Championship, too. Who can ever forget his performance against the Russians?
And then he was selected fifth overall by the Islanders in the NHL’s 2010 draft. He went to camp with the Islanders, signed a three-year NHL contract and has opened the season on their roster. In fact, he scored his first NHL goal Wednesday — it came in his third game — as the Islanders dropped a 2-1 decision to the host Washington Capitals.
The Islanders, however, have a number of players on their injured list, including F John Tavares (concussion), F Kyle Okposo (shoulder), F Rob Schremp (back), G Nathan Lawson (knee) and D Mark Streit (shoulder).
Tavares is due back shortly, with Schremp scheduled to return early next month. Lawson should be back early in December, while Okposo is out until early in 2011. Streit is gone until perhaps February.
When those players start to trickle back, the Islanders will have to make some roster decisions. For starters, who goes where when Tavares and Schremp return?
It could well be that one of those decisions may well involve Niederreiter, who turned 18 on Sept. 8, heading back to the Winterhawks. Right now, he is the youngest player in the NHL.
But the Islanders, you can bet, know full well that he would be better served as a sophomore in Portland than he is as the NHL’s baby.
The Kootenay Ice got down to three 20-year-olds by releasing G Todd Mathews. That leaves the Ice with F Steele Boomer, F Matt Fraser and F Kevin King as its 20-year-olds.
Mathews, from Covina, Calif., has a 2.28 GAA and a .925 save percentage this season. Last season, he was 2.75, .907, with a 33-14-5 record.
It’s hard to believe there isn’t a place in today’s WHL for a goaltender with those kinds of numbers. (You also might think there would be room for F Mike Brown, who was dropped by the Tri-City Americans. He’s a 6-foot-3, 210-pounder who had six points in eight games. Is the WHL only business you know that throws assets out in the bath water like this?)
The Ice now is carrying 24 players, including two goaltenders and 15 forwards.
At the same time, the Ice has named D Brayden McNabb, 19, as the 15th captain in franchise history. He succeeds F Dustin Sylvester, who used up his eligibility last season. Boomer, Fraser and King were named alternate captains.
Here, courtesy of the Regina Leader-Post’s Greg Harder, is a look at the 20-year-olds who survived cutdown day. . . .
Brandon Wheat Kings: D Darren Bestland, F David Toews, F Shayne Wiebe.
Calgary Hitmen: F Tyler Fiddler, F Misha Fisenko, F Kris Foucault.
Chilliwack Bruins: D Jeff Einhorn, G Lucas Gore, D Brandon Manning.
Edmonton Oil Kings: F Jordan Hickmott, F Mike Piluso, D Adrian Van De Mosselaer.
Everett Silvertips: F Clayton Cumiskey, F Parker Stanfield, D Chad Suer.
Kamloops Blazers: G Jeff Bosch, D Corey Fienhage, F Shayne Neigum.
Kelowna Rockets: F Evan Bloodoff, D Brendon Wall, F Geordie Wudrick.
Kootenay Ice: F Steele Boomer, F Matt Fraser, F Kevin King.
Lethbridge Hurricanes: F Mitch Maxwell, D Mike Reddington, F Max Ross.
Medicine Hat Tigers: D Thomas Carr, D Jace Coyle, F Wacey Hamilton.
Moose Jaw Warriors: F Spencer Edwards, G Thomas Heemskerk, F Dylan Hood, F Brendan Rowinski. (Rowinski is on the long-term injury list.)
Portland Winter Hawks: F Spencer Bennett, G Ian Curtis, F Tayler Jordan.
Prince Albert Raiders: D Nathan Deck, F Igor Revenko, D Jordan Rowley.
Prince George Cougars: F Sena Acolatse, F James Dobrowolski, F Taylor Stefishen.
Red Deer Rebels: D Colin Archer, F Brett Ferguson, G Darcy Kuemper.
Regina Pats: F Thomas Frazee, C Colin Reddin, D Mark Schneider.
Saskatoon Blades: G Steven Stanford, F Marek Viedensky, D Teigan Zahn.
Seattle Thunderbirds: D Travis Bobbee, D Brenden Dillon, F Travis Toomey.
Spokane Chiefs: F Tyler Johnson, F Levko Koper, G James Reid.
Swift Current Broncos: F Justin Dowling, G Mark Friesen, F Stepan Novotny.
Tri-City Americans: F Kruise Reddick, D Tyler Schmidt, D Zak Stebner.
Vancouver Giants: F Craig Cunningham, F Matt MacKay, F Randy McNaught.
The Brandon Wheat Kings dealt D Kyle Krzyzaniak, 18, to Spokane for a 12th-round pick in the 2011 bantam draft. He will join the MJHL’s Dauphin Kings, at least for now. . . . The Regina Pats, who have lost five straight games, meet the Hurricanes in Lethbridge tonight and the Kootenay Ice in Cranbrook on Saturday. Regina may be without F Dane Muench (knee), who is listed as doubtful. Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post reports that F Garrett Mitchell missed practice Wednesday with an undisclosed injury and is questionable for the weekend. . . . C Anthony Ast, the 19th pick in the 2010 bantam draft, is expected to make his WHL debut tonight for the Vancouver Giants against the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds. Ast, 15, has 11 points in eight games with the major midget Greater Vancouver Canadians. . . . Elliott Pap of the Vancouver Sun reports that LW Brodyn Nielsen of the Canadians also is likely to play tonight. Nielsen, 16, has 14 points in eight games with the Canadians. . . . Rob Henderson of the Brandon Sun reports that the Wheat Kings are getting ready to head west Monday. They’ll play a home-and-home set with the Swift Current Broncos this weekend before opening a B.C. Division swing in Prince George on Wednesday. Henderson writes that D Jordan Fransoo (broken foot) is skating but not taking part in contact drills and that D Eric Roy (minor wrist injury) didn’t skate. “Other injured Wheat Kings include RW David Toews (ankle 4-6 weeks), LW Mike Ferland (knee, one month) and RW Jens Meilleur (hand, 2-4 weeks),” Henderson reports. . . . Marlow Weldon of the Red Deer Express reports that brothers Chad and Cody Huesby will be the linesmen on Saturday when the Prince Albert Raiders visit the Red Deer Rebels. This will be the first time in WHL history that twin brothers have officiated a WHL game together. That story is right here.
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