A LITTLE OF THIS . . .
The Portland Winterhawks boarded their bus Thursday afternoon and headed for Spokane where they will play the Chiefs tonight.
But you can bet the Winterhawks’ thoughts weren’t on the road in front of them. Rather, they will have been wondering about the condition of F Joachim Blichfeld, a teammate who was stretchered off the ice midway through the second period of a relegation-round game at the World Junior Championship in Buffalo earlier in the day.
Blichfeld hit his head on the boards after taking a high hit from behind from D Dmitri Deryabin of Belarus, who was assessed a match penalty on the play.
Blichfeld did flash a thumbs-up signal as he was carried from the ice surface. He was taken to hospital for further examination.
Blichfeld, 19, is from Frederikshavn, Denmark. He was selected by San Jose in the seventh round of the NHL’s 2016 draft and signed with the Sharks on on Dec. 28 while in Buffalo.
In Game 1 of the best-of-three relegation series on Wednesday, Blichfeld had two goals and an assist as Denmark won the opener, 5-4.
On Thursday, Blichfeld had two primary assists as Denmark opened up a 2-0 lead. Belarus came back to tie it before Denmark won it, 3-2, in a shootout. The victory means Denmark stays in the top group for the 2019 WJC, with Belarus sliding back to Division 1A. (If you’re wondering, Kazakhstan won promotion to the big group, so will be in Victoria/Vancouver for the next tournament.)
This season with Portland, Blichfeld has 13 goals and 17 assists in 26 games. He missed a handful of games early in October with what is believed to have been a concussion.
This latest injury, then, depending on the diagnosis, might be his second brain injury of the season, meaning the Winterhawks will be extra careful with a player who is key part of their roster.
Officials from the IIHF and organizers of the 2018 World Junior Championship held a state-of-the-event news conference in Buffalo on Thursday afternoon. Michael Traikos of the National Post was there and, as he wrote, “With noses growing, they called it a success.” . . . During the news conference, Traikos continued, “Organizers bragged that more than 200,000 tickets had been sold, ignoring that a quarter-final between the U.S. and Russia on Tuesday night had only 6,242 fans in a building that seats more than 19,000. They highlighted the record-setting crowd that braved the snow to watch an outdoor game that ‘was a little bit of magic,’ but then blamed the same weather for driving away fans at the other indoor games. . . . His complete column is right here.
Ken Campbell of The Hockey News also was at the news conference, and his take is right here.
Interestingly, Campbell reported that Rene Fasel, the IIHF president, said that 50 per cent of the tickets already have been sold for the 2019 WJC that is to be held in Victoria and Vancouver.
That, Campbell wrote, “is quite a feat considering the 18-game pack (and one pre-tournament game) for Vancouver ranges in price from $650 ($34 per game) to $2,250 ($118 per game).”
Ron Toigo, the majority owner of the Vancouver Giants, told Vancouver sportscaster Rick Dhaliwal of NEWS 1130 and Sportsnet 650 on Dec. 28 that tickets are “well over 60 per cent sold.”
The Portland Winterhawks lost F Lane Gilliss to an undisclosed injury on Sunday during a 4-3 shootout loss to the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds. As a result, they have brought back F Jaydon Dureau from the midget AAA Regina Pats Canadians. He had been with the Winterhawks but was returned to the Pat Canadians following the Christmas break. The Pat Canadians won the Mac’s tournament in Calgary on Monday. Dureau had two goals and two assists in the championship game, a 4-0 victory over the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs. . . . Dureau, 16, was an eighth-round pick by Portland in the 2016 bantam draft. This season, he has 56 points, including 27 goals, in 26 games with the Pat Canadians. . . . Portland also returned D Nick Cicek to junior A, in his case to the MJHL’s Winnipeg Blues, but quickly brought him back when D Keoni Texeira went down with an undisclosed injury.
The Edmonton Oil Kings have brought in F Jake Neighbours for a look-see. From Airdrie, Alta., Neighbours was the fourth overall selection in the WHL’s 2017 bantam draft. He made his WHL debut with the Oil Kings earlier this season. . . . In 23 games with the midget AAA Calgary Buffaloes, Neighbours has 17 goals and 25 assists. . . . If you’re interested in the return of D Brayden Gorda to the Oil Kings, there is more right here.
The Red Deer Rebels have dropped F Lukus MacKenzie, 18, from their roster and he is expected to join the AJHL’s Okotoks Oilers. . . . MacKenzie had four assists in 17 games with the Rebels after being acquired from the Saskatoon Blades, with whom he had four assists in 13 games. . . . From Calgary, MacKenzie was a third-round pick by the Blades in the 2014 bantam draft. . . . In 138 games, he has eight goals and 28 assists.
WHEELING AND DEALING …
NUMBER OF TRADES (since Nov. 13): 20
BANTAM DRAFT PICKS: 21
CONDITONAL BANTAM DRAFT PICKS: 4
THE DEAL: The Victoria Royals acquired F Andrei Grishakov, 18, from the Calgary Hitmen for a third-round selection in the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft.
THE NUMBERS: Grishakov, from Chelyabinsk, Russia, has 22 goals and 39 assists in 107 games with the Hitmen. This season, the 6-foot-1, 200-pounder has 11 goals and 15 assists in 37 games. . . . The Hitmen selected him in the CHL import draft after he put up 21 goals and 24 assists in 32 games with Traktor Chelyabinski’s U-17 team in 2015-16. He also played four games with the U-18 side that season, recording four goals and five assists.
THE INFO: Grishakov should be in Victoria’s lineup tonight (Friday) against the visiting Everett Silvertips. If he doesn’t play then, he will get another opportunity on Saturday when the Royals visit Kamloops. Yes, it’s a quick turn-around for Victoria.
WHY: The Royals have had room for an import since F Yan Khomenko returned to Russia and signed with Ak Bars Kazan, a KHL team. He is pointless in three games with Irbis Kazan, a junior team. . . . The Royals are hoping that putting Grishakov into their top six will ignite his offence. . . . Grishakov joins F Igor Martynov, who turns 19 on Jan. 19, as the Royals’ import players. Martynov is from Belarus and has been representing his country at the World Junior Championship in Buffalo. . . . The Hitmen, who aren’t likely to make the playoffs, have been in sell mode since Nov. 25 when they dealt top-flight forwards Matteo Gennaro and Beck Malenstyn to the Swift Current Broncos. Now it’s all about freeing up ice time for younger players.
THE DEAL: The Victoria Royals have acquired F D-Jay Jerome, 18, from the Prince Albert Raiders for D Jeremy Masella, 18.
THE NUMBERS: From Lethbridge, Jerome has one assist in 31 games with the Raiders. He split last season between the Red Deer Rebels and the Raiders, recording eight goals and eight assists in 55 games. . . . Masella had three goals and four assists in 35 games with the Royals. In 63 career games, all with Victoria, he has three goals and five assists.
THE INFO: Red Deer placed the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Jerome on their protected list in 2016. The Rebels dealt him to Prince Albert on Dec. 28, 2016, along with a 2017 third-round bantam draft pick, for F Austin Glover. . . . The 6-foot-5, 214-pound Masella is from Phoenix. He had been on Victoria’s protected list since 2015. . . . This is the second deal between these teams this week. On Tuesday, the Royals dealt F Regan Nagy, 20, to the Raiders for the rights to F Hunter Strand, 15, sixth- and 10th-round picks in the 2018 bantam draft and a third-rounder in 2019. . . . Cam Hope, the Royals’ general manager, has made seven trades since Dec. 1.
WHY: For starters, both players get fresh starts and a chance to earn more ice time with new teams. . . . The Royals had been carrying eight defencemen so it seemed that someone would go before the Jan. 10 trade deadline. Victoria also adds another bigger forward as it continues to alter the size of its forward ranks. . . . The Raiders add size to their back end. Their roster shows nine defencemen, but Sergei Sapego is injured, Vojtech Budik is at the WJC in Buffalo, and Kaiden Guhle, the first overall selection in the 2017 bantam draft, is only 15 so will have to go back to his club team at some point.
No Games Scheduled.
FRIDAY (all times local):
Kootenay at Prince Albert, 7 p.m.
Red Deer at Saskatoon, 7:05 p.m.
Swift Current at Brandon, 7:30 p.m.
Moose Jaw at Calgary, 7 p.m.
Vancouver at Lethbridge, 7 p.m.
Edmonton at Medicine Hat, 7:30 p.m.
Tri-City at Prince George, 7 p.m.
Seattle at Kelowna, 7:05 p.m.
Portland at Spokane, 7:05 p.m.
Everett at Victoria, 7:05 p.m.