CHL Notebook: Team Canada hopeful Cody Glass shines in D-zone

Portland Winterhawks forward Cody Glass looks to make a play during a WHL game against the Prince Albert Raiders on Nov. 12, 2017. (Chad Baker/Portland Winterhawks)

The stat that Cody Glass might take the most pride in is the Portland Winterhawks’ tally in the goals-against column.

At this time last season, the Vegas Golden Knights first-round choice was figuratively, like any player in his draft season, walking around with a ranking glowing in front of his face like a character in that episode of Black Mirror. Glass thrived on that razor’s edge, of course, becoming the No. 6 choice after a 94-point regular season in Portland.

With that exposure completed, the 18-year-old acknowledges he feels much more confident on a day-to-day basis. The residue of that is that the Winterhawks, led by the Glass-Skyler McKenzie-Kieffer Bellows line, have a WHL-best .788 point percentage and the best defensive record with 63 goals allowed in 26 games. Last season, as a younger outfit, Portland was 15th in the 22-team Western league in goals allowed.

Meantime, Glass, who figures to be named to Team Canada’s selection camp that will be announced on Monday, feels a lot more secure.

“I remember last year – my draft year – if I went a game playing bad, I let it get to me. I starting worrying, ‘Scouts are going to say this about me,’ and this and that,” says Glass, who is ninth in WHL scoring with 19 goals and 47 points in 26 games. “This year it’s just more of a mindset. I know I’m drafted. I know I’m drafted for a reason. I don’t let things get to me as much as I did before.”

Glass traces that back to the mutual trust he has built with Winterhawks coach Mike Johnston from the moment Johnston began his second stint in Portland.

“I’m playing in more of a leadership role now that I’m 18. Being a really key forward offensively and defensively, that’s something I real push myself toward, being a complete player. Mike Johnston is really big on pushing defence first and generating your offence through that.

“When he (Johnston) came in last year and gave me a lot of opportunities as a 17-year-old, I think that’s where my confidence for this year came from. When you have that, you get to do stuff with the puck that you don’t normally do, and that’s the biggest thing.”

Portland’s nucleus, apart from Bellows (NYI) who was at Boston University last season, notwithstanding, had an important exposure last season when they beat the Prince George Cougars as a crossover team in the WHL B.C. Division bracket. That was a portent of Portland scaling back to the top of the standings, which was its accustomed perch when it made at least the Western Conference final every year from 2011 to 2015.

“As a young team you need to face some adversity and we really battled through that,” Glass says. “Last year we were the underdog and this year we’re the big dog now that that weight is off our shoulders. But at the same time all of us need to keep the mindset that we don’t take any team lightly and always act like we’re playing the best team.”

Glass believes he’s well-suited to make the pivot from top-end centre to being a worker bee who could chip in some complementary scoring.

“That’s probably one of the strongest assets of my game, being a strong two-way forward. I know a lot of players in junior they think straight offence. I think I see the ice really well, not just in the offensive zone but in the defensive zone. I like to get the job done there. I think that’s why I’ve been doing so well offensively because we spend the least amount of time in the defensive zone.

“If I do get the invite (from Hockey Canada) I will try as hard as I can to make that team,” Glass says.

Barré-Boulet streaking
Vegas Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault is the beacon for every smaller-statured 20-year-old scorer in the QMJHL. It might only be a slight stretch to say the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada’s Alex Barré-Boulet rates some cursory comparisons.

The 20-year-old Barré-Boulet, who has had look-sees from both Vegas and the Los Angeles Kings, extended his team record-tying 18-game point streak in fairly clutch fashion on Sunday. All Barré-Boulet did inside of the two-minute mark of the third period was get the primary assist on a tally that pulled the Armada within one goal, score the tying goal 28 seconds later and score in overtime to seal a 5-4 win against Victoriaville. In the process, the five-foot-nine, 167-pound Barré-Boulet assumed the QMJHL scoring lead with 45 points in 22 games.

The knee-jerk reaction is that 20-year-olds with gaudy numbers are often just dominating younger competition. A greater mind could gauge if there’s anything more than anecdotal evidence to suggest NHL evaluators should be more patient with players from Eastern Canada, who are less exposed to the seeming hothouse that minor hockey players face in Ontario and the West. Marchessault, also five foot nine, was never drafted but was signed after a 95-point overage season and a 33-point post-season for the Quebec Remparts in 2010-11. It took four seasons in the AHL before he became a NHL regular.

An NHL organization might come calling for Barré-Boulet, who has helped the Armada (.769 point pct., first overall in the QMJHL) to the top of the league table, sooner rather than later.

The Spirit of 7-6
Scoring seven unanswered goals to win a game happens maybe once, twice in a lifetime. The Saginaw Spirit had a Guns and Hoses Night on Saturday as a tribute to mid-Michigan firefighters and police officers, whose services could have been used by the Sarnia Sting during the third period. Starting with a goal in the final 100 seconds of the second period, the Spirit scored seven unanswered to beat Sarnia 7-6 in overtime.

Saginaw (.574 point pct., tied for fifth in the OHL Western Conference) had seven different goal scorers, with Cole Coskey getting the game-winner with 37 seconds left in the 3-on-3 session. It was a true team effort; 17-year-old Blade Jenkins and overage Mason Kohn, who set up Coskey’s decider, were the only Spirit with three points, and 15 players had a point.

Saginaw was projected as an also-ran at the outset of the OHL season. Instead, the Spirit have gone 11-2-1 since Halloween. Both Jenkins and fellow 17-year-old Damien Giroux are tallying at a near point-per-game clip in that stretch.

Talk about a rude awakening for Sarnia. The Sting begin this week with a first-place showdown against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, who are on a 14-win streak. The Soo has not lost since falling against Sarnia on Oct. 27.

Canadian NHL Team Prospect of the Week: Dillon Dubé, C, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
Dubé, the Calgary Flames signee and likely Team Canada selection, had seven points (2G-5A) across three games last week for Kelowna. Both goals were short-handed salvos, including one where he co-opted the Prince George Cougars power play in a production of Pelé On Ice, stickhandling and slaloming through all five players before picking a corner to score.

The 19-year-old Dubé is just outside of the top 20 in the WHL scoring with 16 goals and 36 points in 25 games, but his line with Carsen Twarynski (PHI) and 17-year-old Liam Kindree is carrying Kelowna. The Rockets are 13-3-2 when Dubé gets a point, compared to 4-5-1 in all other contests. That is big reason why they caught up to the Victoria Royals – and Dubé’s fellow Flames prospect Matthew Phillips – in the B.C. Division.

New name to know: Nolan Maier, G, Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
What a way for the 16-year-old goalie to get his first WHL shutout. It is sporting to finish off a chronicle that began with the Portland Winterhawks with a note on Maier, who stopped them cold with a 48-save shutout on Sunday. Three weeks after the Blades decided to keep Maier as the understudy to Ryan Kubic, the Yorkton, Sask., native stepped up to stymie Portland, which merely leads the WHL in point percentage.

Suffice to say, playing in the world under-17 challenge in early November must have given Maier a shot of confidence.

The six-foot, 170-pound Maier is used to dealing in volume with shots faced. He also saw 49.7 shots per game during a month-long stint with his hometown Yorkton Terriers in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. Hey, a 16-year-old goalie takes his reps any way that they can be acquired.