Calgary, Alta. – For the sixth time in franchise history, the Portland Winterhawks are WHL Regular Season Champions.
Accruing 97 points throughout the 2019-20 WHL Regular Season, the Winterhawks claimed the best record in the WHL.
This marks the first time since the 2012-13 WHL Regular Season that a U.S. Division club has taken the honour when the Winterhawks also had the league’s best record. That season still stands as the best in their history, when they recorded 57 wins and 117 points.
In their franchise history, the Winterhawks have also claimed the league’s top record in 1997-98 and 1979-80. As the Edmonton Oil Kings, they claimed the league’s top record in the 1970-71 and 1966-67 seasons.
Boasting a 45-11-3-4 record, this season has added to the illustrious regular season performance of the Winterhawks. Their campaign marks the fourth-straight season of 40 or more victories and the 17th time they’ve reached or surpassed the 45-win mark in a season.
Their claiming of the U.S. Division title also marks the 18th time they’ve captured a division banner and the fifth U.S. Division crown for the club since the adoption of the four-division format for the 2001-02 WHL Regular Season.
Highlighted by a 21-game streak (19-0-1-1) where they didn’t lose in regulation, the Winterhawks led the way among WHL clubs in the standings for the majority of the season.
Individually, the Winterhawks were powered offensively by a pair of forwards enjoying breakout campaigns in their second full season. 2020 NHL Draft prospect Seth Jarvis amazed each time he set foot on the ice, finishing second in overall WHL scoring with 98 points (42G-56A) while Jaydon Dureau tallied 70 points (19G-51A) to place second in team scoring.
Also thriving offensively was New York Islanders prospect Reece Newkirk, who posted 65 points (29G-36A) in 55 games to set new career-high totals in goals and points while matching his previous career high in assists. From the blue line, captain and Florida Panthers prospect Johnny Ludvig had a standout season, posting 62 points (17G-45A) in 60 games.
Overall, the Winterhawks finished second in the WHL with 270 goals for, also ranking third with only 164 goals against. Still, the Winterhawks’ offence was not one to be taken lightly, tallying 11 goals in a single game twice throughout the regular season while making other strong attempts to equal that offensive output.
Home is where the Winterhawks shone brightest, posting a 26-2-2-2 record in Oregon to earn 56 of their 97 points. This year’s iteration of the Winterhawks matched the 2011-12 Winterhawks, who also managed a 0.875 winning percentage on home ice.
An impressive part of the Winterhawks’ success throughout the season was their consistent ability to succeed together with only a handful of minor roster moves by Head Coach and General Manager Mike Johnston.
Between the pipes, St. Louis Blues prospect Joel Hofer thrived in the starter’s role. Posting a 34-8-3-2 record, 2.49 goals-against average, 0.915 save percentage, and four shutouts, the Winnipeg, Man. product was a key part of the team’s success and consistently delivered when relied upon. Hofer finished the regular season tied with divisional rival Dustin Wolf of the Everett Silvertips for the league lead in victories.
Hofer was the lone Winterhawk named to Team WHL for the 2019 CIBC Canada Russia Series in November 2019 and played his part in delivering a series win for the Canadian Hockey League. The following month, Hofer emerged as the top goaltender at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic, leading Canada to a gold medal at the tournament.
Already boasting an impressive list of players to be selected at the NHL Draft, the Winterhawks are poised for another strong performance in 2020. Including Jarvis, the Winterhawks have five players ranked among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting on their Midterm Rankings.
Jarvis, ranked 19th, stands to be the top Winterhawk available while Simon Knak, ranked 61st, Cross Hanas, ranked 65th, Jonas Brøndberg, ranked 107th, and Robbie Fromm-Delorme, ranked 165th, could all hear their name called.
While the honour of the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy is another addition to the Winterhawks’ rich history, they’ll be in strong pursuit of claiming the Ed Chynoweth Cup as WHL Champions once again with their minds set on a return trip to Kelowna, B.C. for the 2020 Memorial Cup presented by Kia.