Here is your completely biased and unapologetic pacific northwest guide to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With the exception of the Pittsburgh Penguins, all Stanley Cup Playoff teams have a northwest reason to root for on the team. Without further ado, here is your reason to root for <<Insert team name not named Pittsburgh Penguins here>>.
Assistant Coach Steve Konowalchuk, coached the Seattle Thunderbirds for 6 years. The Thunderbirds qualified for the WHL playoffs 5 out of the 6 years of his tenure including two trips to the WHL Final capped off with winning their first WHL Championship in franchise history.
Defensemen Brandon Carlo played for the Tri-City Americans 2013-2016 and has been a reliable blue liner for the Bruins for the last two seasons. Unfortunately, Carlo fractured his ankle two weeks ago and baring a minor miracle, will not be playing in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Avs Head Coach, Jared Bednar, played for the Spokane Chiefs for 2ish years from 1991-1992. In his only complete season with the Chiefs, he amassed 200 penalty minutes in 62 games played. 8 other Chiefs had more PIMs that season. The most recent season, no player on the Chiefs had over 200 PIMs. Let’s just say it was a different game when Bednar played.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Let’s call the Bluejackets the little Winterhawks, or would they be the big Winterhawks? NHL veteran and Blue Jackets Centerman, Brandon Dubinsky played 4 seasons with the Winterhawks. Oliver Bjorkstrand had monster numbers in his 3 seasons with Winterhawks from 2012-2015. Including playoffs, Bjorkstrand had 367 points over 252 games. Defenseman, Seth Jones played only one season with Portland but he had 56 points over 61 games and was drafted 4th overall the following summer. For basketball fans, Seth Jones’ father is former NBA standout Popeye Jones. The Blue Jackets also have former Everett Silvertip, Ryan Murray. Murray played 4 seasons with the Tips from 2009-2013 and made the jump straight to the NHL.
Both NHL vets Brooks Laich and Nate Thompson played for Seattle Thunderbirds 2001-2003. Between the two of them, they have almost 1400 games in the NHL.
Jared Spurgeon played 5 seasons with the Spokane Chiefs between 2005 and 2010. This late rounder (NHL draft) has over 500 games in the NHL and will need to be leaned on a bit more in the playoff with Ryan Suter’s injury. Nino Niederreiter played 2 years with the Portland Winterhawks between 2009-11. Matt Dumba joined the Winterhawks very briefly in 2013-14 for 26 games.
Ryan Johansen played 2 seasons with the Portland WInterhawks before jumping to the NHL with the Columbus Blue Jackets. During the 2015-16 season he was traded in a Winterhawk for Winterhawk trade when Columbus sent him to Nashville for the aforementioned Seth Jones.
New Jersey Devils
Speedy winger Michael Grabner played 3 seasons with the Spokane Chiefs from 2004 to 2007. If the Devils plan to make a playoff run, they will need to get some additional scoring from someone not named Taylor Hall. Grabner might be a candidate to step up. Defenseman Mirco Mueller played 2 seasons with the Everett Silvertip in 2012-14. His NHL career has been a bit underwhelming but a strong playoff performance can turn that around in a hurry.
Radko Gudas played one season with the Everett Silvertips during the 2009-10 season. I think it is safe to say if the Flyers-Pens series to go medieval, Gudas will probably be at the center of it. Winger Taylor Leier played 3 seasons with Portland. His playing time might be limited but as the playoffs move on, injuries happen and that might create an opportunity for Leier.
I can find absolutely no ties to the Northwest on the Pittsburgh Penguins roster, coaching staff or equipment staff.
San Jose Sharks
Brendon Dillon played 4 years with the Seattle Thunderbirds despite being undrafted in the WHL Bantam draft. The great dane, Jannik Hansen averaged a point per game in his one and only season for Portland Winterhawks in 2005-06. Bonney Lake, WA native and recently signed Dylan Gambrell has joined the Sharks after his college season ended at University of Denver. Gambrell might not see a lot of ice time during the playoffs but it is great to see this native play in the NHL. Last but not least, Minnesota native Paul Martin visited the Angry Beaver a few years ago after the Phinney Ridge explosion closed the bar for a long time. That’s a gesture worth rooting for don’t you think?
Tampa Bay Lightning
Spokane born and raised Tyler Johnson went undrafted in the WHL bantam draft and NHL draft. He played with the Spokane Chiefs from 2007 to 2011. He has averaged over 20 goals a season in his first 5 full season in the NHL and has a knack for coming up huge in the playoffs, averaging close to a point per game in his 47 playoff games. Braydon Coburn played 4 seasons with the Portland Winterhawks from 2000-05. Last but not least assistant equipment guy, Jason Berger was the head equipment for the Seattle Thunderbirds from 2007 to 2011.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Head Coach icon, Mike Babcock was the head coach for the Spokane Chiefs for 6 seasons from 1994-00. Patrick Marleau played 2 seasons with the Seattle Thunderbirds from 1995-97. In his second season with the Tbirds, Patty had 125 points in 71 games.
Vegas Golden Knights
After starting the season in the minors, former Seattle Thunderbird, Shea Theodore ended with a great year with the big club amassing 29 points in 61 games. Theo played 3 full seasons with the Thunderbirds from 2011-2014.
Olympic hero TJ Oshie grew up in Mt Vernon, WA and played Seattle Junior hockey until he moved away to Warroad, Minnesota for high school for his hockey development. Up until Dylan Gambrell’s late season signing this year, he was the Seattle areas lone NHLer for many years.
Defenseman Joe Morrow played 4 seasons with the Portland Winterhawks from 2008-2012.
- 1 former Tri-City American
- 3 local born and raised Washingtonians
- 3 former Everett Silvertips
- 6 former Spokane Chiefs
- 7 former Seattle Thunderbirds
- 10 former Portland Winterhawks