By Andy Eide
The Spokane Chiefs may want to hope that the Prince George Cougars don’t make the playoffs.
After splitting a weekend series in Prince George, two of the three wins the Cougars have on the season have come at the hands of the Chiefs. The Cougars previously knocked off the Chiefs in Spokane on Oct. 11th. The Cougars are widely expected to finish at the bottom of the B.C. Division standings while there are high expectations for the Chiefs, especially with the return of Ty Smith.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) October 19, 2019
The Chiefs are off to a pedestrian 5-4-1-0 start – the record would look better if not for those pesky Cougars – but they are scoring goals. They are second in the U.S. Division with 35 goals but may have to go forward without Jake McGrew.
McGrew, 20, was hurt during an Oct. 6 loss to the Everett Silvertips.
He has yet to return to the lineup and Spokane has a 2-2 record since he was injured. The 2017 sixth-round pick of the San Jose Sharks was off to a good start for the Chiefs this year. In the first six games he had scored five goals to go with three assists.
The extent of McGrew’s injury, listed as a lower-body ailment, is unknown at this time and if he is lost for an extended period of time, it will hurt the Chiefs attack. McGrew exploded last year to score a career-best 31 goals.
If he is out long term, other Chiefs, such as Smith and Minnesota Wild prospect Adam Beckman will need to pick up the slack.
Here’s the latest news surrounding the U.S. Division
Silvertips get hot
To help boost their offensive output the Silvertips added center Cole Fonstad from the Prince Albert Raiders last week. Everett has won all three games since his insertion into the lineup and have a four-game win streak overall that has vaulted them to the early lead in the division.
For his part, Fonstad, 19, has a goal and five assists in the three games he’s played in a Silvertips sweater. In those games the Silvertips have scored 10 goals which is a jump from their previous goals-per-game out put.
— Everett Silvertips (@WHLsilvertips) October 17, 2019
With Dustin Wolf in net, Everett was already going to be in every game. Adding Fonstad, and offense, could be the spark to keep the Silvertips in contention for the division’s top spot all season.
Seth Jarvis off to hot start for the Portland Winterhawks
The Winterhawks returned home from their swing through the Central Division last week and picked up a win over the Brandon Wheat Kings. They’ve won three of their last four – the one blemish a shootout loss – and will get to stay in and around the division for a while.
Leading the charge is 2020 NHL Draft eligible Seth Jarvis. The 17-year-old leads Portland in scoring with four goals and 12 points in his first 10 games. Three of those goals have come in his last four games, a stretch where he’s picked up seven points.
As is expected with a Mike Johnston coached team, the Winterhawks lead the U.S. Division in scoring, averaging 3.80 goals-per-game. Jarvis is a big part of that, but Portland has scoring depth and that will keep them in the division race with Everett, Spokane, and any other challengers.
U.S. Division noteworthy nuggets
After starting the season with five straight road games, the Tri-City Americans have returned to Kennewick for some home cooking and it’s sitting well with them. They’ve won four straight home games which is good news considering their next five games will be played at home in the Toyota Center.
One player can make a difference, just ask the Seattle Thunderbirds and defenseman Tyrel Bauer. The 2020 NHL Draft eligible missed three-plus games due to an injury earlier in the month. In those games Seattle was outscored 24-10. Since his return, in three games, The Thunderbirds have allowed four goals in regulation and have points in all three while goalie Roddy Ross has a save-percentage of .944.
US Division Games on the Radar
There are is one inter-division game scheduled this week and interesting out of division matchup.
Friday night the Winterhawks will be in Spokane for a clash between two teams that the pundits thought would be the top contenders for the Division flag this year.
Also on Friday the Silvertips will look to stay hot as they head up to Langley to face the Vancouver Giants. The Giants have Bowen Byram – the fourth overall pick by Colorado in June’s NHL Draft – but have yet to find their footing this season.