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Saturday, October 16, 2010

WHL notes: Rattie hatty keeps Portland rolling

Portland fans may have been spoiled by the dynamic draft trio of Ryan Johansen (4th overall to CBJ) Nino Niederreiter (5th overall to NYI) and Brad Ross (2nd round- TOR) last season, but this year is no slouch for the Winterhawks, either, with Ty Rattie, Sven Bartschi and defenseman Joe Morrow making positive early impressions.

Red Line Report has some terrific writeups on the WHL prospects in their October issue. They ranked Rattie as the sixth-best prospect in the Dub as of now and have him 32nd overall, but he'll likely move up if he keeps putting the puck in the net and setting the table for his mates.

Rattie, the second overall pick in the 2008 WHL Midget Draft, is all offense and tallied a hat trick (and assist) in Portland's 8-6 win over the Kamloops Blazers last night. That gives him six goals and 17 points in just 10 games, surging him near the top of the WHL scoring standings. The production jives with his reputation for being one of those players who has the quick hands and high-end hockey sense to create instant offense. Although not big (6-0, 170), he compensates for the lack of size by bringing the kind of quickness and slippery style that allows him to exploit seams in defenses and create havoc on the opposition. He lacks true top speed/separation gear, but that's not a huge issue for him because he's so elusive and smart.

Bartschi is right behnd Rattie with eight goals and 14 points. The speedy and opportunistic Swiss player doesn't have Niederreiter's grit and complete power game, but he's certainly proving he can handle himself in the scoring department. It will be interesting to see if Bartschi can maintain his early season pace as the year drags on, the bus rides get longer and the dog days of winter set in. But, so far, so good. Size/strength (5-10, 180) is the big issue for him, and that's something that could see him susceptible to breaking down over the grind of the long season.

Finally, defenseman Joe Morrow is a player to keep an eye on, too. He's been injured (groin) and has only played three games (four assists) but he's shown some promise as a puck-rushing offensive-capable defender. He's got some upside, apparently, and when he gets back in action, will be a player to watch this season. He's only hovering around 6-feet in height, but he's stocky with a fire hydrant-like build and has the quick feet, hands and vision to project as a potential top-pairing 'D' No. 2 or 3 if he continues to progress and show a willingness to work hard on all shifts.

Edmonton Oil Kings center Mike St. Croix has been a bit of a polarizing figure thus far. On paper, his 4-5-9 stats line in eight games looks pretty solid for a 17-year-old, but when you consider that he recently had a four-point game, a little luster comes off the performance. St. Croix reportedly had one of the poorer showings at Team Canada's Under-18 Ivan Hlinka evaluation camp in July, and has not played with the kind of vigor and involvement that scouts expected from him. He's got the kind of speed and hands to be a handful for opposing defenses, but has yet to show off the skills on a consistent enough basis.

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