Glass having breakout year for ‘Hawks

Winnipeg native's stock rising in NHL draft rankings

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Coaches are often reluctant to compare up-and-coming junior players to standouts already starring in the NHL.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/01/2017 (2044 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Coaches are often reluctant to compare up-and-coming junior players to standouts already starring in the NHL.

Portland Winterhawks head coach and general manager Mike Johnston has no such trouble when he talks about Cody Glass, the young Winnipegger who is lighting it up for his club as a 17-year-old centre in the Western Hockey League.

Johnston believes the 6-2, 180-pounder could be the second coming of Ryan Johansen, who learned his craft with the ’Hawks before heading to the NHL where he’s currently the No. 1 centre of the Nashville Predators.

Portland Winterhawks Winnipeg native Cody Glass is lighting up the scoresheet for the Portland Winterhawks this season. The 17-year-old has 20 goals and 53 points through 40 games.

“I don’t think (Glass is) close to what he’ll be as an NHL player because… he’s going get a lot stronger and a lot bigger,” Johnston said via telephone this week. “He’s going to fill out. I saw the same thing with Johansen. When Johansen was with us, you could see he was going to be a really good player, but he was nowhere close to what he was going to be as a pro.”

Glass was one of 29 players to receive an A grade from NHL Central Scouting in October, indicating he’s a likely candidate to go in the first round of the NHL draft. His play and production in the past two months have only raised expectations.

“He’s definitely a first-round prospect for this year’s draft,” NHL director of central scouting Dan Marr said. “You still have the sense after watching him that the best is yet to come. He can play the game at speed right now. He’s really strong in the offensive zone and he’s got the good offensive instincts around the net. He’s knows how to get open. He knows when to jump into the hole.”

Entering Friday’s action, Glass had 20 goals and 53 points, which put him 12th in WHL scoring, while centring Portland’s top line with Skyler McKenzie and Keegan Iverson. He has doubled his offensive production by mid-season from his entire 16-year-old season, making a leap elite players usually only manage when they reach 18 years old.

Glass believes the experience he gained last season and the return of Johnston from the NHL, where he coached the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2014-15 and 2015-16, have spurred his improvement.

“My 16-year-old year I was a little bit more uncomfortable, but now, I’m 17, have a year under my belt, it’s been way better with hockey and off the ice,” Glass said. “(Johnston) lets me have free will in the offensive zone, which has been a huge help. I played with two 20-year-olds last year and I tried carrying that on into this season with Skyler and Keegan Iverson. I think confidence has been a huge boost.”

Glass is still growing. He has sprouted an inch and a half since the beginning of the 2015-16 season and projects even taller — his dad is 6-5 and he has a brother who’s 6-6.

“My dream height is about 6-3,” said Glass, who has been chosen to participate in the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Quebec City on Jan. 30. “I don’t want to be too tall.”

Glass has been thrust into a primary role in all situations, adding crucial faceoffs and penalty-killing to his repertoire.

“Because of the team we have — we have a young team — he has to play against other team’s checking lines, top defence pairings, so it’s not easy for a 17-year-old kid to be a top centre on a major junior team,” Johnston said. “In the past, we had other good players like Johansen or (Nic) Petan or (Chase) De Leo or some of these good forwards… they would take the load off ahead of him. Cody doesn’t have that.”

Once he’s physically mature, Johnston believes, Glass could fill out to about 210 pounds and become an even bigger nightmare for opponents to defend at the next level.

“He can make special plays,” Johnston said. “He can make plays that most people think that the puck-carrier can’t see. He’s got lots of poise, lots of patience with the puck. When he gets into trouble is when he gets into strength battles. When we play four games in five nights, that’s a little bit of a tough thing for him. For me, that’s exciting because when I talk to the NHL guys about him, I just say you are not seeing anything close to what he’s going to be as a pro.”

“You like those type of players that compete on the play and they compete to score,” added Marr. “He’s a pretty talented player and he plays with an energy. He’s fun to watch, he really is.”

Glass was Portland’s No. 1 pick, 19th overall, in the 2014 bantam draft and it’s clear his NHL draft stock has taken a quantum leap.

He has a friendly rivalry with another potential first-rounder, Brandon forward Stelio Mattheos, the No. 1 overall choice by the Wheat Kings in the same draft.

The two were opponents in minor hockey and played spring and summer hockey together.

“Now that I’m putting up the points and I’m getting ranked high there’s a little bit of pressure for me to keep it up but it’s just been a whirlwind… It’s been awesome,” Glass said.

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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