Almost forgot to troll the Internet this season and find out which Alaskans are playing in the Western Hockey League, the major-junior circuit that helped develop NHLers from Alaska like Scott Gomez, Nate Thompson and Brandon Dubinsky.
Anyhow, the results are in and there are two Alaskans in the Dub this season -- Eagle River defenseman Josh Hanson of the Portland Winterhawks and Anchorage center Justin Gutierrez of the Tri-City Americans.
Hanson, 18, a 6-foot-3, 201-pounder who shoots right, is in his third season for Portland, which owns the best winning percentage on the circuit (20-4-1, .820 winning percentage) but made news for all the wrong reasons this week. (Long story somewhat short: The WHL suspended head coach and general manager Mike Johnston for the remainder of the season, fined the Hawks $200,000, prohibited them from the first five rounds of the next bantam draft and took away their first-round picks in the following four drafts -- all for excess benefits such as paying for air travel for players' families, for players' summer training and paying for cell phones for captains.)
In any event, Hanson owns 0-6--6 and +20 totals in 25 games this season -- he's tied for 11th in the league in plus-minus. He has also gone 18 consecutive games without being a minus.
Gutierrez, 16, is in his first full season with the Americans -- he played one game for them last season -- and has an assist and a -1 rating in 18 games. He's a 6-foot-3, 170-pounder who shoots left and will obviously fill out some as he matures. He's coached by Jim Hiller, and we mention that because hockey is such a small world. Hiller, who played 63 NHL games, was a teammate of UAA head coach Dave Shyiak on the 1991 national championship team at Northern Michigan University.