Returning to the Western Hockey League for one more season wasn’t what forward Joachim Blichfeld was expecting this past summer.
The San Jose Sharks prospect thought he would be turning pro in 2018-19, only to be told that he would be sent back to junior with the Portland Winterhawks for another year of development.
It wasn’t the ideal situation for the native of Denmark, but now he’s in the running for the Bob Clarke Trophy as the WHL’s leading scorer and could wind up the with the Canadian Hockey League’s Top Scorer Award with a strong finish to the season.
“I didn’t really know I would still play for Portland, had my mind on playing in the [American Hockey League], but I got sent back and I wanted to make the best of it to get ready for pro next year,” said the 20-year-old left winger with a right-handed shot.
“First week and a half I was honestly mad and sad but after that there was nothing to do but get back to work and get better every day and have a great year here in Portland.”
Blichfeld has a WHL-best 45 goals and 93 points in 55 games this season and has slowly started pulling away from the competition.
Moose Jaw Warriors forward Tristan Langan is sitting second with 85 points while Edmonton Oil Kings forward Trey Fix-Wolansky is third with 84 points.
Blichfeld, 6-foot-1 and 188 pounds, would be the second Danish-born skater to win the WHL scoring title after Oliver Bjorkstrand, who accomplished the feat in 2015 with Portland. Bjorkstrand, however, lost out to Dylan Strome for the CHL Top Scorer Award.
“It’s always cool to finish No. 1 but us being from Denmark, small country, not that many NHL players ... of course it would be special to win the title being a Danish guy,” Blichfel said.
“[But] I’m no thinking about that, thinking about my development, my goal is to be in the NHL as soon as possible.”
All three leagues making up the 60-team CHL wrap up their 68 regular-season games on the weekend of March 16-17.
The scoring leader in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League takes home the Jean Béliveau Trophy while the Ontario Hockey League’s top scorer wins the Eddie Powers Memorial Trophy.
Here are some other players that could walk away with the CHL Top Scorer Award in 2018-19.
Tristan Langan – Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL), 51 games, 39 goals, 85 points
The 20-year-old from Swan River, Man., has been a consistent point producer for the Warriors all year after starting the season strong with 16 points in his first seven games. The winger put together an 11-game point streak through November consisting of 28 points and has potted four hat tricks amongst his 28 multi-point games. He’s already more than doubled his career highs in goals, assists and points.
Trey Fix-Wolansky – Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL), 53 games, 29 goals, 84 points
The 19-year-old Edmonton native has been top-3 in WHL scoring for the majority of the season after lighting up the first half of the campaign. From Oct. 19 to Dec. 28 the Columbus Blue Jackets draft pick had two separate 11-game point streaks, hitting the scoresheet in 22-of-23 games over all for 47 points over his two-month run. The winger has slowed down since mid-January, but has shown with his 26 multipoint outings that there are still more points to come.
Peter Abbandonato – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL), 55 games, 26 goals, 90 points
The 20-year-old from Laval, Que., has led the QMJHL scoring race for much of the second half of the season thanks to a league-best 14-game point streak from late November into early January. Primarily a set-up man who has a league-high in assists, the centre has three five-point outings this year and has only been held off the scoresheet in three of 28 games since Dec. 1.
Alexis Lafreniere – Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL), 48 games, 32 goals, 87 points
The 17-year-old from Saint-Eustache, Que., has been lighting it up since returning from the world juniors and is a threat for the scoring title if he keeps up his recent pace. The winger, who is the youngest on the list and not eligible for the NHL Draft until 2020, had 13 goals and 27 points on an 11-game point streak that was snapped on Wednesday. He’s hit the scoresheet in 40 of the 48 games he’s played and has never gone three contests in a row without a point.
Ivan Chekhovich – Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL), 52 games, 36 goals, 86 points
The 20-year-old Russian has recently hit a dry spell with no goals in his last 10 games, but still sits third in QMJHL scoring and will stay in the race because of his ability to strike at any time. The San Jose Sharks prospect has had four five-point games, including a seven-point effort on New Year’s Eve, and two four-goal outings. The winger had a nine-game point streak in December where he produced 24 points as part of his most productive run of the season.
Tye Felhaber – Ottawa 67’s (OHL), 54 games, 53 goals, 94 points.
The 20-year-old Pembroke, Ont., native has led the OHL in points for most of the season, going neck and neck with North Bay’s Justin Brazeau since the opening week of October. He’s on pace for the best goal-scoring season in the OHL since John Tavares netted 72 in 2005-06 and is a minority with more goals than assists. The winger, who has 12 multigoal games, just went on a nine-game point streak with 18 points to give some slight breathing room atop the points race.
Justin Brazeau – North Bay Battalion (OHL), 53 games, 48 goals, 89 points
The recently-turned 21-year-old from New Liskeard, Ont., has been in the OHL’s top-3 scorers all season, and a strong push down the homestretch will give him a chance at the CHL Top Scorer Award. The winger has had 25 multi-point outings this season including a career-best seven-point game on Oct. 21 against Kingston despite playing for a team near the bottom the league standings. He’s produced 11 points in his last six games to stay close to Ottawa’s Tye Felhaber in the race for the Eddie Powers Memorial Trophy.
Jason Robertson – Niagara IceDogs (OHL), 47 games, 39 goals, 88 points
The 19-year-old Michigan native has found an extra gear since a mid-season trade to the Niagara from Kingston and has been on fire since returning from the world juniors. The Dallas Stars prospect has produced 16 goals and 50 points in only 23 games with the IceDogs. He’s hit the scoresheet in 22 of the 23 contests he’s played with his new team and is currently riding a 12-game point streak with 26 points on his run.
Morgan Frost – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL), 46 games, 36 goals, 88 points
The 19-year-old from Aurora, Ont., has moved his way into the top of the OHL scoring leaders by dominating the competition upon his return from the world juniors. The Philadelphia Flyers prospect has hit the scoresheet in 12-of-14 games since his Jan. 9 return and has produced 30 points over his run, including a five-goal performance on Jan. 20 against Sudbury. The centre finished runner-up in last year’s OHL scoring race with 112 points, three back of winner Aaron Luchuk.
Honourable Mention: Hamilton Bulldogs forward Arthur Kaliyev (85 points); London Knights forward Kevin Hancock (85 points); Drummondville Voltigeurs forward Joey Veleno (82 points).