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When Joachim Blichfeld was informed that he had been loaned back to his junior club the Portland Winterhawks in late September, let there be no doubt that he was upset.
Nothing against the Western Hockey League, the city of Portland or his teammates, but the 20-year-old felt he was ready for the next chapter in his career. He wanted to be a pro.
“I was disappointed initially,” said Blichfeld when he was told he’d be going back to juniors. “But after letting it set in, I decided to make the best of it.”
After the conclusion of his second full season in the WHL, Blichfeld got a small taste of the pro game when he appeared in a pair of contests with the Barracuda during last year’s playoff series against the Tucson Roadrunners.
That experience opened his eyes to the speed, skill, and details that are required at the next level. It also made him want to be a part of it even more.
“The game is so fast at that level,” said Blichfeld. “You’ve got to be on your toes or you’re going to get burned…but those two games gave me the confidence that I belonged.”
Since returning back to the City of Roses, Blichfeld’s attitude, work ethic, and leadership have been on full display and noticed by the coaching staff.
“Coming back to juniors was big for Joachim's development in my opinion,” said Winterhawks Associate Head Coach and Assistant General Manager Kyle Gustafson. “He’s got swagger and attitude that comes along with being comfortable with one’s surroundings.”
Despite still having a year of junior eligibility left, Blichfeld set a goal of becoming a pro heading into the Sharks training camp in August. But a large influx of new players forced the Sharks brass to make a few strategic developmental decisions. They opted instead to send the Denmark native back to Portland.
What Blichfeld would do after being sent back to juniors was up to him. He could wallow in self-pity, distance himself from teammates and coaches, or he could become a leader and a dominant player at the major juniorlevel. So far it is evident he chose the latter.
“His greatest attribute as a player is his shot, but he’s improved his skating, strength, and explosiveness out of his strides,” said Gustafson. “He’s become accustomed to the smaller ice surface now, his billets, the area, and the league. He’s taken a leadership role this season, too, and it’s resulting in major production on the ice.”
So far through 17 games, the third-year Western Leaguer is one of the CHL’s best thus far. Blichfeld is pacing the Hawks in both goals (14) and points (35) and was recently named Canadian Hockey League player of the week after producing three multi-point games last weekend which helped propel Portland into the second spot in the Division. Blichfeld recorded five points on Sunday in an 8-6 win over the Spokane Chiefs.
“He’s put the team on his back at times, and he’s becoming a complete player, the type of player you have to be to compete at the next level,” said Gustafson.
A seventh-round draft selection by San Jose in 2016, Blichfeld is on pace to triple his offensive production from a year ago.
Blichfeld and the Winterhawks are back in action on Saturday and Sunday when they take on the Kelowna Rockets at home.