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Winterhawks go all in with acquisition of Red Wings defensive prospect Cholowski from Cougars

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The neck-and-neck race this year for the U.S. Division has been extended to the trade market.

After the Tri-City Americans and Everett Silvertips made moves over the weekend to add to their blueline, the Portland Winterhawks followed suit Wednesday, acquiring Detroit Red Wings prospect Dennis Cholowski (1998) from the Prince George Cougars in a nine-player trade.

Also heading to the Winterhawks is 18-year-old goaltender Ty Taylor. In exchange, the Cougars have received a haul of players and draft picks, including 17-year-old forward Ilijah Colina, 16-year-old forward Connor Bowie, second-round draft picks in the 2018 and 2019 Western Hockey League Bantam Drafts, first-and-third-round draft picks in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft and a conditional sixth-round draft pick in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft.

This move aids the Winterhawks in the short-term while paying dividends for the Cougars in coming years.

Cholowski, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound product of Langley, B.C. was selected by the Detroit Red Wings in the first round, 20th overall, of the 2016 NHL Draft. In 37 games with the Cougars this season, Cholowski has 39 points (13G-26A), including four power-play goals, one short-handed goal and one game-winning goal.

“Dennis is a great kid, who came in here this season and blew us away with his character and leadership qualities,” said Cougars’ general manager Todd Harkins. “He’s one of the most exciting players to watch in our league and he’s getting a great opportunity in Portland.”

He has a pair of multi-goal games this season with the Cougars and has 11 multi-point efforts. Cholowski also represented the WHL at the first two stops of the CIBC Canada Russia Series. Cholowski sits sixth in WHL scoring for defencemen, but will become the highest-scoring blueliner on the Winterhawks when he joins the defensive core that already features the likes of Henri Jokiharju (Chicago Blackhawks) and Keoni Texeira.

Cholowski was originally selected by the Cougars in the 10th round, 200th overall, of the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft. He left St. Cloud State (NCAA) last summer after signing a three-year entry-level contract with the Red Wings.

“We’re extremely excited to add Dennis to our lineup” said Winterhawks vice president, general manager and head coach Mike Johnston, “It’s always been our philosophy to have transitional defencemen on our backend and he fits in perfectly with our style of play.”

Also headed to the Winterhawks is goaltender Ty Taylor. Taylor, who was originally listed by the Cougars, is a 6-foot-3, 201-pound product of Richmond, B.C. The 18-year-old could be viewed as part of next year’s plan when the Winterhawks lose overage goaltender Cole Kehler (Los Angeles Kings).

The Cougars continued to add prospects and draft picks following other trades to set them up for the coming years and will be further aided by the seven pieces headed their way in the deal.

Colina, the 5-foot-8, 169-pound forward from North Delta, B.C. has impressed in the early stages of his WHL career with the Winterhawks. Selected in the eighth round, 171st overall, of the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft, the 17-year-old Colina has appeared in 83 WHL games, scoring 27 points (4G-23A). Moving back to his home province, Colina should get a chance to thrive in more of an offensive role for the Cougars. Colina also has three power-play goals and one game-winning goal in his WHL career.

Bowie is one of the bigger pieces of the deal. The 6-foot-1, 179-pound forward grew up in Fort St. John, B.C. and was selected by the Winterhawks in the seventh round, 133rd overall, of the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft. In 18 games with the Northeast B.C./Yukon Trackers, Bowie has tallied 35 points (20G-15A) this season, also scoring one goal in four games with the Cariboo Cougars of the British Columbia Major Midget League.

The Winterhawks could have Cholowski in action as soon as their next game Friday, January 12 (7:05 p.m. PST) against the Tri-City Americans. The Cougars are in action Wednesday, January 10 (7:00 p.m. PST), hosting the Vancouver Giants.

The WHL’s Trade Deadline is set for 3 p.m. MT. All the trades will be listed on the WHL’s Live Blog.

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