This is an ongoing series as we start the long road to the 2019-20 WHL season. We will be going in the order that teams were eliminated from contention. Keep in mind that the roster guesses vary because of information made available to us. We did our very best to capture all of the signings, but could be missing some.
2018-19 WHL Season: It was a tale of two seasons for the 2018-19 Seattle Thunderbirds. They hit a swoon in November and December and decided to move out players like Zack Andrusiak, Liam Hughes and Reece Harsch. Especially when power forward Dillon Hamaliuk suffered a season-ending injury, It had the look of a team packing it up and rebuilding. Instead it became clear that the trades made them a deeper team. They were one of the hottest teams in the second half of the season with new additions like Henrik Rybinski, Kelte Jeri-Leon and Roddy Ross playing big roles in the rebound and Matthew Wedman, Noah Philp and Nolan Volcan leading the offense.
Ross came out of nowhere to give them a goalie that could steal a game. He played well in the first round against the top Western Conference regular season team, the Vancouver Giants. They took them to six games before bowing out.
2019 WHL Bantam Draft: They will be picking eighth overall. That is the highest they have picked since 2013. In looking at the first five rounds, the Thunderbirds pick twice in the second round, since they got one of those picks from Everett in the Zack Andrusiak trade. They moved their third round choice to Red Deer and their fourth round pick is held by Edmonton, but they got a fourth from Medicine Hat as well.
Seattle got a fifth in this draft as part of the Mike MacLean deal and moved theirs to Medicine Hat.
Signed Players (30):
1999 – Matthew Wedman, Jaxan Kaluski, Andrej Kukuca,
2000 – Keltie Jeri-Leon, Tyler Carpendale, Dillon Hamaliuk, Brecon Wood,
2001 – Graeme Bryks, Henrik Rybinski, Cody Savey,
2002 – Jared Davidson, Payton Mount,
2003 – Kai Uchacz, Matthew Rempe, Sam Popowich, Conner Roulette, Lucas Ciona, Reid Schaefer, Mekai Sanders
1999 – Jarret Tyszka
2000 – Owen Williams
2001 – Zachary Ashton, Jake Lee, Cade McNelly, Simon Kubicek
2002 – Tyrel Bauer, Luke Bateman
2000 – Roddy Ross
2001 – Cole Schwebius
2003 – Thomas Milic
Aged Out: Captain Volcan is moving on. He leaves a WHL champion and a Thunderbird who will long be remembered for the role he played in his five seasons with Seattle. Noah Philp came over from Kootenay in 2017 and went on to be a big play maker for Seattle. Sean Richards came over in the Andrusiak trade and when he was on the ice played the pest role well, while providing production.
Overage Shuffle: The big question here is Jarret Tyszka. The 1999-born defenseman was drafted by Montreal in the 2017 NHL Draft, but has yet to be signed. If the Canadiens choose not to sign him and no other pro team brings him in, Seattle will have four players coming back for the three spots.
Andrej Kukuca had a great first-year as he was fourth in team scoring with 57 points in 59 games. He seems like a likely player for both an import and overage spot as the team’s second highest returning scorer.
Wedman led the team in scoring last year after a torrid last few months. He should be a lock to come back and could very well be among the league-leaders in scoring in 2019-20.
If those first three all come back, the odd man out could be Jaxan Kaluski. The forward did everything the coaching staff wanted him to do and slotted in as a top-two center when injuries plagued the team. If one of the above three does not come back though, Kaluski is still someone who can play a big role on a team that should be a good one next season.
Import Issues?: Simon Kubicek showcased a hard and accurate shot. He also played well with Jake Lee during stretches and saw some time on both the power play and penalty kill. The late birthday, 2001-born d-man will have one import spots. With the other, Seattle will either keep Kukuca or draft another player and replace the overage forward.
2019 NHL Draft: Rybinski had an up and down season on the NHL Central Scouting rankings but his strong run with Seattle has him 123rd among North Americans skaters to finish the season. Lee is ranked 146th among NA skaters and Ross shot up to 17th among NA goalies. Hamaliuk was listed but because of limited viewings was not given a number. He was a “B” ranked skater earlier in the season signifying being taken in the second or third round. The injury he suffered will certainly effect that.