The Seattle Thunderbirds have been already one of many WHL’s prime groups. They then obtained Dylan Guenther from the Arizona Coyotes and are all-in to win.
Already the highest workforce within the WHL’s Western Convention, the Seattle Thunderbirds turned much more formidable final Sunday when ahead Dylan Guenther was re-assigned to junior by the Arizona Coyotes.
“Similar to the World Junior Championship the place Dylan helped lead Canada to a gold medal, it is a large alternative for him to hitch an excellent Seattle membership, play prime line minutes, and hopefully lead his workforce to a Memorial Cup,” mentioned Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong in an announcement. “Dylan has performed effectively for us this season, and he has a really vibrant future with the Coyotes. We look ahead to watching his improvement the remainder of the season.”
Chosen ninth general in 2021 by the Coyotes with the decide they acquired from the Vancouver Canucks within the Oliver Ekman-Larsson/Conor Garland commerce, Guenther wore an ‘A’ for Canada on the world juniors in Halifax. The 6-foot-2 winger completed fourth in workforce scoring with seven targets and three assists, together with the additional time objective that ignited the golden celebration for the host nation.
Guenther additionally brings successful expertise on the main junior stage to the Thunderbirds. Final spring, he was on the opposite facet because the Edmonton Oil Kings took down Seattle in six video games within the WHL last. He led his workforce with 21 factors in 16 video games, together with 13 targets.
Amidst a 2023 WHL commerce deadline that was chockablock with large win-now offers, the Oil Kings’ return for Guenther was conditional on whether or not or not he’d be returned to junior. Now that he has been, Edmonton receives a whopping six extra draft picks, together with a first-rounder in 2026.
Even earlier than Guenther’s arrival, Seattle was already swimming in expertise — sitting first within the WHL’s Western Convention with a report of 36-9-1-1 for 74 factors in 47 video games, a factors proportion of .787 that trails solely the powerhouse Winnipeg Ice within the Japanese Convention.
They’re rock-solid in objective, the place world juniors gold medallist Thomas Milic and High Prospects Recreation standout Scott Ratzlaff cut up the duties.
“We have created a extremely good workforce, and (GM) Bil La Forge has finished an awesome job of placing an excellent group of fellows collectively — an excellent core,” Ratzlaff mentioned forward of the High Prospects Recreation in late January. “We simply have to preserve bonding, preserve that chemistry going with the world junior guys again. It is simply onward and upward.”
Each goalies could have a lot to show within the playoffs. Milic will flip 20 in April however was handed over in his first two years of NHL draft eligibility. He’ll undergo the draft another time in Nashville this June. Ratzlaff turns 18 in March and is eligible for his first NHL draft.
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A ahead who raised his draft inventory throughout Seattle’s 2022 playoff run was Reid Schaefer. He paired his 6-foot-4 body and willingness to have interaction bodily with 21 factors in 25 playoff video games. Schaefer later earned a first-round choice by his hometown workforce, the Edmonton Oilers. This season, he has continued to progress — enjoying a depth function in Canada’s world juniors win and producing at a point-per-game price with Seattle.
That is no small feat, given the competitors for ice time up entrance. The Thunderbirds’ main scorers, Jared Davidson and Lucas Ciona, have been drafted to the NHL already. In the meantime, draft-eligible Gracyn Sawchyn and Nico Myatovic have progressed effectively this season. They represented the Thunderbirds at ahead on the High Prospects Recreation, and each sit within the prime 50 amongst North American skaters within the mid-season rankings from NHL Central Scouting.
The ahead group additionally received a lift when the Winnipeg Jets despatched Finnish ahead Brad Lambert again to the WHL after the world juniors. The Thunderbirds acquired his rights from the Saskatoon Blades in change for 2 draft picks final June, and the speedy sniper has seven factors in six video games with Seattle to this point.
Seattle additionally has another attainable ahead addition nonetheless ready within the wings.
The Thunderbirds gave up two gamers and three draft picks, together with a 2024 first-rounder, to amass heart Colton Dach from the Kelowna Rockets on the deadline. Accidents restricted the 6-foot-4, 20-year-old to simply 14 video games with the Rockets this season. He additionally suffered a shoulder harm in the course of the world juniors, which is anticipated to maintain him out till concerning the finish of February. Along with his large physique and pure capturing expertise, he needs to be one other high-end weapon for Seattle.
Now, let’s discuss concerning the blueline.
Kevin Korchinski additionally boosted his draft inventory along with his excellent playoff run in 2022. His 19 factors in 25 video games earned him the seventh-overall choice by the Chicago Blackhawks in Montreal final summer time.
However La Forge wasn’t glad along with his blueline and began looking for upgrades early.
On Oct. 25, he acquired one other key piece from the Oil Kings’ 2022 championship run, Luke Prokop, in change for 3 conditional draft picks, together with a 2025 first-round decide.
On the time, the 6-foot-6, 20-year-old was within the midst of an eight-game professional stint with the ECHL’s Norfolk Admirals. He joined the Thunderbirds in early November, and after lacking a couple of month on account of harm, he has 11 factors in 23 video games.
On Nov. 16, La Forge struck once more. This time, he despatched a nine-piece package deal, together with first-round picks in 2023 and 2024, to the Prince Albert Raiders in change for Reese Shaw and Nolan Allan — a 2021 first-round decide by the Blackhawks.
These early strikes despatched unmistakable indicators that this spring, the Thunderbirds have each intention of ending what they began final 12 months.
Then again, the Ice and the Memorial Cup host Kamloops Blazers do not plan to go down with no combat after making enormous strikes of their very own on the deadline to amass Zack Ostapchuk and Olen Zellweger, respectively.
The Thunderbirds have received the WHL Championship simply as soon as earlier than of their franchise historical past, led by playoff MVP Mat Barzal in 2017.
They’re again in motion this weekend in opposition to two powerful opponents, internet hosting the Japanese Convention’s second-place Crimson Deer Rebels on Friday evening earlier than travelling to Portland to tackle the Winterhawks on Saturday.
Friday’s recreation will likely be streamed in Canada on TSN+ (10 p.m. ET). All video games are streamed on WHL.ca.
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