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Hockey Challenge 2014

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Great Overage Article by Caldwell

I encourage everyone to check out Alan Caldwell's page where he outlines all of the overage situations for each team in the WHL.

The Tbirds are likely in the market for an O/A defender and there aren't too many that will be clearly available.

I think the TBirds would be wise to target guys like Jesse Dudas from Swift Current (and yes this has been mentioned on the lovely message boards already in case anyone has already seen that), Mitch Versteeg from Lethbridge is another one I would inquire about and maybe Paul MacDonald if the 'Canes were keeping Versteeg instead, Brett Ward from Moose Jaw might be available and he might be a good option, Brandon Lockerby and or Cameron Cepek might be available from the Oil Kings and I think I prefer Lockerby slightly between those two, Keith Seabrook might be an option from Calgary, Brandon might have Matt McCue or Chad Erb available and since we know Farwell loves big guys I wouldn't be surprised to see the 6'5" McCue wind up as a Tbird.


One Overage Spot Filled

Tbirds filled one of their overage spots this morning by announcing a trade for Left Wing Devon LeBlanc.

Seattle traded a conditional 5th round selection in the 2009 draft to the Raiders for the 1988 born native of Brandon, MB. No doubt the "condition" is that he makes the team but that seems to be a pretty solid bet. LeBlanc will be attending New York Rangers training camp this fall.

Last season with the Raiders LeBlanc had 17 goals and 14 assists, both career highs and he stands at 6'2" and is listed at 204 pounds.

This isn't the big splash move fans typically clamor for but LeBlanc is a good sized kid and certainly fills multiple needs as he plays wing and will be a 20 year old.

Seattle still has 2 overage spots remaining.


Season Preview Continued

Things changed last week with the contract signing of Greg Scott... I was prepared to start this season preview and just like that things went... POOF.

So let me continue by admitting this... things are going to change a lot more before the season starts but I'm going to forge ahead anyways just for the sake of arguments.

So today let's take a look at the 1st forward line.

With Greg Scott as good as gone two thirds of last season's line 1 is now gone and I think Lindsey Nielsen drops back to Line 2 to make room for a line that played together all of last season.

Left Wing - Prab Rai, 19 year old, 3rd season with the team, acquired: via trade with the Prince George Cougars for Chad Hohmann in 2006.

Prab returns as the Tbirds top play-maker from the 07-08 season as he led the team with 45 helpers. Rai was recently selected in the 5th round of the NHL entry draft by the Vancouver Canucks and has legitimate potential for a 30-50 and 80 point season. Most fans will scoff at the notion that Prab could become a 30 goal scorer... but most fans will also forget that Rai did not score the 1st of his 20 goals until the 29th game of the season. I personally think he can score at the rate he did in the final 44 games of the season which would project him as a 32 goal scorer. I'll stand by my prediction... I think Prab is a 30-50 guy this season.

Center - Jim O'Brien, 19 year old, 2nd season with the team, acquired: list player via Minnesota.

Jim O'Brien becomes the teams top Center and also the biggest threat to become the top goal scorer after the loss of Holloway and Scott. I expect Jimmy O to become a point per game player and finish around 35-40 on the season. Some might think this is also a bit optimistic until you look at the monthly splits from last season. After his initial adjustment to the WHL style of play O'Brien had 26 points over his final 23 regular season games. I expect this line to come together earlier this season and with Rai and Hickey providing the setup I think he becomes a 35 and possibly 40 goal scorer, though I admit that 40 goals might be a bit optimistic. Bud Holloway went from 27 goals to 43 in his 18 to 19 year old years and I expect O'Brien to be close.

Let's call the official projection 38 goals and 40 assists for 78 points.

Right Wing - David Richard, 19 year old, 4th season with the team, acquired: 2nd round selection in the 2004 Bantam Draft.

Richard could be the wild card of this line and also the team. If he scored 40 goals I wouldn't be shocked and if he scored 25 goals I wouldn't be shocked. Richard is another Seattle player who could make the "jump" as he also was a point per game player over his last 37 regular season games tallying 41 points. I could see Richard scoring only 25 goals if he ends up with bigger assist numbers and "his" goals going to either Rai or O'Brien but I can also see a kid who might also be a 40 goal scorer if the balance of scoring on this line tilted his way. Over those final 37 games Richard tallied 18 goals which would put him on a full season 35 goal pace. In this scenario we will split the difference and I'll put my official projection at 33 goals and 37 assists for an even 70 points.

Line 1

Rai - O'Brien - Richard

Rai - 30 goals, 50 assists, 80 points
O'Brien - 38 goals, 40 assists, 78 points
Richard - 33 goals, 37 assists, 70 points


Jackson and Scott get contracts

Wow... good thing I hadn't gotten too far in my season preview since I would have looked stupid putting Greg Scott on line 1.

Scott yesterday signs a 3 year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs, story can be found here. Big congratulations to Scott on the contract. To those on that outside this might have been a bit of a surprise but for those who have watched up close the improvement of this kid and how hard he works on the ice, you aren't real surprised. Unfortunately, for the Tbirds this is a huge hit to their roster. I do not expect Toronto to leave Scott with the Tbirds for his 20 year old season and this will leave Seattle with no 20 year old players on the roster.

Scott Jackson also signed a 3 year contract yesterday with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Jackson, who used up his WHL eligibility, was set to attend the University of Alberta but will now will likely head to their their AHL affiliate. Story can be found here.

Congrats to both players, who will be missed.


Training Camp only a couple of months away

Things are probably going to change a lot here as the season approaches with possible trades and the players who actually end up making the team... but I'm going to start taking a look at how this team might look going into the start of the season and what line combinations Coach Rob Sumner might be looking at.

Let's start with the Goaltenders because that is an easy one.

Starting Goaltender - Jacob DeSerres, 18 yr old, 3rd season with the team, acquired: 3rd round bantam draft 2005.

Jake will be Goaltender #1 for the Tbirds this season. A 3rd round draft pick of the Flyers in the recent NHL draft DeSerres will finally be given the proverbial "ball" and asked to run with it in 2008-09. As a 16 year old he mostly watched behind veteran Derek Yeomans and last season as a 17 year old shared the top spot with Riku Helenius though was likely considered goalie "1B" in that rotation. Jake will now get the chance to prove he can shoulder the load of 50 or more games and carry a team into the playoffs.

Backup Goaltender - Calvin Pickard, 16 year old, 1st season with the team, acquired: 2nd round bantam draft 2007.

The backup spot is slightly less solid but appears to be Calvin Pickard's job to lose. Pickard was arguably the most impressive goaltender in training camp last year as a 15 year old and it appears the Tbirds are ready to let him play understudy to DeSerres in 08-09. Pickard will likely be chosen for the U-17's in the winter to play for Team Canada Western which could pose a problem for a team that only recently traded for a 3rd listed goaltender.

#3 Goaltender - Kyle Jahraus, 18 year old, 1st season with the team, acquired: via trade with Tri-City

Jahraus is a bit of a wild card in this whole situation. He played in 2 games in relief for the Americans last year as a 17 year old and clearly the Americans had no intention of him backing up Chet Pickard for the upcoming season. Quite honestly... I don't know anything about this kid but I'm guessing Seattle acquired him to push Pickard in training camp for the backup position.

Summary... Expect Seattle to make another minor move for another goaltender and/or re-list Harrison May if he is available as Seattle could have a problem if Pickard goes to U-17's and DeSerres is invited to camp for Team Canada.

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