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Hockey Challenge 2014

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Training Camp Preview

Let’s get the party started. We have about 7 or 8 days before rookie camp begins, about 11 days before training camp starts, and less than two weeks from scrimmages. It’s time to fire this puppy up and start talking some hockey. I kept waiting for summer in Seattle to start and before I knew it… it was time for hockey again.
I’m going to do my best to patch together what the roster might look like at this point. Obviously there are going to be some surprises and there might even be a few mystery players that will show up at training camp who may or may not wind up on the roster.

Let’s start with the boys between the pipes.

Goaltenders – Calvin Pickard (19), Micheal Salmon (19), Matt Gibney? (18), Daniel Cotton (17), Justin Myles (16), Brad Rebagliati? (16), Nolan Kruizenga (15).

Pickard will be back for what will likely be his final season in Seattle. Picks seemed a bit rattled by not making Team Canada last winter and struggled in his return posting only a 4.16 GAA and .898 save % in the month of January before rebounding strong and finishing with a solid 3.13 and .913 in 8 games in March. He is the consummate professional, leader and competitor and I would expect nothing less than the finest season of his WHL career this year. I predict that Salmon likely won’t play for Seattle this season. I doubt that Seattle wants to carry him for another season as a 19 year old backup and I have to imagine that Salmon wants an opportunity to play somewhere. Either way, I’m betting that Salmon doesn’t break camp with the Birds. Gibney was at one time in camp with the Chilliwack (er..) Victoria Royals camp but I have no idea whether he will actually be in camp with the Birds. The backup job is probably Daniel Cotton’s to lose… and Seattle has draft pick Myles and listed player Rebagliati who might be in camp to push him. Expect Kruizenga to be in rookie camp.

Forwards – Burke Gallimore (20), Marcel Noebels (19), Luck Lockhart (19), Brendan Rouse (19), Chance Lund (19), Colin Jacobs (18), Jacob Doty (18), Mitch Elliot (18), Tyler Alos (18), Connor Sanvido (18), Justin Hickman (17), Branden Troock (17), Jetlan Houcher (17), Jayson Ness (17), Kyle Horsman (17), Stefan Burzan (17), James Neil (16), Daniel Wray (16), John Edwardh (16), Brad Lelievre (16), Ryan Gropp (15), Michal Holub (15), Carter Folk (15), Jordan Ross (15).

Gallimore, Noebels, Lockhart and Jacobs are expected to lead what “should” be an improved offensive attack. The “eye-ball” test for the Birds tells me that they are now much older than they have been in the past. There are a lot of 18 - 19 year olds on this roster now. Gallimore had a career high 70 points last season with 34 goals. I actually expect his goal total to rise and 40 goals should not be out of the question. The assists were a bit of a surprise and something around 30-35 should be a solid repeat for him and Seattle will need him to improve upon his -26 mark. Noebels returns for his sophomore season after a wonderful 54 point rookie campaign. Noebels flirted with the idea of staying in Germany but was likely told by Philadelphia to return to Seattle. 65-70 points are not out of the question for Noebels who possesses excellent vision and an above average hard and accurate shot. Lockhart and Jacobs both have the potential to be breakout scoring stars for Seattle. Lockhart started hot last year and wore down a little bit towards the end of the season. He will need to stay healthy and strong to improve on his 48 points and I’m not sure anyone on the team works harder than Luke. Jacobs was once considered possibly the best American player in his age group and perhaps being taken in the 4th round by Buffalo will place a very giant chip on his shoulder going into the season. Jacobs has loads of natural talent and if his speed and skating are improved over the summer… he is the type of player who could go from 44 points to 90 points… but he won’t do that until he learns to use his size to get to the net and pick up additional “dirty” points down low.

Rouse, Lund, Doty, Elliot, Alos, Sanvido, Burzan and Hickman all have something to prove this season to different degrees. Rouse is a good, solid, responsible defender. Lund and Elliot are too nice and need to play with an edge to make a bigger impact. Doty is a real diamond in the rough and if his skating ever improves he may have to trade fighting for scoring goals. Alos had a tough season after his 17 point rookie season but should bounce back with a better year. Sanvido might be on his last chance and needs to show something in camp. Hickman showed flashes last year and if given some additional minutes could give the team a really nice energy/checking guy on the 3rd line.

Ok ok… I’ve waited long enough… let’s talk about Troock. I have no idea what is going on with Troock. I really don’t. I think he has 40 point ability right out of the gate if he is healthy but that is a big question mark. If he is healthy and participates fully in training camp, we might have something. If he sits out part of training camp, we might be in for another lost year while he recovers from whatever has been ailing him.

For Houcher, Ness and Horsman this is probably their last real chance to make an impression and having a new coaching staff will help them get a clean slate. Neil and the rest of the 16 year old forwards will probably be fighting for one (maybe two) spots on the team as 16 year olds. Gropp and the 15’s will enjoy a wonderful time at rookie camp with a couple staying for main camp before making their way back home to prepare for their seasons.

One final side note on Alex Kerfoot (17). Kerfoot lit up the BCMMHL last season to the tune of 108 points in 38 games and at one point it was believed that he might come to Seattle for this season. I want to stress that this is a rumor… but the latest rumor I heard was that he would not report to Seattle and wanted to keep open the possibility of going the NCAA route. So while I don’t expect him to be in camp… you never know.

Defensemen – Kyle Verdino (20), Cason Machacek (20), Ryan Button (20), Dave Sutter (19), Erik Fleming (19), Austin Frank (18), Evan Wardley (17), John Dora (17) Jared Hauf (16), Taylor Green (16), Shea Theodore (16), Zach Douglas (16), Austin Douglas (15), Reid Fritzke (15), Mark Nelson (15).

Verdino and Machacek will most likely be your 20 year old defenders. I have listed Ryan Button here (and it would be great to have him) but I do not expect him back in Seattle this year. Machacek and Verdino are both physical stay at home guys who are willing to fight a little bit and should not be counted on to score much. Sutter came to the Tbirds last season as a very raw hockey player and struggled to use his 6’5” frame. By the end of the season I saw a very different player, his skating improved to the point where he was able to physically hit people and he even got into one scrap that he dominated. I’m not exactly sure where to place my realistic expectations for Sutter going into the season but I do expect him to be better than last season. Fleming saw his minutes decrease dramatically and quite honestly I’m not sure if the former 1st round pick will even make the team this year. He looked completely lost last year and maybe a new coaching staff can re-boot his programming and help him find his game again. If he doesn’t, it might be the end of the road for him. By the time Frank started playing regularly in February I was actually pleasantly surprised at what I saw. He is still very raw but he might be able to carve out some minutes in the 3rd pairing this year. Wardley probably has a good chance at making this team. He didn’t make it last year but he has been in camp for the past 3 seasons. I have heard that Dora might be coming to camp but I’m not sure on him yet. Hauf and Theodore are almost a lock to make the team. Theodore will likely see time on the Power Play immediately and even though Hauf is still a bit raw he should get regular minutes. Green might need another year before he is ready as he looked very unsure of himself last year when he played. If he has improved a bunch over the summer we might see three 16 year old defenders on the team this year. I don’t really have any idea on Douglas and the 15’s will have a nice time in rookie camp.

Doing the quick math, that only leaves me with 6 “sure-thing” defenders. Which means Fleming, Wardley, Dora or Green might be fighting for about two spots.

Erik Bonsor chose to not come back for his 20 year old season and Mitch Spooner announced on his twitter that he was released by the Tbirds and appeared headed to Portland camp.

Despite the trades for Verdino and Machacek the Tbirds appear to still be woefully short on defenders for the upcoming season. I expect that one or a couple of the forwards they have will be dealt for more defensive help. If Troock is healthy it would go a long ways towards making a few of the forwards tradable assets. I will be tweeting from Training Camp when I can get down there. My softball team won a State Championship this past weekend and will be at Regionals next weekend, but I will make it down there when I can to provide some observations.


Kevin said...

Nice write up Tyler. Thanks!

Did the TBirds publish when and where training camp will be held?

Thunnex said...

I know they are working on the schedule and I would have to imagine that they will be releasing a schedule in the next couple of days or by early next week.

Kodi said...

I like the fact that all the players will be going in to camp without the assumption that they have a spot on the team. New coaches want to make a team of players that they choose are the best so there aren't going to be any favorites.

(Yes there are obvious locks but I think we may see more movement then people are expecting)

Nikan said...

Good to see you around again for another season. Thanks for the great preview.

Congrats on the Softball. Good luck in the tourney.

Jon said...

Burzan no longer on the roster?

Thunnex said...

Ahh yes Burzan should be around, I will make a correction. I need an editor!

Anonymous said...

Connor Honey was added to the 50 PPL last spring. Still on the list according to Alan Caldwell. Will he be at camp? Had a solid season back in Edmonton. 17 yr old: 24g 32a in 34 games with his AMHL team.

Anonymous said...

The defense is really a concern for me after seeing Tyler put names to paper, hopefully Frank and Fleming step up or Calvin is going to be in for another tough season.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Tyler I always love to hear what you have to say. Congrats on your team making it to Regionals!

Anonymous said...

I think that a simple look at the roster indicates what the Thunderbirds are going to do in order to shore up the defense. We are stocked at the Center position and have a goaltender that has some decent potential in the trade market. A package deal for Salmon and one of (Alos/Rouse/Hickman) in exchange for a D-Man seems most logical. That said, I do like the moves that they've already made to bring in a couple of solid defenders.

Anonymous said...

Well, such a move (Mitch Topping was available and Tri got him) was there for the taking and the T-birds didn't bite or weren't willing to pay the price, so maybe they are satisfied with their d-men or are content to give a lot of ice time to the young guys and develop them for next season and beyond.

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