We have to consider the situation with the 20 year old players. Calvin Pickard will not be back. Dave Sutter will not be back as a "two-spotter" and I don't expect Braeden Laroque to be in the mix either. That leaves 4 players for 3 spots and I wouldn't be surprised to see all 4 come to camp and battle it out. Brad Deagle is pretty much a lock in my mind. Seattle will need some veteran presence on defense next season and Deagle logged some very good minutes for the Tbirds this season. Luke Lockhart is the captain and despite the lack of offensive production, I wouldn’t be very surprised if returned as captain next season. I know that some fans lament 20 year old captains that don't score a lot (see: Nielsen, Lindsay) but if you take a look around the WHL, you dont necessarily see a lot of 20 year old players leading the league in scoring. Yes, yes, I'm aware that Shinnimin lead the league in scoring and he was 20 years old, but following him was Stone (19), Rattie (18), Hughesman (20), Weal (19), Holland (19), Etem (19), St. Croix (18), Ferland (19) and Bartschi (19). Having a 20 year old who scores a ton is clearly beneficial, but often times if your 20 year old is that good, he’s playing in the AHL (see: Pickard, Calvin). I wouldn't say that Lockhart is a lock for the roster, but I would be very surprised if he didn’t make it back. That leaves Brendan Rouse and Chance Lund battling it out for the 3rd and final spot on the roster. Earlier in the year I thought Chance Lund was making a very good case for being the guy for that final spot but as the season wore on, Lund seemed to wear down and his point production slowed as well. He tallied 17 points in the first 24 games of the season and then only 15 points in the final 43 games. Rouse, who can kill penalties and is a responsible two way player and would project out to nearly the same point total as Lund over a 72 two game season. My best guess: Deagle for sure, Lockhart likely, Rouse tentatively, and Lund needing a big camp to prove he belongs on the team over Rouse.
There is reason for hope.... Connor Honey played inspired hockey after joining the team at mid-season and should only continue to improve. Branden Troock has loads of talent and just needs to figure out how to correctly use it. Seth Swenson was almost an afterthought in the Noebels deal and turned in 17 points in his 34 games with the Tbirds, including 10 goals. Jared Hauf didn't show much in the way of offensive prowess but showed that with improvement he should eventually turn into a shutdown top 2 defender. Shea Theodore is a work in progress and made plenty of 16 year old mistakes but also lead the team in assists, becoming the first Thunderbirds rookie to lead the team in assists since a guy named Thomas Hickey. Evan Wardley improved a ton over the course of the season and looks poised to grab a hold of a top 4 spot next season and become an intimidating physical force on the ice.
In the East, I think the Oil Kings are extremely tough and won't likely have very much trouble with Brandon (likely winner) to reach the Eastern Finals. Moose Jaw will have an extremely tough time with Medicine Hat and Emerson Etem and I think Medicine Hat will pull off an upset and reach the Eastern Finals where Edmonton will prevail to play the Winterhawks.