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PROMOTIONS, ULE, SEASON SCHED ATION, TICKET INFORM & MORE!


LET’S SKATE Kent Valley Hockey Assoc.’s

LEARN TO PLAY HOCKEY No skating experience necessary. Full equipment rental available. Certified USA Hockey instructors will teach basic skills of skating, stick handling, passing and shooting.

Practices are on Sunday afternoons and run thru the end of March

ENROLL TODAY Space is limited.

253-850-2400 x-14 www.kentvalleyhockey.com BIRTHDAY PARTY PACKAGES

ICE CENTER OPEN DAILY! PUBLIC SESSIONS BIRTHDAY PARTIES STICK & PUCK (Drop in Hockey) ON THE EDGE CAFE & SPORTS BAR PRO SHOP BATTING CAGES MINIATURE GOLF

Go to www.familynightout.com or call 253-850-2400 for current schedule

HOLIDAY ICE SKATING SESSIONS

On Holidays whenever the Kent School district is not in class. Next Holiday Sessions are:

Fri.

10/9 Columbus Day .................. 12pm-4:30pm Sun. 12/27 Holiday Skate ................... 12pm-5:00pm

Fri.

11/6 Teacher Planning Day ...... 12pm-4:30pm Mon. 12/28-Thur. 12/31 Winter Break12pm-4:30pm

Wed. 11/11 Veterans Day .................. 12pm-4:30pm Thur. 12/31 Skate the “New Year In On Ice” New Years Eve ................................9pm-1am Thurs. 11/26 Thanksgiving Day ........... 12pm-4:30pm

Starting from

$148.31

11/27 Drop off to Shop ............ 12pm-4:30pm Fri. 1/1 New Year’s Day Holiday Skate...12pm-6pm Mon. 12/21-Fri. 12/24 Winter Break 12pm-4:30pm Mon. 1/18 Martin Luther King Day..... 12pm-4:30pm Fri. 12/25 Christmas Day ........................1pm-5pm Wed. 1/27 School Break .................... 12pm-4:30pm Fri.

(Plus tax)

for up to 10 people Deluxe Package can include pizza, hot dogs, lessons and/or a Private Party room.

Sat. 12/26 Holiday Skate ................. 11:30am-3pm Mon. 2/15-Fri. 2/19 President’s Week12pm-4:30pm (subjust to change)

$30 OFF

LEARN TO PLAY HOCKEY Must present coupon.

43% OFF MINI GOLF ONE FREE BATTING TOKEN CHOOSE BETWEEN TWO OPTIONS:

WITH PURCHASE OF A 6 TOKEN PACKAGE

ENROLL NOW!

$9 for one round of MINI GOLF for two ($15.70 value) $18 for one round of MINI GOLF for four ($31.40 value)

BATTING CAGES

Not valid with any other offer. Must present coupon Limit 1 per customer. Expires 1/10/16 Photocopies or electronic print NOT accepted. Kent Valley Ice Centre 253-850-2400

Not valid with any other offer. Must present coupon Limit 1 per customer. Expires 5/31/16 Photocopies or electronic print NOT accepted. Kent Valley Ice Centre 253-850-2400

Not valid with any other offer. Must present coupon Limit 1 per customer. Expires 3/31/16 Photocopies or electronic print NOT accepted. Kent Valley Ice Centre 253-850-2400

$50 OFF

ANY BIRTHDAY PARTY Must present coupon on or before date of party.

$40 OFF

LEARN TO SKATE BEGINNER CLASSES Now Enrolling!

Not valid with any other offer. Must present coupon Limit 1 per customer. Expires 3/31/16 Photocopies or electronic print NOT accepted. Kent Valley Ice Centre 253-850-2400

Not valid with any other offer. Must present coupon Limit 1 per customer. Expires 1/10/16 Photocopies or electronic print NOT accepted. Kent Valley Ice Centre 253-850-2400

Each token = 20 pitches

ONE FREE ADMISSION

PURCHASE ONE REGULAR PUBLIC ADMISSION,

GET ONE FREE Skate Rental Extra.

Not valid with any other offer. Must present coupon Limit 1 per customer. Expires 12/31/15 Photocopies or electronic print NOT accepted. Kent Valley Ice Centre 253-850-2400

Valid on admission, skate rental,Pro Shop & Café purchase.

Buy By Phone or Online! Call 253-850-2400 x19 6015 South 240th St • Kent WA On James Street 3 minutes west of the ShoWare Center – Home of the Seattle Thunderbirds

www.familynightout.com • 253-850-2400

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2015-2016 FAN GUIDE

www.seattlethunderbirds.com

1397414

Gift Cards Available!


Welcome

to Kent!

watch this season. The T-Birds return five defensemen this season from their stalwart defensive corps last season. Donovan Neuls, Nolan Volcan, Alexander True and Kaden Elder, all rookies last season, are going to be important T-Birds in their second season.

…and to Seattle Thunderbirds hockey and a winning 2015-2016 season as the T-Birds pursue the coveted “Memorial Cup”!

This is surely going to be another exciting season at ShoWare Center! Four T-Birds were selected this summer in the NHL Draft; Returning this year is the Mathew Barzal (New York T-Birds’ popular 2-for-Tuesday Islanders), Ryan Gropp (New York Mayor Suzette Cooke promotion, where fans can enjoy Rangers), Ethan Bear (Edmonton 2-for-1 tickets along with $2 Oilers) and Keegan Kolesar concession specials! (Columbus Blue Jackets)… all top NHL prospects playing for the T-Birds this season. If you’re a new visitor to ShoWare Center, you Third year center Scott Eansor just took part should know we are very proud of this 6 yearin the Team USA World Junior Championship old state-of-the-art arena. The 6,125 seats, Development Camp and will be a player to twenty suites, and incredible club seating

section have unmatched hockey sightlines throughout. While you’re in town, grab a bite at Kent Station, a contemporary, open air urban village with a variety of options for pre and post-game gatherings, but don’t leave your car there during an event as they will be towed. Walk a couple blocks south of the Center to discover the charm of historic downtown Kent where even more entertainment and dining choices await you. Go Birds!

Suzette Cooke Mayor, City of Kent

Go T-BIRDS!

Enroll today! Bachelor’s Degree in Application Development

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Contact: Student Success Center at (425) 235-5840 3000 NE 4th St Renton, WA 98056

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Find us on:

Renton Technical College provides equal opportunity in education and employment and complies with applicable laws prohibiting discrimination and harassment. For inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies, contact: Executive Director of Human Resources, 3000 NE 4th Street, Renton, WA 98056, (425) 235-7873. To receive this information in an alternative format, please contact Disability Support Services at: (425) 235-2352 ext. 5705.

2015-2016 FAN GUIDE

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*Data provided by the Employment Security Department’s May 2015 Employer Demand Report

www.seattlethunderbirds.com

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By Andy Eide, 710 ESPN Seattle Jamal Watson is new to the Seattle Thunderbirds this season but the 20-year-old forward is no stranger to the ShoWare Center. Playing for the Lethbridge Hurricanes last year, Watson had a big game against the T-Birds in Kent on February 20. He had two assists and a crazy short-handed goal on a play where he raced for a loose puck in the Seattle end and somehow flipped it high in the air over Taran Kozun and into the Seattle net. “I remember it was a set play on the PK where they flip it up in the air and I chase it down,” Watson says of that goal. “I remember I didn’t even see where the puck went, it was a pretty outrageous goal.” Watson may not remember seeing the puck go into the net, but he does remember the crowd at the ShoWare Center that night. “It was unbelievable,” he says of the fans. “Being the opposing team, it was a little tough; there was a little more hostility than in Canada. But if they’re on your side you appreciate fans like that. They get excited and enjoy watching guys compete hard.” That crowd will be on his side this season after Seattle picked up the 20-year-old in a trade over the summer for Corey Millette. Watson had spent his previous four seasons with the Hurricanes and now is adjusting to new team for the first time in his junior hockey career. He’s excited to be part of a strong team – one that has some lofty goals. “The intensity here is top notch,” Watson says. “There’s a competitive nature with this team, we have so much talent up front and on the back end. There’s competition everywhere which is awesome to see.” Coming to Seattle is in many ways a breath

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of fresh air for Watson. He didn’t see many wins in his four years with the Hurricanes – the team didn’t manage more than 29 wins during his time there – and he’s ready to change that in Seattle. Watson says he’s looking forward to being part of team that expects to win each and every night. He’s one of the fastest players in the WHL, plays hard and is not afraid to get physical. Look for him to be strong on the forecheck with the potential to be a break out type of player for the T-Birds. He potted 26 goals last year on a team that struggled and was second in scoring with 54 points. Growing up in Calgary he says he definitely enjoyed the NHL’s Flames and superstar Jarome Iginla. Beyond Calgary he claims the Colorado Avalanche and Joe Sakic as among his favorites while growing up. The only player on the Seattle roster he knew prior to arriving in Kent was fellow Calgary native Jared Hauf. He’s quick to point out that it wasn’t hard to know about guys like Mathew Barzal, Ryan Gropp and Keegan Kolesar just by watching them. He still remembers how tough those guys were to play from that game in February. “I remember Barzal had like four assists that game,” he said. “It was unbelievable to see the talent they had here.” As the T-Birds found out last year, Watson will give them another strong penalty killer – something he feels is a strong part of his game. “I’ve gotten better at it every year,” he says about killing penalties. “I had a few shorthanded goals just using my speed and reading plays. It’s something I’ve really worked on and taken pride in.” Watson was invited to the Montreal Canadians development and rookie camps this year, something he says was an unbelievable honor. While he enjoyed wearing the sweater of an original-six team, he also

2015-2016 FAN GUIDE

isn’t satisfied yet and earning a pro contract is still his ultimate goal. Along with the speed, power and hard work that Watson will give the T-Birds, he’s also a leader. While with the Hurricanes last year he was named the team captain. As a 20-year-old he will most likely be a big part of the T-Birds leadership group. So far, he’s impressed with the leadership group already here. “There are so many leaders on this team, it’s unbelievable,” he says of his new team. “I know they were young last year but guys have matured over the summer. They came in with the right attitude.” Watson plays the game with the right attitude as well and should be a great fit for the T-Birds. Entering his last year in a junior career in which he has not experienced a lot of winning, he’s ready to start now. “I know we have the talent for it and we’ve got to be able to back it up with hard work,” he says. “We have four lines, guys who can score and play. We can use our speed and skill to take over games but we’ve got to be strong on the defensive zone first.” For Thunderbirds updates all season long, follow Andy on Twitter @andyeide mynorthwest.com/category/thunderbirds/

2015 2016 seattle thunderbirds

fan guide

a special supplement of Sound Publishing and Kent Reporter publisher POLLY SHEPHERD advertising NICOLE SCHULTES MARIE SKOOR LISA YASKUS design JULIE BLACK KENT

REPORTER

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Jamal Watson

is ready to win


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2015-2016 FAN GUIDE

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With a roster full of NHL talent the sky is the limit for the T-Birds By Tim Pigulski, 710 ESPN Seattle For the first time since 2003, the Seattle Thunderbirds had at least four players selected in the NHL Entry Draft. Unlike professional football or basketball, players become eligible to be drafted for the first time by an NHL team the year they turn 18 years old. Once they’re selected, draftees are able to return to their Major Junior club to hone their skills before entering the professional ranks full time. Even though the Thunderbirds had more players picked in the 2001 and 2003 drafts, the ceiling for this year’s class may be higher than either. Not only were four Seattle players selected -- more than any other U.S. Division team -- but a few of them were picked relatively early, with different NHL clubs showing so much interest that they were willing to trade valuable assets to move up in the draft to acquire the guy they sought. The first Thunderbird to come off the board was Mathew Barzal, a playmaking center from Coquitlam, British Columbia, whom the New York Islanders traded up to number 16 to grab. Prior to last season, many pundits would have had Barzal going in the first ten or even five picks, but an unfortunate knee injury forced him to miss a significant amount of time.

Following Barzal, the Big Apple’s other team, the Rangers, traded up to pick number 41 to select T-Birds left wing Ryan Gropp. A Kamloops, British Columbia native, Gropp is a big forward at 6-foot-3 and possesses top notch speed and an elite shot.

going as early as late in the second round, and some had him dropping all the way down to the fifth. The latter can likely be attributed to the broken arm he suffered at the end of the season that kept him out of the playoffs.

After Barzal went down with injury last year, Gropp stepped up and helped shoulder much of the offensive load. It’s a difficult task to ask a player to increase his offensive output while one of the league’s best playmakers is sitting in the stands with an injury, but that’s exactly what Gropp was able to do.

“I was watching each pick closely, waiting to see where the other guys went,” said Kolesar. “It was exciting to see Barzal and Gropp get picked, and I was ecstatic when Columbus called my name.”

With another grueling 72-game regular season about to commence, Gropp feels more prepared than ever to handle the rigors of a season that lasts approximately half the year. “The biggest thing I learned [at Rangers development camp] is how to take care of your body,” said the left-handed shooting wing. “Everybody in the league is so skilled and there isn’t a huge difference between the top guys and everyone else. The biggest thing is that guys know what to eat, how to train, and how to prevent injuries.”

Despite the injury, Barzal returned to the ice after two months off and looked like he hadn’t missed a beat.

Twenty-eight picks later, Keegan Kolesar came off the board, as the Columbus Blue Jackets used their third round choice on the 6-foot-2 wing from Winnipeg, Manitoba.

“The wait was nerve-wracking,” said Barzal about his draft experience. “I didn’t know where I was going to go.” You hear all different things beforehand. Some people said between five and ten, some said somewhere around 15. You never know what’s going to happen.”

Going into the draft, Kolesar’s position may have been the biggest question mark of any of the T-Birds waiting to be selected. Some projections had him

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The Blue Jackets, however, recognized Kolesar’s natural talent, strength, and work ethic and weren’t about to let him slip past them.

The fourth T-Bird to come off the board was Ethan Bear, who became the Edmonton Oilers’ fifth round pick, number 124 overall. Along with Barzal, Bear was in attendance at the draft in Sunrise, Florida accompanied by a large contingent of family members. When his name was called, it was impossible to miss the roar from the stands as he approached the draft floor to get his hat and jersey from Oilers General Manager Peter Chiarelli. CONTINUED ON PAGE 16

Photo: Brian Liesse/Seattle Thunderbirds

www.seattlethunderbirds.com


SUITE /

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CONCESSIONS FIRST AID

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THE HOCKEY STORE DOORS

CONCESSIONS

Free Parking Is available both onsite at ShoWare Center as well as in lots in close walking distance throughout downtown Kent. Additional free parking is available across James Street at the Regional Justice Center Garage after 6:00 PM, and at the James Street Park & Ride. There is no event parking permitted at Kent Station, at Kent Commons or in the North Park Neighborhood.

2015-2016 FAN GUIDE

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Alexander True

Brandon Schuldhaus

Donovan Neuls

Ethan BEAR

Gustav Olhaver

Position: Center

Position: Defense

Position: Center

Position: Defense

Position: Left Wing

Shoots: Left

Shoots: Left

Shoots: Left

Shoots: Right

Shoots: Left

Height: 6’4.5

Height: 6’3.5

Height: 5’10

Height: 5’11.5

Height: 6’7

Weight: 196

Weight: 200

Weight: 181

Weight: 197

Weight: 220

Birthday: July 17, 1997

Birthday: February 23, 1998

Birthday: October 24, 1997

Birthday: July 3, 1997

Hometown: Copenhagen, DEN

Hometown: Calgary, AB

Hometown: Grenfell, SK

Birthday: June 26, 1997

NHL Draft: Eligible 2016

NHL Draft: Eligible 2016

NHL Draft: Eligible 2016

How Acquired: Selected by T-Birds in 1st round, 48th overall in 2014 Import Draft.

How Acquired: Drafted, 5th round, 103rd overall, in 2012.

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Hometown: Angelholm, SWE

Hometown: Ochapowace, SK

How Acquired: Drafted, 8th round, 157th overall in 2012.

NHL Draft: By the Edmonton Oilers in 5th round, 124th overall, in 2015 NHL Draft.

NHL Draft: By the Colorado Avalanche in 7th round, 191st overall, in the 2015 NHL Draft.

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2015-2016 FAN GUIDE

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Jamal Watson

Jared Hauf

Jarret Tyszka

Jerret Smith

Kaden Elder

Position: Right Wing

Position: Defense

Position: Defense

Position: Defense

Position: Center

Shoots: Right

Shoots: Left

Shoots: Left

Shoots: Right

Shoots: Right

Height: 5’11.5

Height: 6’5

Height: 6’2.5

Height: 6’2.5

Height: 5’9.5

Weight: 181

Weight: 224

Weight: 190

Weight: 212

Weight: 172

Birthday: January 14, 1995

Birthday: March 6, 1995

Birthday: March 15, 1999

Birthday: March 16, 1998

Hometown: Calgary, AB

Hometown: Calgary, AB

Hometown: Langley, BC

Birthday: April 21, 1995

NHL Draft: Free Agent

NHL Draft: Eligible 2017

How Acquired: Drafted, 1st round, 4th overall, in 2010.

How Acquired: Drafted, 1st round, 16th overall, in 2014.

NHL Draft: Free Agent How Acquired: Listed by T-Birds in 2011.

How Acquired: Drafted, 1st round, 22nd overall, in 2013.

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NHL Draft: Free Agent How Acquired: From Lethbridge Hurricanes for Corey Millette and a sixth round selection in the 2016 Bantam Draft on May 15, 2015.

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Hometown: Surrey, BC

www.seattlethunderbirds.com

Hometown: Saskatoon, SK NHL Draft: Eligible 2016

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Keegan Kolesar

Logan Flodell

Luke Osterman

Mackenzie Wight

Mathew Barzal

Position: Right Wing

Position: Goalie

Position: Right Wing

Position: Center

Position: Center

Shoots: Right

Shoots: Right

Shoots: Right

Shoots: Right

Shoots: Right

Height: 6’1.5

Height: 5’11

Height: 6’0.5

Height: 6’0

Height: 6’0

Weight: 218

Weight: 163

Weight: 189

Weight: 172

Weight: 187

Birthday: April 8, 1997

Birthday: February 10, 1997

Birthday: June 20, 1997

Birthday: March 26, 1997

Hometown: Winnipeg, MB

Hometown: Regina, SK

Hometown: Stillwater, MN

Birthday: February 4, 1999 Hometown: Chilliwack, BC

NHL Draft: Eligible 2016

NHL Draft: Eligible 2016

NHL Draft: Eligible 2017

How Acquired: Drafted in 3rd round, 47th overall, in 2012.

How Acquired: Drafted, 8th round, 167th overall, in 2012.

How Acquired: Drafted, 7th round, 149th overall, in 2014.

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NHL Draft: By the Columbus Blue Jackets in 3rd round, 69th overall, in the 2015 NHL Draft. How Acquired: Drafted, 1st round, 20th overall, in 2012.

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Hometown: Coquitlam, BC NHL Draft: By the New York Islanders in 1st round, 16th overall, in 2015 NHL Draft. How Acquired: Drafted, 1st round, 1st overall, in 2012.

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2015-2016 FAN GUIDE

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Matthew Wedman

Nick Holowko

Nolan Volcan

Ryan Gropp

Ryan Gilchrist

Position: Center

Position: Left Wing

Position: Left Wing

Position: Left Wing

Position: Goalie

Shoots: Left

Shoots: Left

Shoots: Left

Shoots: Left

Shoots: Left

Height: 6’1.5

Height: 6’0.5

Height: 5’9

Height: 6’2.5

Height: 6’4

Weight: 189

Weight: 186

Weight: 194

Weight: 189

Weight: 183

Birthday: May 25, 1999

Birthday: June 26, 1997

Birthday: July 4, 1998

Birthday: September 16, 1996

Birthday: May 21, 1998

Hometown: Kamloops, BC

Hometown: McLaughlin, AB

NHL Draft: By the New York Rangers in 2nd round, 41st overall, in 2015 Draft.

NHL Draft: Eligible 2016

Hometown: Edmonton, AB NHL Draft: Eligible 2017

Hometown: Beurnaby, BC

Hometown: Edmonton, AB NHL Draft: Eligible 2016

How Acquired: Drafted, 2nd round, 38th overall, in 2014.

NHL Draft: Eligible 2016 How Acquired: Listed by T-Birds, in 2012.

How Acquired: Drafted, 2nd round, 27th overall, in 2013.

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How Acquired: Drafted, 1st round, 6th overall, in 2011.

How Acquired: Signed WHL Player Agreement in February 2015

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2015-2016 FAN GUIDE

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Sahvan Khaira

Scott Eansor

Taz Burman

Turner Ottenbreit

Wyatt Bear

Position: Defense

Position: Center

Position: Goalie

Position: Defense

Position: Right Wing

Shoots: Right

Shoots: Left

Shoots: Left

Shoots: Left

Shoots: Right

Height: 6’3.5

Height: 5’8.5

Height: 6’0

Height: 6’3

Height: 6’0.5

Weight: 218

Weight: 172

Weight: 167

Weight: 192

Weight: 227

Birthday: January 2, 1998

Birthday: January 3, 1996

Birthday: February 16, 1997

Birthday: July 9, 1997

Birthday: May 2, 1999

Hometown: Surrey, BC

Hometown: Englewood, CO

Hometown: Vancouver, BC

Hometown: Yorkton, SK

Hometown: Hodgson, MB

NHL Draft: Eligible 2016

NHL Draft: Eligible 2016

NHL Draft: Eligible 2016

NHL Draft: Eligible 2016

NHL Draft: Eligible 2017.

How Acquired: Drafted, 9th round, 181st overall, in 2013.

How Acquired: Signed by T-Birds to WHL Standard Player Agreement May 13, 2013.

How Acquired: From the Red Deer Rebels for Lane Pederson and a conditional fifth round selection in the 2017 Bantam Draft on August 5, 2015.

How Acquired: From the Saskatoon Blades for Adam Henry on September 29, 2014.

How Acquired: Drafted in 5th round, 102nd overall, in 2014.

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2015-2016 FAN GUIDE

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T-Birds Benefitting From 2012 Bantam Draft By Thom Buening, T-Birds play-by-play voice There are a lot of high expectations placed on this season’s edition of the Seattle Thunderbirds, and why not? The core members of this year’s team are going into their third season together. This group, that includes veterans Jerret Smith and Jared Hauf, along with younger stars such as Mathew Barzal, Scott Eansor, Ethan Bear and Ryan Gropp, have won a combined 79 games the past two seasons while fighting through some significant injuries to its top players. Expectations hoped for and expectations realized are two different things. The games are played on ice and not on paper but there should be no reason not to expect the same level of success for this season, if not more, then was achieved over the past two seasons. These players have spent the last two years together learning how to win at this level. It’s time to take those lessons learned and push higher. The heart of this year’s version of the Thunderbirds has its roots in the 2012 WHL Bantam draft. This draft yielded seven players currently on the T-Birds roster, five Seattle drafted and two more they acquired via trade. In fact five of the first 47 players selected in that draft are now Thunderbirds; Mathew Barzal, Keegan Kolesar, Ethan Bear, Taz Burman and Logan Flodell. They are not the only 1997 born players on the roster though. There are a half dozen more in Donovan Neuls, Luke Osterman, Turner Ottenbreit, Nick Holowko and Import Draft picks Alexander True and Gustav Olhaver. But that list might be a lot different, and certainly a little shorter had two things not happened before the 2012 Bantam Draft unfolded in May of that year. One was a little bit of luck but the other was having the vision to look toward the future during a 2011-12 season that wasn’t going as planned. The luck was winning the draft lottery. Originally the T-Birds, who finished that season at 25-451-1 and out of the playoff picture, had the third overall pick in the draft. A few weeks before the draft though, Seattle’s ping pong ball came up at the draft lottery and allowed them to move up two spots and select first overall. Seattle used that

pick to draft Barzal, the consensus top talent for the 2012 draft. Obviously without winning that lottery Seattle would not have been able to draft Barzal and although the 2012 Bantam Draft was considered deep with talent, there’s no telling what direction the franchise would have gone, having to choose another player. Barzal is the type of talent you build a contending team around. The foresight occurred a few months prior. Seattle was mired near the basement of the Western Conference standings, fighting for the eighth and final playoff spot that they would eventually lose out on by a mere two points. In January of that season, at the WHL trade deadline, General Manager Russ Farwell made a last minute decision to send Marcel Noebels down I-5 to Portland. The previous season Noebels had posted a 28 goal campaign as an 18 year old WHL rookie, second best on the team. In 31 games before the 2012 trade deadline, he had compiled 24 points, including ten goals and had participated in international competition for his native Germany. Keeping Noebels would have given Seattle a better chance at earning that eighth and final playoff spot. But there was no guarantee that would happen and the team that did eventually finish eighth, Everett, was quickly dispatched from the postseason in Round One by a Portland team that would come up just one win short of the WHL title. It was probably a similar fate to what awaited the T-Birds had they grabbed that final playoff spot that spring. At the time, Farwell believed the upcoming 2012 Bantam Draft would be one of the deepest in recent memory. He could hang on to Noebels and hope for a playoff spot and a quick exit from the postseason or he could parlay one of his better assets into extra draft picks and build for the future. He chose the latter, sending Noebels to the Winterhawks in exchange for Seth Swenson and two first round Bantam Draft picks, one in 2012 and one in 2013. After picking Barzal with the first overall pick, Farwell used his second first round draft choice that year to select Keegan Kolesar with the second to last pick of Round One. Then with his own second round pick, early in round two, he nabbed

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defenseman Ethan Bear. All three of those players went on to be chosen in the 2015 NHL draft this past June. Without that second first round selection though, Farwell may not have gotten either Kolesar or Bear in that draft. It’s possible that had Portland held onto that pick or traded it to another team the order the players were drafted at the end of round one gets altered and Seattle has to change its draft strategy when their second round pick came up. But by making one trade, Farwell was able to reel in a couple of important building blocks in Kolesar and Bear. Similarly, the following spring he would use the second of those two first round picks obtained from Portland to draft Kaden Elder. He then use his own second round 2013 draft pick on Nolan Volcan, making it two more key pieces to this season’s team. Again, without that second first rounder, the draft could have been altered so that neither of those players were available to Seattle. How different might this year’s team be had these two events not occurred? While they seem unrelated, they are very much connected. Had the Thunderbirds held on to Noebels, and with him earned one more win down the stretch, they very likely would have made the postseason. Had they made the playoffs they would not have been included in the draft lottery that only involves non-playoff teams. The highest they would have drafted then would have been seventh overall, which would have put them out of the running for Barzal. They also wouldn’t have had the extra pick to select Kolesar. As for Noebels, he finished out that season with Portland, helping them to the WHL Finals where they fell in seven games to Edmonton. The next season he turned pro and moved on from the WHL. So, in the end Seattle traded a half season of Noebels and in return got a season and a half from Swenson and, so far, a combined three seasons (and counting) of Kolesar and Elder. If the Thunderbirds end up having the season so many expect from then, it could be because they were willing to miss out on an immediate short term gain in exchange for future long term success. Thom Beuning is the radio play-by-play voice of the Seattle Thunderbirds. This season Thom can be heard calling all games on 1090 The Fan. thombeuningsinthecorners.blogspot.com/

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Barzal and Gropp Lead Thunderbirds Offense By Anthony Dion 1090 The Fan

clicking . . . We want to be together and we want to show that we can be a top line in this league.”

As the regular season came to a close in March, Seattle head coach Steve Konowalchuk tinkered with his lines. Needing to jump start the offense and get a slumping Ryan Gropp more involved (one goal in his previous 10 games), he paired the lanky 6-foot-2, 189-pound left wing with Mathew Barzal, the team’s top center, on the second line.

For his part, Barzal expects to play a good portion of minutes alongside Gropp once again this season.

The pairing was an immediate success. Gropp produced his most productive games of the season in games 71 and 72 as Seattle picked up victories over Spokane and Portland to close the regular season. Gropp scored four goals in the 7-2 win over the Chiefs on March 20 and returned the following night with three points, including a pair of goals, in a 6-3 win against the rival Winterhawks. At the forefront of Gropp’s resurgence was Barzal. The 6-foot, 187-pound center and recent first-round draft choice of the NHL’s New York Islanders assisted on five of Gropp’s six goals over those final two games. The duo continued to play well together in the first-round playoff series versus Portland. Despite falling in six games, both Gropp (a goal and seven assists) and Barzal (four goals and four assists) tallied eight points to lead Seattle’s scoring. Konowalchuk hopes that production from his top two offensive scoring threats carries into the 201516 season. After all, Seattle is looking to replace the production of four of its top scorers from last season and big seasons from Gropp and Barzal aren’t merely hoped for, they are vital to the team’s prospects. “The way they finished last year and through the playoffs, they’re both a step better,” said Konowalchuk. “They came in with the right conditioning and mentality. I’m definitely planning on starting the year (with them on the same line) and then it’s up to them to make sure they have high standards for themselves when they’re together to keep (the pairing) together.” Barzal and Gropp believe their success lies in a natural chemistry. The 18-year-old Barzal is a pass-first center with elite vision and feel. Gropp, approaching his 19th birthday, is a winger with speed and a quick release. He looks to score from all areas of the ice, making Barzal the perfect linemate. “We work well together,” Gropp said. “I think towards the end of the season we were really

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“I don’t see why we shouldn’t,” Barzal said. “I love playing with him . . . I’m a passer and a good skater and he’s a fast, down-thewall winger who can score. I think those two types of players complement each other really well and that’s where the chemistry comes from.” With the departures of Shea Theodore, Justin Hickman and Roberts Lipsbergs, both Barzal and Gropp realize a larger responsibility falls on their respective shoulders. As the two enter their 18 and 19-year-old seasons respectively, they not only understand that inevitability, they embrace it. “That’s our goal,” Gropp said. “Obviously, we want to show that we can play together, we can play those big minutes and be a line that is going to be relied upon to score goals. “We’re going to push ourselves really hard to be go-to guys and carry the team offensively.” While Gropp led Seattle with 30 goals and 58 points, it was Barzal who averaged over a point a game with 57 points in 44 regular-season contests. Considering the numbers and the aforementioned losses, Barzal is aware a large focus will be on him in his third year with the franchise.

to have the support around Barzal and Gropp to challenge opponents with all four lines. “I’ll tell you what, I really know and believe that we’ve got some depth at forward that . . . can really step up,” said Konowalchuk. Konowalchuk pointed to veteran forwards Jamal Watson, a 20-year-old acquired in the offseason after scoring 26 goals with Lethbridge, as well as Eansor. There’s also an expectation from the coaching staff of improvement for a host of second-year players, namely Alexander True, Nolan Volcan and Donovan Neuls. The Thunderbirds made the playoffs for a third consecutive season last year while playing 11 rookies. Thus, much loftier expectations greet their return. Getting league average goaltending from an inexperienced trio looking to replace Taran Kozun may be the only thing standing in Seattle’s way from a deep playoff run. Its talented young center wants nothing less. “The Memorial Cup is the only thing I want this year,” said Barzal. “I don’t really care about how many points I have. I want to go deep in the playoffs and go on a run. I’m sick of getting out in the first and second round. “I think we have the team to do it this year. Anything short of going to the WHL Championship or Memorial Cup, I think I’ll be kicking myself.” For Thunderbirds updates all season long, follow Anthony on Twitter @anthonydion03

“I think I had a bit of that last year with Theodore,” Barzal said of being a focal point of Seattle’s offense. “I think we’re going to have a lot of guys who are going to have breakout seasons. I think (Scott) Eansor is going to have a huge season this year. Obviously, I want to have one as well. If I come to play every night, the offense will take care of itself.” Key cogs certainly, but as coach Konowalchuk noted, Seattle hopes

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CONTINUED FROM PAGE 6

Despite the long wait, which Bear acknowledges was a bit longer than he expected, he was still able to relax and enjoy the entire experience with those closest to him by his side. “I enjoyed it a lot and was just waiting for my name,” said the Ochapowace, Saskatchewan native. “It took a little bit longer than I expected but I still enjoyed the experience.” Known as a player who is a positive presence in the locker room and refuses to dwell on the negative, Bear will continue to put in the work and effort necessary to help him reach the next level. For someone with his attitude, working closely with an NHL coaching staff at development camp is particularly beneficial. “I learned all of my strengths and weaknesses,” said Bear of his experience at the Oilers’ development camp. “They taught me about the little things in my game. How to take angles, when and where to shoot, skating and agility -- lots I can do to improve my own game.” Five other T-Birds currently on the roster also had the privilege of attending a development or training camp with an NHL team. Gustav Olhaver, who Seattle took in the CHL’s annual Import Draft, joined the Colorado Avalanche after they selected him with their seventh round pick. Jerret Smith and Turner Ottenbreit joined Gropp at Rangers camp, while Scott Eansor was able to showcase his abilities for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Newly-acquired Jamal Watson attended development camp with the Montreal Canadiens. The upcoming year is a big one for the T-Birds. Expectations are high as this is the deepest and most talented roster this team has had in years. Speed, strength, leadership, experience, chemistry -- this team has it all in bunches. For Barzal, someone who has seen success at every level he’s played, the bar has never been higher. “I know there’s expectations. My goal this year is to win a Memorial Cup. I want to be a winner. We’ve made it to the second round, but that’s not good enough this year. We’re a team that thinks we have a real shot at it. Anything less than a Conference Final or a even a Memorial Cup berth is going to be a disappointment for me.” For Thunderbirds updates all season long, follow Tim on Twitter @tpigulski mynorthwest.com/category/thunderbirds/

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Seattle Thunderbirds - 2015-2016  

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Seattle Thunderbirds - 2015-2016  

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