Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Future is Now and Then

Early Thursday the Seattle Thunderbirds brain trust joined the brass from the WHL's other 21 teams in Calgary for the annual Bantam Draft. Players selected aren't eligible for full-time play in the league until the 2014-15 season but with each choice made everyone likes to speculate on the future impact these young men will have on their teams.

While the draft was taking place there was still a buzz among T-bird fans over the signing the previous day of their 2012 top draft pick Mathew Barzal. Barzal will be a top six forward in 2013-14. He'll make players around him better. He will have an impact on the team this coming season as a 16 year old but the impact of his signing was apparantly evident in the first round of this year's draft as well, as the T-birds selected Barzal's former Burnaby Winter Club teammate (and apparently very good friend) Dante Fabbro with their first selection, 8th overall.

Depending on what scouting report you read Fabbro was either the best, second best or third best defenseman available in a very deep draft. One report I read put him at the second best talent in the entire draft. While he may not be on the same skill level as Barzal, he may not be that far behind as Seattle GM Russ Farwell called him a game-changer in his own right, someone who can play in all situations. Director of Player Personnel, Colin Alexander, called him a "special player".

Fabbro seems genuinely excited to have been selected by Seattle and reunited with his good friend, Barzal. In this day of social media, Fabbro was quick to tweet out he "couldn't be happier to be selected by the T-birds". At 6'0", 170 lbs Fabbro (who doesn't turn 15 until next month) already has good size and that, along with the description of his game as an offensive-defenseman, conjours up images of a player in the mold of Shea Theodore by the time he hits 17-18 years old, which will be just about the time Theodore's WHL career will be ending.

With the last selection of the first round, pick 22 overall, the T-birds cashed in their last chip from the Marcel Noebels trade and drafted center Kaden Elder. One report listed him as the best prospect from the province of Saskatchewan. Farwell labeled him "..a hard working, high scoring forward with a great shot." Elder averaged nearly two points a game last season with the Notre Dame Hounds. So, in the end the final bounty hauled out of that January 2011 Noebels trade to Portland is Seth Swenson, Keegan Kolesar and Elder.

Seattle's third high pick of the day was their early selection in round two, 27th overall. And with this pick, you might say the circle of life is complete. The T-birds selected Edmonton left winger Nolan Volcan (side note; I can't wait for the first Volcan-ic eruption!). Volcan, who put up more then two points per game in bantam hockey last season (including 40 goals in 32 games), just happens to be the son of Marty Volcan. Who's Marty Volcan you ask? Well, back in the 1984-85 WHL season, the elder Volcan played 28 games for the Seattle Breakers, who a few years later would change their name to the Seattle Thunderbirds. I guess this selection makes the younger Volcan a T-bird legacy. Two points here: 1. when Nolan Volcan scores his first goal for Seattle, he'll double the number of goals his dad scored as a Breaker. In 28 games wth Seattle Marty Volcan, a defenseman, registered 0g, 1a and 83 PIMs! 2. We won't hold it against Marty that in that same season he played 19 games as a Portland Winterhawk (1g, 3a). The senior Volcan finished his WHL career the following season with the Victoria Cougars and finished with 4g, 15a and 144 PIMs in 50 games.

After spectating through the third and fourth rounds of the draft, the Thunderbirds made seven more choices, beginning with defenseman Brandon Schuldhaus in round five and culminating with center Caleb Griffin in round 12. The most intriguing of their choices was their tenth round pick, goaltender Devon Fordyce. that name will ring familiar with die-hard WHL fans. Fordyce, who turned 19 earlier this year, has already played 18 games in the WHL, all with the Prince George Cougars. But to make room on their 50 player protected list for their new draft picks, the Cougars dropped Fordyce just before the start of the 9th round of the draft and that made him available to the T-birds.

With the departure of Brandon Glover, the T-birds have an opening for a #1 goalie. Prior to adding Fordyce, Seattle had no netminder on their roster over the age of 18 and no one with more then 18 games of WHL experience. No one is handing Fordyce a roster spot. He'll have to come in and compete at training camp. But if Fordyce, who's WHL numbers aren't that impressive (3W, 9L 3 OT/SOL, 4.30 GAA, .873 SV%), can channel his play from last season with the Brooks Bandits of the AJHL (10-2-1, 1.61 GAA, .933 SV%), Seattle may have just found a very inexpensive solution to a major roster problem.

We need to look at the last two to three drafts together. Barzal is the hub in the wheel and players like Kolesar, Ethan Bear, Logan Flodell, Lane Pederson, Michal Holub, Carter Foulk, Fabbro, Elder and Volcan, among others, are the spokes and the tire. If Farwell and his staff can convince a few other young prospects, (cough, Gropp, cough) to throw their lot in with the T-birds this organization will have enough firepower to make some noise in the Western Conference beyond just next season.


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  2. Thank you for the great analysis of the T-Birds draft Tom! It should be very interesting to see who will earn the starting goalie spot next year.

    If I'm counting the birthdays correctly, it looks like the T-Birds have 4 20 year olds returning for next season. Any speculation on who they plan to keep?

  3. Great posts Thom. I'm so excited for August/September and the Barzal and the draft were really great endings for the week where the NBA relocation committee is giving Seattle the bird.

    I think if they don't get a 20 yr old goalie I think they keep Swenson (the trade that just keeps on giving), Sanvido, and Forsberg. I love Elliot, but I think Swenson and Sanvido offer a bit more in points and SH play. I could see Elliot getting some interest from a team that might need an older player to protect younger core players kind of like what the T-birds did with LeBlanc and Cloud a few years ago.

  4. Great Post Tom, what is your prediction on Gropp? Do you think he signs with Seattle now that Barzal is in the mix?