Biblically speaking, Saturday was the original day of rest 'til Easter came 'round, so maybe it is appropriate that after a hard week of work, the T-birds get a rare midseason Saturday night off before getting back to business Sunday down in Portland.
The Thunderbirds are playing some very good, inspired hockey right now having won six in a row resulting in a climb up the Western Conference standings. What they've done is no accident either. It is not by luck or chance that this team is now four games above .500. They were built this way.
To be successful in the WHL, you have to build your team primarily through the draft and you have to hit, not just on those high first round selections, but find some gems in the late rounds as well. Seattle has used that formula to build their current roster. The T-birds under General Manager Russ Farwell, and Director of Player Personnel Colin Alexander and his scouts, have found a synchronicity with Head Coach Steve Konowalchuk. They are delivering to him the type of players that fit his systems; hard working, tenacious, sixty minute guys.
No team will ever hit a home run with every draft pick. There will be some swings and misses. But lately, Seattle has been connecting more often then not. Let's break down the roster and you will see how good the T-birds scouts have been the last few years at finding the right kind of player.
Because of a bad spell for a few years Seattle was picking high in the draft. When you do that, you have to make those selections count and the team has. But what makes this team as good as they are and will become, is their success in the mid to late rounds. Here's a look at the current roster and what round and what pick overall each player was:
Jared Hauf, 1st round 4th overall
Ethan Bear, 2nd round 25th overall
Shea Theodore 3rd round, 64th overall (Theodore was actually the 2nd of two 3rd round picks for Seattle in 2010, their 4th pick in that draft. Seattle acquired the pick in a trade with Saskatoon for Jeremy Boyer who opted not to report to Seattle for his 19 yr old season)
Evan Wardley, 6th round, 122nd overall
Sahvan Khaira 9th round, 181st overall
Jerret Smith, non drafted list player
Turner Ottenbreit, acquired in trade from Saskatoon for Adan Henry. Ottenbreit was a 12th round selection by the Blades, 261st overall in 2012. He was the 2nd-to-last player chosen.
Scott Allan, acquired in trade for a 5th round pick from Medicine Hat. Allan was a non drafted list player for the Tigers
Matt Barzal, 1st round, 1st overall
Ryan Gropp, 1st round, 6th overall
Keegan Kolesar, 1st round, 20th overall (pick acquired from Portland in Marcel Noebels trade)
Kaden Elder, 1st round, 22nd overall (pick acquired from Portland in Marcel Noebels trade)
Alexander True, 1st round of Import Draft, 48th overall
Nolan Volcan, 2nd round, 27th overall
Justin Hickman, 2nd round, 34th overall
Florian Baltram, 2nd round of Import Draft, 108th overall
Lane Pederson, 5th round, 91st overall
Donovan Neuls, 8th round 157th overall
Luke Osterman, 8th round 161st overall (pick acquired from Lethbridge)
Scott Eansor, non drafted list player
Calvin Spencer, non drafted list player
Nick Holowko, non drafted list player
15 yr old right wing Wyatt Bear, who played in 3 games for Seattle over the holidays heads back to Manitoba to rejoin the Interlake Lightning of the MAAAHL. Bear was a 5th round, selection this past spring by Seattle, 102nd overall. He should be back with the club, if not this spring, then next season on a full time basis. At the very least he will compete for a roster spot next season with fellow 2014 signed bantam picks, forwards Matthew Wedman (2nd round pick, 38th overall) and McKenzie Wight (7th round, 148th overall)
Taran Kozun, obtained from Kamloops in a trade one year ago for Austin Douglas, Justin Myles and a 4th round pick. Douglas and Myles are no longer in the WHL. Kozun was a non drafted list player by the Blazers.
Danny Mumaugh, non drafted list player
The T-birds selected goaltender Logan Flodell in the 3rd round, 47th overall in 2012. Flodell began this season on the roster but Seattle sent him to Nipiwan, Saskatchewan so he could get more playing time with the Nipiwan Hawks of the SJHL. He currently sports a 6-2 record.
Seattle was occasionally devoid of 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th round picks the past few drafts, having used those selections in trades for veteran players such as Cason Machacek, Brad Deagle, Brandon Glover, Travis Bobbee and Travis Toomey. This made hitting on those late round picks and finding quality list players much more important to the construction of this current roster.
So you can see, Seattle has had success at the top of the draft, but they have filled the roster with some very good late round selections and quality free agents. That's how you build a winner.