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T-Birds notebook: Farwell’s future and Barzal’s big night

Dillon Hamaliuk (left) has been impressing as the Thunderbirds return from a successful road trip (Brian Liesse/T-Birds)

After a successful seven-game road trip, the Thunderbirds, and the entire WHL, have a week off to get back into their normal routine.

With the annual CIBC Canada-Russia series taking place this week, the league has not scheduled any games. The two WHL-Russia games kicked off Monday in Moose Jaw with the WHL team beating the Russians 7-0. The second game takes place Tuesday evening in Swift Current.

The recent swing through the Central Division was an eventful one for the Thunderbirds. They played some of their best hockey of the young season and ended the swing 4-1-1-0 – if you count a road game in Everett before they left they were 5-1-1-0 overall.

While on the trip, Seattle lost two players as Luke Ormsby and Elijah Brown are no longer with the club. Ormbsy was first let go so he could pursue a larger role with the Wenatchee Wild of the BCHL but the Thunderbirds were able to work out a trade to Everett a few days later.

Brown, a 2015 first-round bantam pick, left the club after becoming unhappy with the amount of ice time he has been receiving.

Their departure has opened the door for some of Seattle’s younger forwards to get a more consistent amount of playing time.

Players like Dillon Hamaliuk, Sameal Huo, Holden Katzalay, and Tyler Carpendale all got into multiple games while on the trip.

Hamaliuk continues to impress. He was active while on the ice in every game and helped create some good scoring chances. His modest six points don’t tell the whole story as he has shown to be a great skater, a physical presence in front of the net and is getting shots. He’s credited with 30 shots at the net this year, which is fifth best on the club.

Huo, a 16-year-old rookie from Richmond, B.C. has looked stronger with each game he played. The undrafted free agent has impressed the T-Birds brass this fall and winter and while his play hasn’t produced numbers yet, it feels that he is on the cusp of breaking out.

Head coach Matt O’Dette has found a good mix after putting his lines in a blender two weeks ago – prior to the Oct. 21st game against Moose Jaw. In the seven games since, the T-Birds topped the 30 shot mark six times. Prior to that Moose Jaw game they were only averaging 25 per game.

More shots generally represent more puck possession which in turn lead to more scoring chances and goals. It’s a trend O’Dette and the T-Birds will want to continue.

Here’s the latest surrounding the Birds

One more year for Russ Farwell?

Seattle general manager Russ Farwell was a guest on the Pipeline Show while the team was in Alberta. He told host Guy Flaming that he was planning on staying on as the team’s general manager at least through next year. Farwell indicated that a search for a ‘younger guy’ to take over general manager duties was under way.

Farwell has been with Seattle since first becoming general manager before to the 1988 season. After a stint in the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers, he returned to Seattle in 1995 and eventually put together a group to buy the franchise. Just prior to the start of this season Farwell’s group sold the team to Dan and Lindsey Leckelt – two brothers from the Edmonton area.

If next season is in fact Farwell’s last as general manager, it will mark the end of a significant era in the history of Seattle Thunderbirds hockey.

Barzal’s big night

One of the great things about the WHL is seeing players develop and move on to the pro ranks. Mathew Barzal led the Thunderbirds to the franchise’s first ever championship season and now is making his mark on the NHL with the New York Islanders.

He was already off to an impressive start but drew a lot of national attention on Sunday night as his Islanders beat the Colorado Avalanche 6-4 in Brooklyn. Barzal set a new Islanders rookie record by recording five assists in the win which raised the 20-year-old’s point total to 13 in 14 games.

Around the U.S. Division

The U.S. Division is making a strong argument to be the toughest division in the WHL. Seattle is in third place with 20 points. That point total would be good enough for second place in the B.C. Division, Eastern Division and tied for first in the Central.

The T-Birds weren’t the only team in the division to lose some players over the last week. It was reported by Jesse Geleynse in the Everett Herald Saturday that the Silvertips have suspended Mark Liwiski for violating team rules and that former first-round bantam pick Ethan Browne had left the team, apparently unhappy with playing time.

The Spokane Chiefs picked up some great news Monday morning as it was announced that star Kailer Yamamoto was being returned to Eastern Washington by the Edmonton Oilers. The Spokane native was selected by Edmonton with the 22nd pick in last June’s NHL Draft and stuck with the big club in training camp. He played in nine NHL games with Edmonton and recorded three assists. He scored 42 goals for Spokane last year and will now join a Chiefs team loaded with offensive talent.