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Thunderbirds hold three picks in first two rounds of Thursday’s Bantam Draft

The Thunderbirds hold the 10th overall pick in Thursday's Bantam Draft (Brian Liesse/T-Birds)

The Seattle Thunderbirds will be back in action Thursday morning in Red Deer.

No, there is not a game scheduled and the only ice involved will likely be in glasses of water. The action Thursday will come from general manager Russ Farwell, director of player personnel Cal Filson, and their staff of 16 scouts. Seattle’s player personnel team will be picking future Thunderbirds in the WHL’s 2018 Bantam Draft.

Seattle has 11 selections on Thursday, including the 10th pick overall and two picks in the second round – picks 32 and 34 overall.

These players have just finished their Bantam Hockey seasons and are dispersed throughout Western Canada and United States. Seattle’s scouts have spent the past season watching these players perform in hundreds of games played in small, cold rinks throughout the region.

So, how good is this year’s draft shaping up to be?

Tyler Neisz, who watches these guys play for Western Elite Hockey Prospects, says that there are quality players to be had.

“This year’s draft is very deep with not much separating the top 8-10 picks in the draft,” Niesz says. “There is a bit of a drop off late in the first round but high end, big defenseman, and forwards can be had throughout the round.  I would look for some trades this year with teams looking to move up in what is very much a preference type of draft among teams picking high in the first round.”

Neisz, along with some WHL scouts, seem to think that Winnipeg native Carson Lambos will most likely go first overall to the Edmonton Oil Kings. Lambos, a defenseman, notched 40 points in just 30 games last season while playing for Rink Hockey Academy Bantam Prep. If the Oil Kings pass on Lambos, names like defenseman Nolan Allan or high-scoring forward Jayden Grubbe could hear their names called first.

According to Neisz, high-end, offensive minded defenseman are at a premium this year but that there are several good forwards available. So, look for a rush on defenseman in the first round.

Seattle is picking at 10 and should be able to snag a good player to add for the future.

Neisz has Penticton’s Cole Sillinger slated as a possibility for Seattle with the 10th pick. Sillinger spent last season playing for Okanagan Hockey Acadamy and potted 46 goals on 83 points in just 30 games. Those are eye-popping numbers but Neisz points out that Sillinger may be considering playing NCAA hockey over the WHL.

Picking him could be a risk for Seattle and if they don’t feel that he will sign then Neisz says a name like Jake Chiasson could be a fit for the Thunderbirds. Chiasson, a forward, scored 20 goals and 68 points for Yale Academy last season.

The Thunderbirds have had success with their first-round picks in year’s past. Dante Fabbro, whom Seattle selected eighth overall in 2013, is the only recent first-round pick not to sign with the club. Since 2011, Seattle has picked nine players in the first round and of those, five have ended up getting drafted by the NHL. Jake Lee, who was picked in 2016’s first round is just now entering his draft year and is likely to be number six on that list.

The Bantam Draft is a bit different than drafts in other sports. These players are not eligible to play full time in the WHL until the 2019-2020 season so teams usually take the best player available, rather than looking to fill a specific need.

It will be a busy day in Red Deer for Farwell and his team Thursday morning and if you wish to follow along with the draft, the WHL will be streaming it live at whl.ca.