Former Thunderbird Kaden Elder looking for WHL title with Swift Current
EVERETT – Things have a funny way of working out sometimes. It’s a notion that Swift Current Broncos center Kaden Elder knows well.
Elder’s WHL journey started down the highway from Angel of the Winds Arena, where his Broncos team spent Monday in preparation for Tuesday night’s Game 3 of the WHL Championship Series with the Silvertips.
The Seattle Thunderbirds drafted Elder in the first round of the 2013 Bantam Draft with high hopes for the speedy center. In Seattle, Elder got caught in a numbers game with a talented Thunderbirds squad. He played in 50 games as a 16-year-old rookie in 2014-2015 but was relegated to the fourth line.
That Thunderbirds team was pretty stacked at center with guys like Mathew Barzal, Scott Eansor, and Alexander True so finding ice time at the pivot was tough. It ultimately resulted in Elder getting traded to Swift Current early into his second season with Seattle.
“There were a lot of really good players on that team,” Elder said after the Broncos morning skate Monday. “So as a 16-year-old you’re not going to get much ice time and then as a 17-year-old the team didn’t really change much. I was just looking for a better opportunity and they gave me a chance. It worked out well for me.”
Elder landed in Swift Current, close to his home town of Saskatoon, but watched as his former club soared to new heights.
The year he left, the Thunderbirds would make it to the WHL Championship Series against Brandon. The next season Seattle beat the Regina Pats for its first ever league title. Elder watched his former mates celebrate.
“It’s the irony of it to me, getting traded and they go there,” he said. “But it was also a good trade for me. I was happy I got traded but obviously I miss those guys and they had a great run. We’re looking for it to be our turn.”
It is Elder’s turn as his former Seattle teammates are now watching as he tries to win a championship and hoist the same Ed Chyonweth Cup that they did last year.
He’s not the only ex-Thunderbird on the Broncos roster. Defenseman Sahavan Khaira plays on one of the team’s top defensive pairings while forward MacKenzie Wight has played in 16 post-season games with the Broncos.
For a while there, the Broncos took on a Thunderbirds East flare as the two clubs became trading partners. In Elder’s time with Swift Current, he has been able to play with several guys he got to know in Seattle.
“It was kind of funny,” Elder said. “Sav and I were roommates when we were 16 and we’ve been good friends since Seattle. We both got traded back to Swift Current together. It was awesome to see him come back here and (the same with) Wighter. There have been a few when Jamal (Watson) got there, Gustaf (Olhaver) and Taz (Burman). It was definitely nice to see a few more Birds come here.”
Swift Current has been a good fit for Elder. He’s found regular ice time and is centering the Broncos second line. He’s getting to play in big moments and in big games. In his first full season with Swift Current he set a career best with 27 points and topped that this year by scoring 18 times while tallying 32 points.
Last year the Broncos pushed the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Regina Pats to the limits in the second round of the playoffs. This year they have fought their way to the final and are tied 1-1 with the Silvertips.
“The team last year had a really good run,” Elder said. “We came up short by one game in the second round. This year we had some redemption. We’ve all just stuck together.”
Elder says he has stayed in touch with guys like Donovan Neuls, Nolan Volcan, and Turner Ottenbreit and has heard from them, congratulating him on getting this far. He’s aware that there will be Seattle fans rooting for him and his Broncos this week and added that his former Seattle Billets will be in attendance.
The first two games of this series in Swift Current were tight affairs that could have gone either way. Elder says that the Broncos need to keep playing the way they have all post season to come out on top.
“Just defense and details,” he said of the keys to success. “Our team focuses on that, most teams do. If you can shut down a team and produce offence, it’s how you’re going to win.”
If Elder and his teammates do win, things will have worked out in the best possible way.