The Thunderbirds announced Wednesday morning that they have agreed to a deal to send 20-year-old forward Jaimen Yakubowski to the Moose Jaw Warriors in exchange for a 2016 third-round draft pick.
Seattle acquired Yakubowski early last season along with Sam McKechnie from the Lethbridge Hurricanes in exchange Riley Sheen, Carter Folk, and a third-round pick. In 47 regular-season games with the T-Birds, the Dalmeny, Saskatchewan native had 18 points on nine goals and nine assists, as well as 128 penalty minutes. His 158 total penalty minutes with Lethbridge and Seattle placed him fifth in the entire WHL, and his 17 fighting majors ranked second in the league.
In five playoff games, Yakubowski had three points on three assists and four penalty minutes. In their first-round series against Everett, the Thunderbirds won each game in which Yakubowski played and were blown out in the only one that he missed. He also missed the majority of the Kelowna series when Seattle was swept four games to zero.
Yakubowski’s value is clear: he’s a leader on and off the ice, never afraid to stand up for his teammates, and can chip in offensively. He was a favorite of head coach Steve Konowalchuk for his hard-nosed playing style, but ultimately the return of a third-round draft choice comes out as a good yield for Seattle. Other teams in the league are well aware of Seattle’s impending fire sale of 20-year-olds, and therefore know that they will likely be able to grab them for cheap.
The Thunderbirds are still left with six 20-year-olds, including forwards Sam McKechnie, Justin Hickman, and Connor Honey, defensemen Adam Henry and Evan Wardley, and goaltender Taran Kozun. That number will eventually need to be whittled down to three to meet WHL requirements.
With training camp set to begin next week, it appears that another move or two may be announced very soon.
“I don’t like to bring a number of guys in if you don’t have a job for them,” said T-Birds general manager Russ Farwell. “So we may come to camp with four 20-year-olds but I can’t see us coming with five or six because there are only three jobs to be had.”