The biggest news of the Seattle Thunderbirds summer so far occurred Wednesday morning when the Penticton Vees of the BCHL announced that T-Birds 2013 first-round pick Dante Fabbro has committed to play for them next year.
This announcement means that the talented defenseman will not be joining the T-Birds roster for this upcoming season. Seattle has been down this road before as 2011 first round pick, Ryan Gropp, also decided to join the Vees before leaving to play with the T-Birds last year.
In most cases, when a player chooses the BCHL over the WHL it’s because they have their eye on playing NCAA hockey. The NCAA views major junior hockey as ‘professional’ and therefore any player that plays in a league like the WHL is ineligible to play U.S. college hockey. Unlike Gropp, who committed to the University of North Dakota last summer, Fabbro has not committed to any NCAA program yet – which suggests the door is still a bit open. There is no deadline for the T-Birds to sign Fabbro and it appears the team feels he is still weighing his options.
“Dante told us that he needed more time to make a decision and so he was going to play this year in the BCHL,” Seattle general manager Russ Farwell said in response to Wednesday’s news.
While somewhat disappointing, this news is not devastating to Seattle’s fortunes next year. The T-Birds return a deep and talented defensive group, led by Shea Theodore, and while Fabbro would most likely have played, he would not have been the key guy on the back end.
Seattle also has signed their second first-round pick from last year in forward Kaden Elder who most likely will make the T-Birds roster this season. This decision may have an affect on what 20-year-olds Seattle brings back as both Adam Henry and Evan Wardley are eligible to return for one more year as over-age defensemen. With Fabbro out of the picture for next year, does Warldey or Henry have a better chance of sticking around for one more year?
Vees cleaning up
Fabbro wasn’t the only WHL related news coming out of Penticton. The Vees also announced on Wednesday that they have a commitment from Everett’s 2013 first round pick Tyson Jost. Jost was selected 7th in the draft, one spot ahead of Fabbro and led the BCMMHL in scoring last year with 88 points in 36 games. Jost’s Okanagan Rockets went on to defeat Fabbro and the Northwest Giants in the league finals.
The Vees also picked up Jost’s teammate in goalie Brendan Barry, who is a prospect of the Kelowna Rockets. Needless to say, Penticton should be a power in the BCHL next year.
Former T-Birds import player Alex Delnov has signed a contract with Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk of the KHL in Russia. The Moscow native was a 2012 fourth-round draft pick of the Florida Panthers but had yet to sign a contract with the NHL club.
Delnov spent two seasons with the T-Birds and scored 49 goals in 140 games with the club.
Follow Andrew Eide on Twitter @andyeide