Riley Sheen is off to a great start for the T-Birds (photo courtesy Seattle Thunderbirds)
By Andrew Eide
For athletes in any sport, getting traded can be a double-edged sword. One one hand, it means the team you play for no longer sees the need for your talents on their roster. That can sting. On the other hand it means that another team likes your talent and is willing to give up an asset for you. Sometimes, that trade can end up being the best thing for your career.
So far, Seattle’s Riley Sheen seems to fall in the later category.
In May when the Seattle Thunderbirds announced they had traded crowd-favorite Jacob Doty to Medicine Hat there was some initial disappointment expressed by the fans. Doty was popular for things he did without his gloves on and had back-to-back seasons with over 100 penalty minutes, but only 14 points in two seasons.
In return for Doty, the T-Birds got forward Riley Sheen. Little was known about Sheen at first, other than the fact that he appeared in 46 games for the Tigers and only managed one goal and three points. On the surface it looked like they were not getting much in return. But you have to look further than just last seasons numbers, and so far Riley Sheen is proving that Seattle made the right move in picking him up.
“Right away I was excited,” Sheen says of the trade. “I knew the program was good, I talked to Connor Honey quite a bit about it, so far it’s just been unbelievable down here. I didn’t really expect it (the trade), I was still young but that’s just the way it goes.”
While Sheen did not put up big numbers in Medicine Hat, looking at his numbers in midget hockey in 2010-2011 it is clear that he has talent. In that season he scored 23 goals and 41 points in only 34 games which is good no matter where you are playing. So what happened in Medicine Hat?
“I honestly couldn’t tell you what it was,” he said. “Medicine Hat always has a bunch of offense, which is what I bring to the table so I had to take on a little bit of a lesser role there, but so far, here, its been great.”
Seattle seems like a better fit for Riley. In his first ten games with Seattle he two goals and eight points, already surpassing what he did in Medicine Hat. He’s fast, has good offensive instincts, can kill penalties and play on the power play.
“I think my game fits what the Thunderbirds were looking for and I just seem to be finding the open spots and have been able to put up some numbers,” Sheen says.
While Sheen left some friends behind with the Tigers he is looking forward to his first meeting with his former team. He has the date circled (November 16 at the ShoWare center) and is excited to play against his friends.
“I talk to a couple of guys,” he says. “I can’t wait for them to come down, I’m sure it will be a really good game. It will be a fun game for sure and I’ll definitely want to win that one.”
During training camp it was obvious from the early practices that Sheen had a tremendous amount of offensive talent and was tough with the puck one-on-one. For those unfamiliar with him, how would he describe his game?
“Real offensive,” he says. “I see the ice well, I like to shoot the puck but I can also find guys.”
Sheen is not the biggest player, listed at 5-foot-11 and 156 pounds, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t play a physical game. He is hard to knock off the puck and he has shown that he will throw the body effectively on the forecheck. That work paid off for him on opening night as he hit a Portland defender, stole the puck and scored a wrap-around goal.
“I love to have the puck on my stick,” he says. “Sometimes you have to push a guy off the puck, It worked for me, I got a goal out of it.”
The T-Birds have yet to have a game go to the shoot out but when the time comes do not be surprised to see Steve Konowalchuk look to Sheen to be one of his shooters. During training camp, after practice, several players stayed on the ice to take penalty shots and Sheen busted out some pretty creative moves. Some of them probably weren’t legal, but showed of his tremendous offensive creativity.
“I don’t know if we’ll go too creative (in a game),” he says with a smile. “We’ll just have to bear down in the game, I don’t think some of those were legal.”
Sheen grew up in Edmonton, Alberta which is pretty far away from Seattle. For a young player, getting traded to a team in a city so far away can be a daunting task. It helped that there were some familiar faces on the T-Birds roster already.
“There’s lots of guys from Edmonton here, Brandon Troock, Connor Honey,” he said. “I rode to school with Honey, he always told me it was a great program, and coming down here as been and unbelievable experience. Initially when I heard the trade I was a little scared but then I talked to Honey and looked at the bright side.”
Sheen comes across as a very mature and confident player. He is making the best of his chance here in Seattle, the chance he did not seem to get in Medicine Hat. Coming into the season did he set any personal goals for himself?
“Not really with points or anything,” he says. “I just wanted to come to the Thunderbirds organization and help out in any way I could and so far its been unbelievable.”
So far, Sheen’s play has made the trade to pick him up pretty unbelievable.
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