Who will be the Thunderbirds next captain?
The ice is being laid down at the accesso ShoWare Center Thursday morning as we move to within three weeks of the Seattle Thunderbirds training camp starting up.
It has been a summer of transition for the Thunderbirds, as is often the case in junior hockey, with players coming and moving on. Last year’s captain, Turner Ottenbreit, has graduated and is off to the professional ranks which leaves head coach Matt O’Dette and staff searching for a new leader. O’Dette will make the decision near the conclusion of the upcoming preseason.
Seattle is still very much a young team and finding the right captain will be key heading into the season. The captain will serve not only as an extension of the coach, but as an on and off ice leader and someone that the young roster will take queues from.
Here are some of the top candidates to wear the ‘C’ for the Thunderbirds this year.
The speedy winger is, well, the most logical choice to be named captain for Seattle. This season will be his fifth with the Thunderbirds and the 263 games he’s played for the team are tops on the roster. He has been through it all with the club. Volcan played on both Thunderbirds teams that reached the WHL Championship Series and knows what it takes to win.
He is a high-energy player who goes hard with every shift and is prepared to play each night. Last year saw him set career marks in goals (32), assists (44) and points (76) and he very well could top those numbers as a 20-year-old this year.
One former linemate, and Seattle captain, recently had some high praise for Volcan.
“I think he’d make a great captain,” Scott Eansor said about Volcan. “He’s just such an example of what you want to be in the WHL…He’s skilled and a good leader in the room. He’s been to the WHL Final and won it and that’s hard to find. I think young kids coming up and seeing a guy like that, they want to follow and become someone like that. I think Volcan would be an awesome captain.”
Volcan has always been accountable to the team as well. He showed a willingness to talk to the press after tough losses and after Seattle lost Game 1 of its playoff series in Everett this past spring was quick to express disappointment in his own play – something that improved in the next game.
He has the experience and the attributes it takes to lead a hockey team and should be the favorite to be named the club’s next captain.
The big center, like Volcan, was part of Seattle’s leadership group last year. He often wore an ‘A’ on his jersey as an alternate captain and could be in the mix to step up this season. Entering his 19-year-old campaign, Wedman has a ton of big experience in the WHL.
Nobody will ever forget his double-overtime goal in 2016 that sent Seattle to the championship series against Brandon and last year, his third, was his best. He scored 17 goals while assisting on 30 more for 47 points – all career highs – while playing the pivot on the Thunderbirds top line.
That’s where you can expect him to play again this year and he’s another guy who has been through some of the battles in the WHL that younger players can learn from.
The 20-year-old center has not been with Seattle as long as some others, but he too is coming off his best year in the league and was a key leader. Philp was acquired during the preseason last year in a trade with the Kootenay Ice and was a consistent contributor. Most notably, he spent a lot of time centering a line with rookies Dillon Hamaliuk and Samual Huo. His veteran presence and savvy was a big part of that line having some success during stretches of the year.
Philp has played in 203 WHL games and is a versatile player who can contribute on the power play and kill penalties. With Seattle still leaning on a number of young players, a guy like Philp could make for a strong captain.
If nothing else, Andrusiak is an example of perseverance and self-belief paying off. He bounced around the WHL with a couple clubs to start his career before landing in Seattle full time in 2016. He didn’t play much when he first arrived in Seattle but last year finally got playing time and exploded for 36 goals. When asked about the resiliency, he said his confidence never wavered and he believed that if he got his chance, he’d show that he can play in the WHL. That’s a strong example to set for younger players just starting out.