T-Birds Training Camp: Payton Mount looking to earn his spot on roster
KENT – It was early in the first afternoon scrimmage at Thunderbirds training camp Friday when Payton Mount drove the puck deep. He drew in defenders only to whistle the puck past them and on to the stick of teammate Nolan Volcan. The veteran took the pass and scored on a wrist shot as Team Blue picked up a win.
It was one of many plays that Mount, Seattle’s 2017 first-round pick, has made this week that show he’s ready for his rookie season. Playing along side the older Volcan on Friday, he looked right at home. This is Mount’s second training camp with Seattle and the 16-year-old Victoria product has some simple goals.
“Just trying to show myself to the coaches and staff as best I can and hopefully crack the roster this year,” Mount said Friday. “I’d like to be on the team for the home opener. That would be a really great experience.”
Getting selected in the first round of the draft brings some expectations and perhaps some pressure. Mount looks every bit the part of a first-round pick but is humble and doesn’t feel that anything will, nor should, be handed to him.
“I think everyone is equal out there,” he said. “Anyone can make the team but I’m just trying to push as hard as other guys to get the roster spot.”
Not taking his spot on the team for granted is a sign of humility. So far, nothing in this training camp would indicate that Mount won’t be on the ice for opening night.
He is a fluid skater and has a scorer’s mentality. He’s not afraid to shoot the puck and already in camp has scored in a number of different ways. There was the breakaway goal he scored by slipping the puck through the five-hole. He’s wired a wrist shot and even stepped into a big slapper for a goal. Friday he not only set Volcan up for a score but would add one of his own.
His play is consistent with his showing in last year’s camp and preseason.
After that camp, Mount headed to Vancouver to play for the Delta Hockey Academy Prep team. He had a good year and scored 22 times while adding 27 assists for 49 points in just 27 games. A brief call up by Seattle during the regular season saw him record one assist in six games and he would go on to play in all five of the Thunderbirds playoff games against Everett.
Getting some WHL action gave him a good idea of what to expect this year.
“I just tried to take everything in and learn everything the vets taught me,” Mount said of the experience. “It definitely gives you a bit of a head turn. Knowing what you’re up against, what you have to prepare for, and how hard you have to work against the older guys. It’s a tough league to play in.”
Mount projects to be a top-six forward for the Thunderbirds and it will be interesting to see if he can make that jump as a rookie. Seattle is still a young team and it would not be surprising to see Mount getting a look at the top of the lineup.
He’s also part of what looks like a promising future for the Thunderbirds which has been on display in this week’s camp. Mount is a big piece of that, along with fellow 2017 pick Tyrel Bauer, and the impressive looking 2018 draft class.
“Great kids and great talent and it will be really cool to see what we do,” Mount added about Seattle’s young group.
Mount and the Thunderbirds will be back in action this weekend starting Saturday morning with more scrimmages and finishing Sunday with the annual Blue-White game.
Here’s the rest of the training camp news
• Several veteran players sat out Friday’s scrimmages. Jake Lee, Dillon Hamaliuk, Reece Harsch, Noah Philp and Cody Savey all missed the action due to injuries.
• Seattle’s two import players, Simon Kubicek and Andrej Kukuca, are not yet in camp. Apparently, they are still navigating the immigration process, but both are expected to join the Thunderbirds as soon as it is resolved.
• The Thunderbirds signed the first of their second-round picks on Friday. Lucas Ciona, who has looked strong in camp, made it official. He becomes the fourth 2018 draft pick to sign on with the club, joining Kai Uchacz, Conner Roulette, and Mekai Sanders.
• Friday’s scrimmages were physical, but the biggest hit of the day came in an unlikely way. Volcan, pursuing a play, did not see one of the linesman, causing the two to collide. It doesn’t count as a hit in the box score, but it brought a laugh and both parties were uninjured on the play.