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Lucas Ciona and 2018 draftees shine in T-Birds Blue-White game

Thunderbirds second-round pick Lucas Ciona looks for room during Sunday's Blue-White game (Brian Liesse/T-Birds)

KENT — After an impressive week of training camp, it didn’t take long for Seattle Thunderbirds prospect Lucas Ciona to have an impact in Sunday’s annual Blue-White game at the accesso ShoWare Center.

Early in the game, the 2018 second-round pick got the puck along the half boards, took a couple of strides, and ripped a wrist shot that found its way over goalie Liam Hughes’ shoulder. After the game he endured some good-natured ribbing from the veteran goaltender but was still all smiles.

“Just saw the top corner open on Hughes and took my shot,” Ciona said. “Sniped it, it felt good.”

It has to also feel good for the Thunderbirds scouting department, coaches, and staff to see the showing from the incoming draft class. The team has already signed four players from the draft and on Sunday, three of them found the back of the net in a 3-2 for Team White.

Along with Ciona, fellow second-round pick Connor Roulette scored a goal while Gig Harbor resident Mekai Sanders added one late as well.

Ciona was one of the stars of the camp this week. Just 15-years-old, he’s listed at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds and already looks the part of a WHL player. In both the rookie and main camps, he showed that he knows how to use that frame well.

“Always been a little bit of a power forward kind of guy,” Ciona said of his game. “I like to grind with all the hitting, but I have some skill mixed in there.”

That skill showed on his first-period goal, just as it did last season when he was playing for the Northern Alberta Bantam Prep. In 30 games he scored 13 times and helped on 35 more.

Despite the veteran players being thrown into the mix during main camp, Ciona’s play didn’t drop off. Playing against the older, and bigger, guys was an eye-opener nonetheless.

“The speed is a lot faster than I expected coming in,” he said. “But, it’s fun to hang out with all the older guys, and they welcomed me nicely.”

Ciona officially signed on with the Thunderbirds a couple of days prior to Sunday’s Blue-White tilt. When asked about the decision, he flashes a big smile, but says growing up, playing in the WHL wasn’t a sure thing for him. He wanted to keep all his options open.

“I was on the fence a little bit,” he added. “But after I got drafted here and saw what they had with coaches and players I was excited and wanted to be here. I was planning on signing.”

He also got to know the guys that he’ll be playing with over the next three to four years. It’s a group that has looked strong all week and Ciona is excited to be a part of it.

That draft class, minus Sanders who can not play preseason games due to a CHL-USA hockey rule, will be on display this coming weekend in Everett. The Thunderbirds will play three games over the weekend against guys in different sweaters.

It will be another step for Ciona, and his draft class, to get a little taste of WHL action. After that, he will head back to Alberta to finish out his season.

“Just keep on developing and play well with my team,” Ciona says about his goals for the year. “Get called up here for a couple of games and hopefully come back to make it as a 16-year-old.”

Blue-White game notes

• The lineups Sunday were heavy with younger prospects. Seattle’s four 20-year-olds sat out of the action as did Reece Harsch, Dillon Hamaliuk and Jake Lee – all of whom are nursing injuries.

• Liam Hughes saw his first game action of camp Sunday as he started for the Blue Team. He played the first period and was under duress the entire time. Team White tilted the ice and Hughes had to make 16 saves as Team Blue dominated the shot clock.

• The two goalies vying to be the back up to Hughes were in action as well. Both Cole Schwebius and Eric Ward played a period and both looked strong. It figures the two will get a lot of action moving forward in the preseason as Hughes will be leaving after Labor Day to attend camp with the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers.