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Lucas Ciona call up gives Thunderbirds a brief glimpse of the future

Lucas Ciona made his WHL debut for the Thunderbirds last week. (Brian Liesse/T-Birds)

It was only a brief, three-game stint, but Seattle Thunderbirds prospect Lucas Ciona impressed last week. He didn’t score a goal, and didn’t register any points but at just 15-years-old, the 2018 second-round draft pick looked right at home playing in the WHL.

Listed as 6-foot-2 and 191 pounds, he already looks the part of a WHL player and he didn’t flinch in his three games playing against older and more experienced guys.

He threw hits, wasn’t afraid to mix it up when needed and even took a shift with the Thunderbirds top line during the third period of Saturday’s game in Portland.

“That’s impressive,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said Saturday night. “For a 15-year-old kid to come in and play on a big stage like that and not really look out of place or phased in any way. He’s obviously got a great future and these little stints for these guys in getting experience, when he’s able to play next year he’ll be that much more comfortable.”

League rules only allow players Ciona’s age to play five games during the season. They can play more at the end of the year, when their team back home has finished its season. After Saturday’s game in Portland, Ciona was headed back to play for the Northern Alberta Extreme Prep team. In 16 games this season with the Extreme, he’s scored six times and has 14 points.

Ciona was part of a 2018 draft class that impressed during Seattle’s training camp this past fall.

Of the nine players the Thunderbirds selected, seven have already signed which is good news for the future. By signing early, it also gives the players, and the team, the opportunity to get a look at them during the season.

“We’ll probably see some more of those guys over the course of the year,” O’Dette said. “It’s a nice crop of prospects coming up.”

First-round pick Kai Uchacz signed with Seattle this summer and is playing with the Okotoks Oilers in the AMHL. He’s having a strong season with the Oilers by racking up 13 goals and 26 points in just 18 games.

After Ciona was taken, the Thunderbirds selected Connor Roulette later in the second round. Roulette put up huge offensive numbers last year and is back at it so far this season. Playing for the Winnipeg Thrashers Midget AAA club he’s scored 17 times to go with 22 assists for 39 points in 21 games.

Fifth-round pick, and signed prospect, Sam Popovich, is with the Northern Alberta Elite 15s and has nine goals and 29 points in 19 games so far.

Other signed Thunderbirds 2018 prospects include goalie Thomas Milic, Reid Schaefer, and Mekai Sanders.

Because Sanders is an American player, from Gig Harbor, he is not able to play for Seattle this season due to an agreement with USA Hockey and the CHL. The rest of the signed players could get a similar look as Ciona at some point this season.

Getting some game action is a benefit to having them spend a few days in the WHL, but its more than that. They will experience valuable practice time as well as learning a little bit about the life style of a WHL player. All that can pay dividends next year as they all try to make the team and play full time.

Potential can be a loaded label for prospects and it’s too early to predict just how good the 2018 draft class will end up being for Seattle. Ciona was the first to get his feet wet and looked to be a fit. We will have to wait and see on the rest.