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Thunderbirds move import Simon Kubicek to Edmonton for Vladimir Alistrov

The Thunderbirds traded Simon Kubicek to Edmonton on Monday (Brian Liesse/T-Birds)

While we wait to hear an official start date to a potential Western Hockey League season the Seattle Thunderbirds announced a trade Monday as they sent import defenseman Simon Kubicek to the Edmonton Oil Kings in exchange for forward Vladimir Alistrov. Each team will also receive a conditional draft pick, although details weren’t provided.

The 19-year-old Kubicek was drafted by Seattle in the second round of the 2018 CHL Import Draft. Hailing from the Czech Republic, Kubicek appeared in 113 games over two seasons for the Thunderbirds, scoring 16 goals, 39 assists, and 55 points. During the last two seasons, he represented his home country at the World Junior Championships.

“I talked to Simon this morning, it was a tough call,” Thunderbirds general manager Bil La Forge said. “He loved his time here and we enjoyed having him. But, with this season going to be a short one and a development time, it’s good for your young guys to get quality minutes and those would have been quality minutes that Simon would have eaten up on the back end.”

Alistrov, 19, played in 57 games last season and potted 19 goals with the Oil Kings. After being selected with the second overall pick in the 2018 Import Draft, the 6-foot-2, 176 pounder from Belarus has scored 31 goals and 73 points in 119 WHL games.

The question remains whether Alistrov will return to the WHL this season.

“He’s right now playing in the KHL,” La Forge said about Alistrov. “I watched him play a part of a game this morning. I think it will be an option for us at some point, but we’ll play it by ear. It’s nice to have an option going forward.”

Alistrov has appeared in 28 KHL games with Minsk Dynamo this year and has a goal to go with an assist. The uncertainty of him playing in Seattle is the reason the picks exchanged in the trade are conditional.

If he does come over, whether it’s this season or potentially as an over-ager next year, he would add another scorer to Seattle’s forward mix.

“He’s a big guy, he gets around pretty well and has a nose for the net,” La Forge said. “I like the option to add a guy with offensive pedigree into our top six and make those guys a little better. He’s an offensive guy that we’ve liked for a while.”

La Forge stressed that the move was mainly about freeing up time for some of their impressive young defensemen joining the club this season.

Returning to the defensive corps will be Ryan Gottfried (19), Cade McNelly (19), Luke Bateman (18), and Tyrel Bauer (18) — who all played a lot of minutes last year. The move will allow the Thunderbirds to give former first-round pick Kevin Korchinski (16) along with Jeremy Hanzel (17) and Spencer Penner (16) valuable playing time.

“We really believe in the three young guys we have coming up,” La Forge said. “The guys we do have, I think, Bauer can do a little more on the power play than he did last year. All those guys will get more of an opportunity. This will be a short season to get those guys some extra time on the power play and extra minutes. With seven we’ll get to expose them all and get them into high leverage situations that we might not in a regular season.”

Owen Williams, who would be a 20-year-old defenseman this year, is no longer with the Thunderbirds.

The WHL announced over a week ago that it was committed to playing a 24-game season this year but has yet to offer an update as to the particulars surrounding that. Most importantly, there is no start date on the record.

Does this trade, along with others in the WHL this week indicate that an announcement is imminent?

“I sure hope so,” La Forge said. “Pretty obvious teams are planning on something happening but we have to follow the state guidelines and the provinces in Canada. We really hope that we’re going to see something. We came out with a pretty strong statement that we’re going to play, and I really believe that from our group.”