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T-Birds’ Jarret Tyszka taken in fifth round by Montreal Canadiens

Jarret Tyszka was selected in the fifth round of the 2017 NHL Draft by the Montreal Canadiens (T-Birds photo)

Seattle Thunderbirds defenseman Jarret Tyszka was selected in the fifth round, no. 149 overall of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft by the Montreal Canadiens.

Tyszka was Montreal’s sixth pick of the draft and the fourth player from the Western Hockey League that the Canadiens selected after Moose Jaw’s Josh Brook (second round, no. 56 overall), Victoria’s Scott Walford (third round, no. 68) and Cale Fleury (third round, no. 87).

“I talked with (Montreal) a couple of times during the year and then again at the combine,” said Tyszka on his previous contact with the Canadiens. “When the pick came around, I thought it might be me since they had shown some interest.”

The Langley, B.C. native registered 25 points in 54 games for the WHL-champion Thunderbirds in 2016-17, greatly improving on the six points he had as a rookie the year before. He followed up his regular season by posting seven points in 20 postseason contests.

“(The past year) has been really good to me,” said Tyszka, who follows up his WHL Championship by achieving the lifelong dream of being selected in the NHL Draft. “I’m just happy. Waiting was stressful but (getting picked) is such a relief. I’m happy to go to such a good organization.”

At 6 foot 3, Tyszka has the size that NHL teams covet. Pair that with his skating ability, which has always been his strongest asset, and you have someone who could be a strong two-way player in the coming years.

“Montreal is going to get more than even they expect from Tyszka,” said T-Birds Director of Player Personnel Cal Filson, who was in attendance for the draft in Chicago on Saturday. “He’s already smart and a great skater. Once he starts to get even thicker and stronger he will be a really good pro.”

To find the last Thunderbird the Canadiens took in the draft, you have to go all the way back to 1991 when they drafted Brent Bilodeau seventeenth overall. They also drafted Turner Stevenson with the no. 12 pick in 1990 and Lindsay Vallis thirteenth overall in 1989.

With Ethan Bear likely playing in the American Hockey League next season, Tyszka should cement himself as a top-four defenseman for Seattle this year. Except for Bear, Seattle could return the majority of their top six defensemen, with Tyszka, Turner Ottenbreit, Austin Strand, Aaron Hyman and Reece Harsch all eligible to return.

Tyszka, who has always projected as an offensive defenseman, will be counted on to make big strides this year as he has the chance to quarterback the team’s top power play unit with the departure of Bear, who was Seattle’s last NHL draft pick in 2015, no. 124 overall.