How the 2014-15 T-Birds were built: The 2010 Import Draft
This is part three of a series of articles looking at how the current T-Birds roster was built through the draft and various trades over the past five years.
The 2010 Import Draft saw the Thunderbirds with two selections, Nos. 10 and 34 overall, after both of their imports the previous year left the team. Stefan Warg, a 2008 import selection, was traded to Prince Albert midway through the 2009 season. The other import player on the 2009 team, Mikhail Sentyurin, was never really able to adjust to the North American game and left the team after playing in only 41 games.
That left Seattle with two open Euro spots on their roster and two relatively high picks with which to occupy those vacancies.
With their first choice, the Thunderbirds drafted German-born Marcel Noebels, a skilled forward who would eventually be taken in the fourth round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft by the Philadelphia Flyers.
At No. 34, Seattle drafted 6-foot-4 Swiss defenseman Dave Sutter, who would end up playing in 137 games over two seasons with the T-Birds.
Sutter’s presence did little to directly impact this year’s roster, but that wasn’t the case with Noebels.
With Seattle once again near the basement in the league standings, general manager Russ Farwell was made an offer he couldn’t refuse by the rival Portland Winterhawks at the 2012 trade deadline. Even if the Thunderbirds were able to squeak into the playoffs in head coach Steve Konowalchuk’s first season at the helm, it was clear that they weren’t going to advance very far.
Portland, with a roster led by future NHLers Ty Rattie and Sven Baertschi, was preparing for a deep playoff run and saw the opportunity to grab an impact player from a team in sell mode.
The haul that Seattle pulled in return for Noebels was impressive — they grabbed right wing Seth Swenson, an 18 year old at the time who had yet to find his place on Portland’s depth chart, as well as the Winterhawks’ first round draft picks in both the 2012 and 2013 WHL Bantam Drafts.
Swenson had an effective run in Seattle before being traded midway through his 20-year-old season to the Lethbridge Hurricanes for 19-year-old center Russell Maxwell. Maxwell would spend the remainder of the season in Seattle, but did not return for his 20-year-old season due to religious commitments.
The biggest coup for Seattle came in the form of the two draft picks that they acquired in the trade.
With Portland’s 2012 first-round pick, which ended up being No. 20 overall, Seattle drafted power forward Keegan Kolesar out of Winnipeg, Manitoba. After a rookie season getting acclimated, Kolesar has become a force in the league as a 17 year old, racking up 38 points on 19 goals and 19 assists in 64 games with 85 penalty minutes.
Despite an untimely broken arm suffered last week, Kolesar should find himself selected in the 2015 NHL Draft, and with his commitment to improving in all areas the best is still sure to come for the 6-foot-1 right wing.
The 2013 pick from Portland, which ended up being No. 22 overall, turned into center Kaden Elder from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Elder has spent most of his 16-year-old rookie season on the team’s fourth line, also using this time to adjust to the speed of the league before he becomes a more important piece next season.
Even with Noebels in the fold, Portland was unable to overcome the Edmonton Oil Kings for the Ed Chynoweth trophy, awarded to the winner of the Western Hockey League.
Seattle ended the season with a 25-45-1-1 record, out of the playoffs for the third straight season. However, the T-Birds’ playoff drought would end at three seasons as they returned to the postseason in 2012-13. That was much of the current roster’s first taste of playoff hockey before they’d truly become a relevant force in the Western Conference.
With the trade of fan favorite Noebels in 2012, Seattle was able to grab some valuable draft picks that would eventually replenish the team’s pipeline. Kolesar has already developed into an impact player and Elder will have the chance to play a greater role on the team next season.