T-Birds deal 2 to Swift Current for 4th-round pick

Aug 1, 2013, 11:39 AM | Updated: 1:45 pm

Andrew Johnson, acquired at last season’s trade deadline, is on the move again. (Seattle Thunderbirds photo)

By Tim Pigulski

The Thunderbirds cleared some roster space Thursday morning when they traded wing Connor Sanvido and center Andrew Johnson to the Swift Current Broncos for a fourth-round selection in the 2014 Bantam Draft.

Sanvido was the T-Birds’ first pick in the 2008 Bantam Draft, selected 14th overall. He will be 20-years-old this season, meaning he would have occupied one of the team’s coveted overage spots. The team is now down to the league maximum of three, currently filled by wings Mitch Elliot and Seth Swenson and defenseman Jesse Forsberg.

While he has produced slightly more offensively than Elliot during his time in Seattle, Sanvido had trouble living up to the expectations placed on him as a high draft choice. Those difficulties came to a head at the end of the 2011-12 season when Sanvido was sent home by the coaching staff in an effort to refocus him.

Last year Sanvido had career highs in points (29), goals (15), and assists (14) while playing in all 72 regular season games. He added one more goal in seven playoff games, and while his continued improvement was promising, the team didn’t have an easy choice as to which 20-year-old they were going to let go.

It’s possible the team may seek to move one of their three remaining overage players in an effort to make room for a veteran goalie. One potential target could be Kelowna’s Jordon Cooke, who the T-Birds know well after their thrilling playoff series last season. With an impressive backup in 18-year-old Jackson Whistle and a number of talented 20-year-olds of their own, it seems that Cooke could be moved for the right package if Whistle plays well for the Rockets early on.

Including Johnson in the package was a bit more surprising, as he spent only half a season with the team after being acquired at last season’s trade deadline. Seattle general manager Russ Farwell spoke highly of Johnson at the time, saying that he was a “highly touted guy” who “plays with a lot of energy” — something the T-Birds sorely needed at times last season — and had just gotten “bogged down” in Moose Jaw. The Thunderbirds actually dealt a fourth-round choice to the Warriors last season in exchange for Johnson, so it may seem to be a bit of a loss as they dealt both Johnson and Sanvido to regain a choice in the same round, but opening Sanvido’s roster spot is valuable in itself.

The willingness to deal Johnson proves the confidence that the team has in its two new young centers — 16-year-old Mathew Barzal and 17-year-old Scott Eansor. Both will be playing their rookie seasons in the WHL, but each comes highly touted with expectations for an immediate impact.

With the loss of Johnson, the T-Birds have now lost three of their four centers since the offseason began with the graduations of stalwart Luke Lockhart and Adam Kambeitz, who was also acquired at last season’s trade deadline. Alex Delnov was impressive in the middle last season and will be returning, and the team also features a few other players who could spend time at center, including 19-year-old Justin Hickman and import Roberts Lipsbergs, who played the position in Latvia but looked best playing wing last season when he was among the league leaders in rookie scoring.

With training camp quickly approaching and both drafts in the books, many teams will begin making moves in the coming weeks as they look to solidify their roster before the season begins. This is likely the first of a few for the T-Birds, who still have more players, especially on defense, than they have roster spots for.

Follow Tim on Twitter @tpigulski


Thunderbirds GM Bil La Forge has some moves to make this offseason. (Brian Liesse/T-Birds photo)...
Andy Eide

Thunderbirds GM Bil La Forge dishes on the upcoming offseason

Thunderbirds general manager Bil La Forge will make some moves this summer to improve his club. Will they be big ones?
2 years ago
Seattle’s Keltie Jeri-Leon celebrates his final WHL goal Sunday against Spokane. (Brian Liess...
Andy Eide

Thunderbirds end strange and hard season on a high note with dominating win over Spokane

The Seattle Thunderbirds dealt with a lot of adversity this season but end on a high note.
2 years ago
Keltie Jeri-Leon plays his final WHL game for the Thunderbirds Sunday night. (Brian Liesse)...
Andy Eide

Keltie Jeri-Leon set to play his final WHL game as Thunderbirds face Spokane Sunday

After five seasons, Seattle's lone over-aged player, Keltie Jeri-Leon will play his final junior game Sunday night.
2 years ago
Seattle rookie Scott Ratzlaff won his first WHL game in his first start. (Judy Simpson/TC Americans...
Andy Eide

Scott Ratzlaff earns first WHL win as Thunderbirds beat Tri-City

Behind a rookie goalie, the Thunderbirds kicked off the season's final weekend with a 5-2 win in Kennewick against the Tri-City Americans.
2 years ago
The Seattle Thunderbirds celebrate after snapping a six-game losing streak Sunday night. (Brian Lie...
Andy Eide

Thunderbirds enjoy winning again after snapping six-game losing streak

The Seattle Thunderbirds have been scuffling but battled against a good Portland Winterhawks club to snap a six-game losing streak.
2 years ago
Thunderbirds forward Reid Schaefer fights for position Sunday in Portland. (Megan Connelly/Winterha...
Andy Eide

Dealing with adversity, young Thunderbirds drop pair of games in Portland

Injuries and penalties have thrown a ton of adversity at the young Thunderbirds which showed up in a pair of losses at Portland this weekend.
2 years ago
T-Birds deal 2 to Swift Current for 4th-round pick