Week 4 notes: T-Birds’ depth shines against Vancouver
By Tim Pigulski
• The T-Birds currently have 25 goals in just seven games – an average of 3.57 per game, good for second in the U.S. Division and more than both the Portland Winterhawks and Tri-City Americans.
It appears that the key for the T-Birds will be depth across four lines capable of scoring. Against Vancouver, Michal Holub, Tyler Alos, and Roberts Lipsbergs had two point nights (Holub and Alos each had a goal and an assist, while Lipsbergs had two assists), while Brendan Rouse scored his first two goals of the season and added an assist of his own. In all, 13 different players have scored goals for Seattle this season.
Lacking a proven elite scorer, it’s important for all four lines to apply pressure and continue to score.
• Lipsbergs, while he has yet to score a goal, often finds himself right in the middle of the play, clearly frustrating Vancouver defensemen David Musil and Wes Vannieuwenhuizen at different points on Friday night.
It’s only a matter of time before the Latvian import finds the back of the net, but even when he’s not doing so he is still making his presence felt and having an impact on the game.
• Holub made two impressive off-balance plays against the Giants, setting up Alos for his goal with less than two seconds left in the first period as he fell backwards, and then crashing the net in the second period to jam home a juicy rebound for his first career WHL goal.
With each passing game, Holub is solidifying his spot on one of the T-Birds’ two lower lines. Seattle head coach Steve Konowalchuk says he thinks Holub still has some improvements to make when playing without the puck, but it can’t be denied that the 16-year-old has been an important factor in each of the team’s past two victories.
• The Vancouver play-by-play announcer mentioned that he spoke to a couple of scouts in attendance for the game, and all agreed that T-Birds defenseman Shea Theodore looks like a surefire first-round draft pick.
Announcers in every game this season have raved about Theodore’s ability to skate the puck up ice and quarterback the power play. He’s been an important part of the team’s league-leading play with the man advantage this season.
• While the power play has been top notch, improvement still needs to be made on the penalty kill. Vancouver scored on its lone power play, Everett was 2 for 3 last Saturday, and Kamloops was 2 for 3 the night before. The team is doing a good job of limiting penalties and shorthanded opportunities, which is the first step, but they must improve during the rare times when they are down a man.
• Jesse Forsberg has been everything the team hoped for and more since they acquired him from Prince George in exchange for Colin Jacobs. In seven games this season, he is a plus-3 and has five points (he had only 13 in 58 games last season). In addition, he’s more than willing to stand up for his teammates and drop the gloves when necessary. To date, he’s done a good job of knowing the appropriate times to pick his battles.
• Speaking of standing up for your teammates, defenseman Jared Hauf probably scored a few points in the locker room this weekend when he stood up for captain Luke Lockhart. Lockhart took a nasty hit from Vancouver’s Scott Cooke early in the first period and Hauf was quick to respond on his teammate’s behalf.
• While the numbers might not show it, goalie Brandon Glover made a few incredible saves to hold on to the victory for the T-Birds. He stoned Cain Franson on a breakaway and robbed Nathan Burns with his left pad on what looked like an open net.
• The WHL correctly credited Lockhart with the team’s final goal on Friday night. Rouse, who originally was said to have the goal, instead had an assist on the play.
• Goalie Daniel Cotton, dealt by the T-Birds last week to rival Everett, picked up his first career WHL victory when the Silvertips beat the Brandon Wheat Kings 3-2 Friday night. Cotton made 23 saves on 25 shots in his second piece of significant action with his new team.
He also started Saturday night against the Regina Pats, taking the loss and making 23 saves on 27 shots.
• Jacob Doty, sent to Medicine Hat in exchange for Riley Sheen, got in his first couple of fights over the past week. That’s most of what the Tigers expect from Doty, who has just one goal on the season. Sheen, on the other hand, is Seattle’s leading scorer with two goals and six assists through his first seven games.
• There are already rumors popping up around the web about the possibility that Everett moves star defenseman Ryan Murray before the trade deadline. If they’re planning to do so, the ‘Tips may be best served moving him sooner rather than later, as he’ll likely leave the WHL as soon as the NHL lockout is over.
With Everett currently sitting in last place, it would make sense for the team to deal Murray to a contender, stockpiling high draft picks and young prospects in the process. Last season when Portland was shooting to win it all, they dealt two first-round draft picks and a WHL-caliber player in Seth Swenson to Seattle in exchange for Marcel Noebels. It’s likely that Murray, the second overall pick in the last NHL draft, would command an even greater haul for the ‘Tips – at least a couple of first-round picks, a lower-round pick, and a strong prospect or two.
• I don’t have any updates on the progress made in getting 15-year-old phenom Mathew Barzal signed, but the team’s strong play to begin the season can only help the cause.
Over in the Ontario Hockey League, Connor McDavid, an underaged player granted “Exceptional Status” to suit up in the CHL at 15, is widely recognized as one of the top two players born in 1997, along with Barzal. This week McDavid was praised by Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who said he sees some of himself in the young star. The thought of a comparable player suiting up at the ShoWare Center should have T-Birds fans excited.