T-Birds Training Camp: Day 2 features undrafted players looking to impress

Aug 24, 2018, 9:39 AM
The competition was intense Thursday during the Seattle Thunderbirds rookie camp (Brian Liesse)...
The competition was intense Thursday during the Seattle Thunderbirds rookie camp (Brian Liesse)
(Brian Liesse)

KENT – Despite being scrimmages, Thursday’s rookie games at the Thunderbirds training camp created quite a bit of drama. The two afternoon games both came down to the wire and required the winning team to hold off a strong charge to get the win.

In the end the Grey Team would defeat the Blue Team to take the unofficial rookie camp title. There was no cup celebration or banner but the excitement of the players as they raced off the bench to surround goalie Cody Creasy showed how these games bring out the competitor in everyone.

The camp will now transition into the main camp and we will get a look at the veteran players in game-type action. The returning players have been on the ice already this week with on-ice fitness training and a spirited practice Wednesday afternoon.

Seattle invited 110 players to camp, the largest number ever, but many players will be returning home Friday morning. Joining the veterans for main camp will be the majority of Seattle’s draft picks and a handful of select undrafted players.

Do these undrafted players have a shot?

Historically, yes, some will get a good look and may even get a chance to make the team. The Thunderbirds had several players contribute last season who were not drafted in the WHL Bantam Draft. Zack Andrusiak, who will be one of the Thunderbirds 20-year-olds, was not drafted and led Seattle with 36 goals. Noah Philp was not selected in the draft and played in many different roles for the club last season, including centering a top-six line and playing on the penalty kill. The list also includes rookies Samuel Huo, Holden Katzalay, and Cade McNelly.

Perhaps the most successful undrafted Thunderbird was former defenseman Brenden Dillon. After being passed by, he made the team with Seattle in 2007 and would play four seasons for the Thunderbirds. Passed over again by the NHL Draft he joined the Texas Stars on an AHL contract before eventually getting his NHL shot. Currently with the San Jose Sharks, Dillon has played in 447 NHL games proving that it ultimately doesn’t matter that you get drafted.

With over 100 players in camp, undrafted guys were aplenty.

The first name that jumps up is center Charles Obobaifo, who is in camp for the second straight year. The 16-year-old Nigerian born, Calgary resident was impressive last year and has looked sharp again. He’s not the biggest player, listed at 5-foot-7 and 160 pounds, but he plays with a ton of speed and has been a physical presence all week. He was invited to the main camp last year and it would make sense to see him there again.

Forward Matthew Rempe has also had a strong camp. Rempe is first noticeable because of his 6-foot-5 frame but he helped set up a few goals over the two days of rookie camp and nearly cashed in on a late, tying-goal for Team White on Thursday afternoon.

Another good-sized player, Taige Harding, had a strong showing. The 6-foot-3 defenseman was a physical force during the scrimmages and already looks the part of a WHL defenseman. The goaltender with the great name, Cody Creasy, had two great days as well. Wednesday he stoned several Team Green chances, including three or four from second-round pick Conner Roulette, and Wednesday was in net for Grey as they held on to win the camp tournament. As a 2003-born player, Creasy is not eligible to play in the WHL this year but he should hold his head high for the showing in camp this week.

We will find out Friday afternoon which, if any, of the undrafted players will get an extended look at main camp. But, its always worth watching because many can and have ended up on WHL rosters.

Training camp continues with three afternoon scrimmages Friday, starting at 3 o’clock. All scrimmages are free and open to the public.


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