Three Thunderbirds hoping to hear their names called at this weekend’s NHL Draft
VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Saturday could provide for some anxious moments for three Seattle Thunderbirds.
It’s the day that rounds two through seven of the 2019 NHL Draft will take place at Rogers Arena in Vancouver and for Henrik Rybinksi, Matthew Wedman and Roddy Ross, it could be the biggest day of their lives. There are no sure things but all three players garnered attention from NHL scouts during the season.
If any of them are picked, it will be the first time a Thunderbirds player has been selected since Jarret Tyszka was selected by the Montreal Canadiens in the fifth round of the 2017 Draft in Chicago. Seattle has had 10 players drafted by NHL teams since 2010.
Seattle’s franchise record for most players taken in one NHL Draft goes back to 1990 when six players were selected, including two – Peter Nedved and Turner Stevenson — in the first round. If all three current Thunderbird hopefuls are picked this weekend it would be the biggest haul since four Seattle players were chosen in 2015.
Rybinski may be the most likely Thunderbird drafted this year. He finished the season ranked 123rd by NHL Central Scouting, among North American skaters. Rybinski took off after arriving in Seattle via a trade deadline deal with the Medicine Hat Tigers. In 33 games with the Thunderbirds, the lanky winger scored seven goals with 28 assists and was a disruptive force on the forecheck.
Wedman is in his last year of Draft eligibility, having been passed over twice before. However, the 6-foot-3 centerman exploded for a career best 40 goals this last year and has a lot of attributes that NHL scouts drool over. Big, physical, skilled, and a tough faceoff man, Wedman could have played himself into being picked this weekend.
After starting his season with the Camrose Kodiaks of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, Ross signed with Seattle New Year’s Day and took over the number one goalie position. He finished his stint with Seattle by posting a 2.76 goals-against average with a .919 save-percentage. He’s tall, listed at 6-foot-4, which the NHL likes out of its goalies, and he was ranked as the 17th North American goalie by Central Scouting.
If Ross is selected he would be the sixth Thunderbirds goalie drafted and the first since Calvin Pickard was chosen by the Colorado Avalanche in the second round of the 2010 Draft.
Former Thunderbirds Dillon Hamaliuk and Jake Lee may also be selected this weekend. Hamaliuk is ranked as high as 44th among some draft prognosticators which would put him in the second round. Lee, a defenseman, is ranked 146th among North American skaters by Central Scouting. Both Lee and Hamaliuk were traded, along with goalie Cole Schwebius, to the Kelowna Rockets during the WHL Bantam Draft this past spring.
Two other players with Thunderbirds connections to watch for are Mike Koster and Layton Ahac.
Koster, a defenseman from Chaska, Minn., had his CHL rights acquired by Seattle from the Calgary Hitmen in the Carl Stankowski trade last summer. He’s currently ranked 69th by Central Scouting and is committed to play NCAA hockey for the University of Minnesota. He piled up 59 points playing for Chaska High School last year, in just 24 games.
Ahac was a third-round Bantam pick by the Thunderbirds in 2016 but has not signed with club. He is committed to play at Ohio State next fall and is ranked 62nd by Central Scouting. The defenseman played last year with the Prince George Spruce Kings of the BCHL where he scored four times and picked up 32 points.
The chances of Koster and Ahac signing with Seattle are slim but Seattle holds their CHL rights should either decide to forgo playing in college.
Friday’s first round of the NHL Draft starts at 5 p.m. and will be televised live on NBCSN while Saturday’s session starts at 10 a.m. and can bee seen on the NHL Network.