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T-Birds notebook: Matthew Wedman returns and is named captain while a former captain retires

When Seattle's Matthew Wedman takes the ice Wednesday he'll have a different letter on his sweater. (Brian Liesse/T-Birds)

The Seattle Thunderbirds got some good news this week as Matthew Wedman was returned from the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds.

Wedman, 20, had been participating in Springfield’s preseason after being loaned to the AHL club by the Florida Panthers, who drafted the center in June. He played in two preseason games with Springfield and picked up an assist.

His return to Seattle will be a boost to the Thunderbirds, not just for his veteran leadership but also for the 40-goals he scored last season. Wedman is the last player from the Thunderbirds 2017 WHL Championship team and will slot into their top line.

A 2014 second-round draft pick by Seattle the 6-foot-3, 209-pound Edmonton product has played 256 regular-season games for the Thunderbirds and has scored 69 goals, 89 assists, and 158 points.

He’s appeared in 49 more playoff games where he recorded 16 more points, including one of the franchise’s most memorable goals. It was Wedman, then a 16-year-old rookie, who sent the Thunderbirds to their second-ever Championship Series when he scored in double overtime against the Kelowna Rockets.

Wedman should be in Seattle’s lineup Wednesday in Kamloops and will have a new patch on his jersey.

The Thunderbirds announced Tuesday morning that Wedman would act as the team captain this season. The team also said that Conner Bruggen-Cate and Tyrel Bauer would be two alternate captains with a third alternate to be named on a rotating basis.

Here’s the latest news surrounding the Thunderbirds:

Former Thunderbirds captain retires from hockey.

Scott Eansor, who played for the Thunderbirds from 2013 through 2017, announced via his Instagram account that he was retiring from hockey.

Eansor, 23, had just completed training camp with the New York Islanders and had been reassigned to the AHL’s Bridgeport Tigers. He spent the last two seasons with Bridgeport, playing in 99 games. In those games, he scored 23 times while recording 31 points.

His contribution to a hockey team was never reflected in goals and assists.

With Seattle, Eansor was a tenacious forechecker and defensive center. He was responsible for taking on the opposition’s top lines and exhausted every ounce of energy he had, every shift. He was named co-captain along with Mathew Barzal for the 2016-2017 season and was an integral part of Seattle’s championship run.

After that season he signed an AHL deal with Bridgeport but after an impressive rookie season signed an NHL contract with the Islanders.

Eansor’s Instagram statement didn’t offer details as to the reasons he chose to walk away from the game but that he was ‘on to the next chapter’.

Thunderbirds busy weekend ahead

Seattle hits the road for the first time this season Wednesday to take on the Kamloops Blazers.

Seattle beat the Blazers to open the season two weeks ago but Kamloops will have a different look this time around. Kamloops picked up speedster Ryan Hughes in a trade with the Saskatoon Blades last week.

Hughes, 20, is familiar to the Thunderbirds as he spent the first three-plus seasons of his WHL career with the Portland Winterhawks. He’s already given Kamloops a boost as he’s scored twice in his two games with the Blazers.

The Thunderbirds will then stay on the road for a U.S. Division matchup at Spokane on Friday. That task became tougher on Tuesday as the New Jersey Devils returned defenseman Ty Smith to the Chiefs. The former first-round pick of the Devils was one of the best defensemen in the WHL last year.

He piled up 69 points – 62 of which were assists – in 57 games and gives the Chiefs already potent offense a big boost from the back end.

Seattle will return home Saturday night for a matchup against the Victoria Royals at the accesso ShoWare Center. The Royals are off to a 2-1 start but have a minus-4 early goal differential. It will be a homecoming for former Thunderbird Graeme Bryks, who was traded to the Royals just prior to the start of the season.

Bryks played 58 games for Seattle over the past two seasons. In three games with Victoria, he has recorded one assist.