New faces already providing impact for Thunderbirds
Prior to the Jan. 10 trade deadline, the Thunderbirds made one blockbuster trade to acquire goaltender Landon Bow as well as a number of smaller, lower-profile trades to fill out their roster.
Bow was clearly the marquee name as a 20-year-old veteran goaltender moving from a bottom-dwelling Swift Current team to a Seattle club hoping to vie for one of the top spots in the West. In the trade, Seattle was forced to move overage forward Jamal Watson, who had spent most of his time with the T-Birds on their second line, and Taz Burman, their 18-year-old backup goalie.
Since coming to Seattle, Bow has had a Taran Kozun-like impact. For those who don’t remember, Kozun came to Seattle via a trade with Kamloops and immediately was a major factor, winning his first seven games and recording shutouts in his first two contests with his new team. Through Bow’s first seven games, he’s 5-1-0-0 with two shutouts and has allowed just nine goals in 358 minutes, good for a 1.51 goals-against average. Prior to Bow’s arrival, the T-Birds had yet to record a shutout this season, and in just over a week they now have two.
Going from a pretender to a contender, it was expected that both Bow’s and Seattle’s numbers would improve. What might have been less expected were the impacts that some of the other newcomers, particularly Cavin Leth, would also provide.
Leth, a 19-year-old whose career high was 19 points, seemed like a questionable acquisition. He had never put up impressive numbers and looked like he would only be a half-season rental since next year he would need to occupy a 20-year-old spot. However, since joining Seattle, Leth has played his way into the conversation for a spot with Seattle next season. He’s tallied three goals and one assist in seven games while replacing Watson on the second line and has no fear when it comes to digging in the corners or crashing the net. He’s not the biggest guy on the ice at 6 feet tall and 175 pounds, but that doesn’t stop him from playing much larger than his listed size.
Admittedly, Leth is still adjusting to Seattle’s system. Head coach Steve Konowalchuk said Leth still has some work to do to become a consistent force, but that his performance on Tuesday night versus Saskatoon was one of his best since being acquired. As time passes and he becomes more integrated in Seattle’s system, the results should only continue to improve.
Aside from Leth, newly acquired defenseman Bryan Allbee scored his first goal as a Thunderbird on Tuesday night. Like Leth, the trade for Allbee seemed like an odd one, as Seattle had just traded a younger defender – Sahvan Khaira – and replaced him with someone a year older whose numbers weren’t much more impressive.
Allbee doesn’t see a ton of ice time as a third-pairing defender, but he’s provided a left-handed point shot on the second power-play unit and his goal Tuesday night served as the dagger that buried the Blades. Like Turner Ottenbreit last season, Allbee was relatively unknown when he came to Seattle, but he looks like the type of player who will fit in and play a bigger role next season when Seattle loses veteran defensemen Jerret Smith and Jared Hauf.
Bow, as a 20-year-old, is a half-season rental that the T-Birds hope can get them deep into the WHL playoffs and contending for a title this season. Leth and Allbee looked like they might not be much more than placeholders for a team that has felt the sting of injuries both up front and on the blue line, but they’re out to prove that they can offer quite a bit more.