Everyone with a Thunderbirds blog is going to be writing a post about the Seattle 20-year old situation for next season. So this one will be no exception. What will be the difference? While those 3-4 other blogs have facts, inside information and logical thought, I just have my own opinion. If I end up being 100% wrong (which is 80% possible), don’t hold it against me.
As it stands now, there will be 10 players that can possibly play as 20-year olds with Seattle next season:
7F, 2D, 1G
(Maxwell is eligible but is foregoing his overage season to go on his church mission.)
Thom Beuning covered this ground pretty well in his most recent post. But I think I see it happening a little bit differently. First, while it seems silly to get rid of your highest goal scorer and your 2nd highest point getter, I don’t think Lipsbergs or Delnov are back next season. Seattle might be able to get a return for them on the trade market but as 2-spotters (import and overage) they will be hard to place. They can be traded to other teams for bantam draft picks but they can’t be traded for import draft picks. More about the import draft later.
Now we are down to 5F, 2D, 1G. Let’s talk about the defence. I think Seattle will keep one defenceman but who it is depends on whether or not Shea Theodore makes the Anaheim team or not. It doesn’t seem very likely that he would stick in the NHL as a 19-year old but it’s always a possibility. If he does, then I think the team keeps Henry. It would give them an offensive-minded d-man to start the rush and also quarterback the power play. If Theodore does come back, then I think Wardley is the one that stays. Theodore would continue to be the offensive threat that he is so Henry would be a duplicate. Also, Wardley brings physicality and will be mature enough to continue to play with an edge without going over it.
On to the goaltender. I don’t think anyone expected Kozun to do as well as he did for the TBirds after acquiring him at the trade deadline. While not single-handedly responsible for the finish of the team, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Seattle wouldn’t have finished 4th without him. But is that and a playoff series victory enough of a reason to keep him around next season? It depends on if you think the next season is “the” season. The team succeeded this year but wasn’t built for a deep run. With the experience the youth gained this season, next year might be the window for a long postseason. For that reason, I think they keep Kozun. While Mumaugh and Flodell are the future goalies, I don’t think that is the tandem to take the team to where it wants to go. A goalie can’t be drafted in the import draft anymore and Seattle isn’t going to trade for a 20-year old goalie when they already have one. Any trade for a 19-year old goalie would come with a great price, especially getting one with the experience Seattle would want.
That leaves 5 players left to choose from for just one spot. It’s possible that Honey won’t be back at all next season. Troock hasn’t yet received a contract from Dallas, the team that drafted him, but it’s still possible that he may end up in Cedar Park next season in the AHL. From people I’ve talked to, that’s a strong possibility. So taking out Honey and Troock, that leaves McKechnie, Yakubowski, and Hickman. Hickman scored his first professional goal with Bridgeport, the Islanders AHL team, and is looking to make the most of his amateur tryout contract. Depending on how the last 4 games go, he may be playing his way into a spot there. Yakubowski and McKechnie are the final two. While both great on the shutdown line and awesome forecheckers, they still have distinct styles. Again, in a bit of a domino effect, I think it depends on which defenceman is still here after the Theodore option. If Henry is still here, I think they keep Yakubowski’s physical play and willingness to stand up for his teammates. If Wardley is the choice, then McKechnie is the forward because of his speed. Again, can’t really lose.
So here’s the short version: If Theodore is back, the 3 20’s are Wardley, McKechnie and Kozun. If he isn’t, Henry, Yakubowski and Kozun.
As a follow-up to the import draft topic that we touched on earlier, it’s important to remember that Lipsbergs was drafted with the 60th pick, the final choice of the first round. So even though they would be losing 2 of their top-5 scorers, it may be possible to recover some of that scoring with smart drafting.