University of Washington graduate Anthony Dion has covered the Seattle Thunderbirds for 1090 The Fan since the beginning of the 2013 season. You can follow him on twitter @anthonydion03.
With the exchange of overage players, Seattle remains set at the limit of three. In addition to Watson, the Thunderbirds are expected to return 20-year-old defensemen Jared Hauf and Jerret Smith.
The Thunderbirds selected Elijah Brown, a forward from Edmonton, Alberta, with their first round pick in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft Thursday. Brown scored 18 goals and delivered 23 assists in 31 games in Bantam this season.
The 20-year-old Kozun had the best season of his junior hockey career by posting a .915 save percentage and 2.41 goals against average in 60 games.
The offseason is of vital importance to Seattle, a team that played 11 rookies over the course of the 2014-15 season. All are expected back for the 2015-16 campaign including goaltender Logan Flodell who will be counted on, at least in part, to replace WHL Top Goaltender finalist Taran Kozun.
Seattle’s first-round playoff exit precipitated a sudden turn of the page to the 2015-16 season. Evan Wardley is one of a quartet of players moving on in their respective hockey careers, while potentially 11 first-year players return for their sophomore seasons with the Thunderbirds.
Tyszka was Seattle’s first-round pick (16 overall) in the 2014 Bantam Draft. He joins a defense unit which returns Ethan Bear, Jared Hauf, Jerret Smith, Turner Ottenbreit and Sahvan Khaira for next season.
The Winterhawks handed Seattle a 5-4 defeat in Game 6 of their first-round series. The loss meant the end of a handful of Thunderbirds’ careers, including that of defenseman Shea Theodore.
Evan Wardley and Shea Theodore, two Thunderbirds playing their final Western Hockey League game, sparked a second-period rally that gave Seattle a chance.
Through the first three games, Seattle did an effective job of staying out of the penalty box and not handing the offensive juggernaut of Portland unnecessary man-advantages. That was not the case in Game 4.
Seattle defenseman Jerret Smith scored twice, including an empty-net goal at 18:34 of the third period, to give the T-Birds a 2-1 series lead.