Already a powerhouse Western Hockey League (WHL) team, the Kent-based Seattle Thunderbirds keep adding more top-level talent.
Forward Dylan Guenther, the latest addition, comes to the T-Birds this week after playing 33 games in the NHL this season for the Arizona Coyotes. The Coyotes assigned Guenther to Seattle on Feb. 5.
Seattle now has 10 players drafted by NHL teams. The talented Seattle club that won the WHL Western Conference title in 2017 had three players selected in the NHL Draft.
Seattle is 36-9-1-1 (74 points) and atop the WHL U.S. Division and Western Conference. The Portland Winterhawks entered this week just one point behind the T-Birds.
“Just like the World Junior championships where Dylan helped lead Canada to a gold medal, this is a tremendous opportunity for him to join a very good Seattle club, play top line minutes, and hopefully lead his team to a Memorial Cup,” Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong said in a statement. “Dylan has played well for us this season and he has a very bright future with the Coyotes. We look forward to watching his development the rest of the season.”
Arizona has one of the worst records in the NHL this season, so team management determined more playing time for Guenther in the WHL makes sense.
Guenther, 19, had 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 33 games with the Coyotes. Guenther was drafted in the first round, ninth overall, of the 2021 NHL Draft by the Coyotes.
“This is a very exciting day for the Seattle Thunderbirds organization,” said Seattle general manager Bil La Forge. “Dylan is one of the top players in all of junior hockey and we welcome his experience at the NHL level in helping us compete for a championship.”
Seattle acquired Guenther’s WHL playing rights on Jan. 10 from Edmonton in exchange for a fourth round pick in 2024 and the following picks conditional on Guenther being returned to the WHL this season: first-round pick in 2026, second-round pick in 2023, fourth-round pick in 2025, fourth-round pick in 2026, fifth-round pick in 2026 and a sixth-round pick in 2024.
Even though the WHL regular season doesn’t end until March 25, the T-Birds have clinched a playoff spot and certainly have goals of winning their first Memorial Cup, the trophy given to the 60-team Canadian Hockey League (CHL) junior champion for players ages 16-20.
There’s a lot of playoff games ahead for the T-Birds, however, before reaching the cup.
Seattle has only advanced once to the Memorial Cup, losing in the four-team, round-robin format in 2017. That team featured three players drafted by NHL teams – Mathew Barzal, Ethan Bear and Keegan Kolesar who each helped the T-Birds win the Western Conference title. All three are playing in the NHL.
The 10 T-Birds players drafted by NHL teams:
• Dylan Guenther: 1st round 2021, 9th overall by Arizona Coyotes
• Brad Lambert: 1st round 2022, 30th overall by Winnipeg Jets
• Reid Schaefer: 1st round 2022, 32nd overall by Edmonton Oilers
• Colton Dach: 2nd round 2021, 62nd overall by Chicago Blackhawks
• Jordan Gustafson: 3rd round 2022, 79th overall by Vegas Golden Knights
• Jared Davidson: 5th round, 130th overall by Montreal Canadiens
• Lucas Ciona: 6th round 2021, 173rd overall by Calgary Flames
• Kevin Korchinski: 1st round 2022, 7th overall by Chicago Blackhawks
• Nolan Allan: 1st round 2021, 32nd overall by Chicago Blackhawks
• Luke Prokop: 3rd round 2020, 73rd overall by Nashville Predators
The T-Birds beat the Spokane Chiefs 3-1 on Sunday, Feb. 5 at the accesso ShoWare Center in Kent for their third win in the last four games. Their next game is 7:05 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10 against the Red Deer Rebels at the ShoWare Center. They play Saturday, Feb. 11 at Portland.