The Kent-based Seattle Thunderbirds received the No. 3 preseason ranking in the 60-team Canadian Hockey League (CHL).
The No. 1 Winnipeg ICE and No. 2 Quebec Remparts were the only junior hockey teams ranked above the T-Birds in the Sept. 20 Kia CHL Top 10 Rankings preseason edition for the 2022-2023 season.
Seattle, which won the Western Hockey League (WHL) Western Conference title in 2022, opens the season Sept. 23 at the Vancouver Giants in Langley, British Columbia. The T-Birds are then off for a week prior to their home opener at 6:05 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1 against Vancouver at the accesso ShoWare Center.
The rankings were selected with input from NHL Central Scouting. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League opens its regular season Thursday, Sept. 15, the WHL on Sept. 23 and the Ontario Hockey League begins Sept. 29. The CHL features players ages 16 to 20 with the top talent moving on to the NHL.
The T-Birds made impressive strides a year ago and now look to make the next step following an offseason makeover highlighted by the addition of veteran talent Kyle Crnkovic from Saskatoon, according to chl.ca. Finishing fifth in league scoring last season with 94 points, Crnkovic joins an offensive nucleus in Seattle that also counts left-wing Reid Schaefer (Edmonton Oilers) and defenseman Kevin Korchinski (Chicago Blackhawks), both 2022 NHL Draft first rounders, the latter who a year ago led all WHL freshmen rearguards with 65 points.
Seattle lost to the Edmonton Oilers last season in the WHL Championship series. The T-Birds beat the Kamloops Blazers for the Western Conference title.
Kamloops is ranked No. 5 in the preseason poll. Led by Dallas Stars up-and-comer and 2021-22 CHL Player of the Year Logan Stankoven, the Blazers bring a well-rounded lineup heavy with star power that has earned recognition on the national stage, like New York Rangers draftee and 2021-22 CHL Goaltender of the Year Dylan Garand, according to chl.ca.
Seattle plays Kamploops three times in the regular season, Nov. 9 on the road and March 7 and March 21 in Kent.
Kia CHL Top-10 Rankings
1. Winnipeg ICE
2. Quebec Remparts
3. Seattle Thunderbirds
4. Guelph Storm
5. Kamloops Blazers
6. Gatineau Olympiques
7. Flint Firebirds
8. Mississauga Steelheads
9. Sherbrooke Phoenix
10. Moose Jaw Warriors
HM. Owen Sound Attack
HM. Halifax Mooseheads
HM. Portland Winterhawks