2017 Memorial Cup Preview: Seattle Thunderbirds


The 2017 MasterCard Memorial Cup will begin on Friday May 19, at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, Ontario. Yesterday, I previewed the host Windsor Spitfires. Today, I take a look at the Ed Chynoweth Cup WHL champion Seattle Thunderbirds.

The Seattle Thunderbirds clinched a spot in the 2017 MasterCard Memorial Cup by defeating the WHL’s top team, the Regina Pats in six games to clinch the Ed Chynoweth Cup, the first in Seattle’s 40-year history as a franchise. Alexander True scored the historic overtime winner at the 12:36 mark in front of a hostile crowd at Regina’s Brandt Centre. True, a centre from Copenhagen, Denmark  scored 12 goals, and 22 points in 20 playoff games during Seattle’s championship run.

Also of note up front for the Thunderbirds, is 2015 New York Islanders first round draft choice Matthew Barzal. The 19-year-old scored seven goals and totalled 25 points in 16 playoff games. Barzal also represented Canada at the 2017 World Junior Hockey Championship this past holiday season, where he would score three times and finish eight points, leading Canada to a silver medal. Barzal is looking to captain Seattle to it’s first ever MasterCard Memorial Cup championship.

On the wing for Seattle, is the WHL leader in points for the post-season, the dangerous Keegan Kolesar. The third round draft pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2015 NHL Draft,  Kolesar scored 12 times and had a league-leading 31 points in just 19 games played.

On the blueline for the Thunderbirds, and fourth in WHL playoff points, is Ethan Bear. A fifth round draft selection of the Edmonton Oilers in 2015, Bear was the Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy winner for WHL defenceman of the year for the 2017 season. He scored 28 goals and picked up a career-high 70 points in 67 games played for Seattle this season. Bear would go on to score six goals and 26 points in 17 playoff games.

Calgary Flames third rounder Aaron Hyman is also worth keeping an eye on on. The six-foot-five blueliner scored once and picked up seven points in 20 playoff games played. He will be a physical presence throughout the Memorial Cup tournament.

The starting netminder for Seattle will be Carl Stankowski. The rookie finished sixth among WHL goalies in playoff statistics playing 20 games with a record of 16-4. He finished the post-season with a goals against average of 2.50 and a save percentage of .911. Backing up Stankowski will be Matt Berlin, who started 13 regular season games for the Thunderbirds after being acquired from the Spokane Chiefs. In 13 games, Berlin had a 7-2-2 record with a goals against average of 2.82 and a save percentage of .902.

Seattle will begin the quest for it’s first ever Memorial Cup on Saturday, May 20 at 3 p.m. against the OHL champion Erie Otters. They will then face the host Windsor Spitfires the next night May 21 at 7 p.m. The Thunderbirds will close out their round robin play on Tuesday, May 23 vs the QMJHL champion Saint John Sea Dogs at 7 p.m. All times listed in eastern time.

Check back to The Q News for coverage of the 2017 MasterCard Memorial Cup over the next couple weeks including tomorrow’s preview of the OHL Champions, the Erie Otters.


Photo: Kevin Hershmiller