PREVIEW: Seattle Thunderbirds @ Kelowna Rockets Oct. 7, 2022

Last season the Kelowna Rockets and Seattle Thunderbirds met nine times between the regular season and the postseason. Of those nine, Seattle claimed victory in seven of those matchups, leaving the Rockets with two. While Seattle did win the season series, the Rockets kept all of those games competitive.

How competitive?

Every outing between the Thunderbirds and Rockets ended in a one-goal differential with multiple games that took extra frames to decide the winner.

In the postseason, Kelowna came up short against a Seattle team that would go on a run all the way to the WHL final. Kelowna had late-season struggles with penalties which allowed the Thunderbirds to capitalize multiple times in the playoffs and have dominant wins, defeating the Rockets in just 5 games.

Seattle’s offseason changes

However, Seattle has lost a few players from last year’s campaign, including Lukas Svejkovsky and Henrik Rybinski, who were overage forwards last season.

The Thunderbirds made a notable trade over the summer, sending Conner Roulette to the Saskatoon Blades in exchange for 20-year-old Kyle Crnkovic, who was a force in the Eastern Conference last year.

The Thunderbirds do still have their leading point scorer from last year, Jared Davidson. Davidson, entering his final season of WHL eligibility, absolutely exploded last year, putting up 89 points in just 64 games. Davidson’s performance earned him a selection in the 5th round of the NHL draft, going to the Montreal Canadiens.

Seattle saw an abundance of success last season between the draft and winning the Western Conference and they are looking to continue their success this season. The Thunderbirds have plenty of new faces on their roster, including Gracyn Sawchyn, who looks to be an explosive forward. Sawchyn tallied two points in his first two games this season.

Expect to see Seattle Thunderbirds defenceman Kevin Korchinski return to the lineup tonight, as he is expected to make his 2022-23 season debut for the Thunderbirds.

Throughout the season, Thunderbirds fans can expect to see forward Bryce Pickford injected into the Thunderbirds lineup plenty this season, Pickford was an Affiliate Player from last season who saw a little bit of WHL action later in the year. It seems as though the 2006-born forward should get much more playing time this year. Seattle also has the likes of Tij Iginla on the roster this year. Kelowna-born Iginla is another 2006-born forward that saw limited minutes last year but could get lots more playing time this year.

How the Rockets look

Kelowna, on the other hand, retained most of their players from that team last season. Of course now missing last season’s three overagers in Jake Lee, Tyson Feist, and Mark Liwiski. The Rockets also just moved 20-year-old forward Jake Poole to the Victoria Royals for an 8th-round selection in the 2024 WHL Bantam Draft.

Kelowna looks poised to win this year, especially considering they were a very young team last year and they eclipsed the 40-win mark. Returning with a bit more experience under their belts and some new expectations, especially with 2023 NHL Draft Prospects Andrew Cristall and Caden Price.

Already, Andrew Cristall and Gabriel Szturc are both in the midst of a four-game point streak for Kelowna. Watch for them tonight as they have both seen hot starts to the season.

You can’t leave out Adam Kydd, who currently leads the Rockets in points with four goals and five assists.

2004-born netminder Jari Kykkanen recorded a shutout against the Victoria Royals this past Wednesday. He stopped all 20 of Victoria’s shots. Expect him to get the start this evening.

Just this morning Colton Dach was reassigned to Kelowna by the Chicago Blackhawks. However, don’t expect him to make his season debut for the Rockets tonight. He appeared in Chicago’s preseason game against Minnesota last night. Look for him to be injected into the Rockets’ lineup next week against Victoria.

Players to watch:

SEA:

Jared Davidson – 2021-22 vs KEL: 4G 12A 16PTS 12GP

Davidson was nothing short of lethal against Kelowna last year, scoring 4 times and getting 12 helpers over just 8 games. Watch for him to make some noise for the Thunderbirds this evening.

KEL:

Nolan Flamand – 2021-22 vs SEA: 0G 1A 8GP

Although he didn’t provide a huge scoring presence against Seattle this past season, Nolan Flamand is arguably Kelowna’s best 2-way player and a top faceoff option for this team. Now with a full season under his belt, and more familiarization with the way Seattle plays, I believe Flamand is bound to have an impact against the T-birds this season. At the end of the day, Seattle can keep the puck out of their net just as easily as them putting the puck in the opposition’s goal.

Should be a good matchup tonight as these two teams boast multiple NHL-drafted Prospects as well as some waiting to hear their names called this coming June. Tune in, tonight at 7 PM PDT as the Thunderbirds and Rockets drop the puck at Prospera Place in Kelowna!

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