Thunderbirds get stronger at Lethbridge’s expense

There was upheaval with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, and the Seattle Thunderbirds ended up as the beneficiaries.

Seattle added two more pieces to its puzzle when it acquired disgruntled wingers Jaimen Yakubowski and Sam Mckechnie from Lethbridge at a cut-rate price.

Yakubowski and Mckechnie, both 19-year-olds, were Lethbridge’s top two goal scorers last season, with Yakubowski tallying 31 and Mckechnie 26. But Lethbridge is off to a brutal start, with a league-worst 2-11-1-1 record, and two weeks ago the pair requested trades. Lethbridge responded by sending them home.

The T-birds were more than happy to take Yakubowski and Mckechnie off Lethbridge’s hands. Seattle was already experiencing historic prosperity, with the offseason commitment of star center Mathew Barzal followed by the recent luring of winger Ryan Gropp away from his NCAA commitment. The T-birds also are winning, with a 10-3-0-2 record.

Now Seattle has added two more impact players to its lineup, and the T-birds managed to do so without surrendering much of note. In return for Yakubowski and Mckechnie, Seattle sent 19-year-old forward Riley Sheen, 17-year-old forward Carter Folk and a third-round pick in the 2015 bantam draft to Lethbridge. Sheen was Seattle’s seventh-leading scorer last season with 40 points in 71 games, and had eight points in 12 games with the T-birds this season. Folk, a rookie, was pointless in seven games with the T-birds and was often a healthy scratch.

“The advantage we had (over other teams) is that we had a (19-year-old) and they wanted players to play right now,” Seattle general manager Russ Farwell told 710 ESPN’s website. “They didn’t want just futures. There’s not a lot of depth in the league so it’s hard to give up players who can play right now. If you want to add a 19, you have to give one up, which put a lot of teams out of the running. I think we had a little more that Lethbridge was looking for.

“(The trade) says we think our team is competitive and has a chance,” Farwell added. “But we didn’t think we were quite there yet. This just looked like a good move for us to give us a chance and keep us in the race. We have to grow and we haven’t won anything yet, and these guys didn’t come from a winning situation so we’re not expecting them too lead us, but the character is strong enough that we think they can grow with us and we felt they were good additions. We’ve shown we’re competitive and I don’t know if there’s a more physical team in our division, and I think that’s how we’re going to be successful.”

Around the WHL

The Moose Jaw Warriors are down an overager after forward Todd Fiddler left the team. Fiddler was Moose Jaw’s big offseason addition after scoring 42 goals for Spokane last season. But he had just two goals in 14 games with the Warriors. … Kootenay announced itself as a contender with the blockbuster acquisition of 19-year-old forward Tim Bozon and 19-year-old defenseman Landon Cross from Kamloops. In exchange the Blazers received 18-year-old defenseman Matt Thomas, 17-year-old forward Collin Shirley, a third-round pick in the 2014 bantam draft, and first- and fifth-round picks in 2015. … Current NHLer and former Lethbridge Hurricane forward Kris Versteeg wrote a letter to the Lethbridge Herald stating his interest in being involved in purchasing the community-owned team. The team responded by saying the franchise is not for sale.

League leaders

Points—Mitch Holmberg (Spokane) 37; goals—Holmberg 17; assists—Nicolas Petan (Portland) 21; penalty minutes—Sam Grist (Kamloops) 61; wins—Brendan Burke (Portland) 10; goals against average—Jordon Cooke (Kelowna) 1.85; save percentage—Cooke .939.

Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.

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