WHL CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW
Regina, SK. — For the first time in WHL history, the Regina Pats and Seattle Thunderbirds meet in the WHL Championship Series presented by Rogers. The Pats last appeared in the WHL Championship in 1984, falling to the Kamloops Jr. Oilers in seven games. The Thunderbirds’ last appearance in the WHL Championship came in 2016 in which Seattle fell to the Brandon Wheat Kings in five games.
The Pats advanced to the 2017 WHL Championship Series presented by Rogers after working past the heart-and-soul Lethbridge Hurricanes in a hard-fought six-game Eastern Conference Championship. On the other side of the bracket, the Seattle Thunderbirds met the Kelowna Rockets for the second consecutive season in the Western Conference Championship, using six games to defeat their rivals.
Pitted against one another within the WHL Championship are two of the WHL’s most exciting stars – Sam Steel and Mathew Barzal – both of whom were finalists for the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy for WHL Player of the Year. Steel took that title home at the 2017 WHL Awards on Wednesday, but a this point, both players will quickly tell you the team hardware is much higher on the priority list.
Outside of the aforementioned stars, the 2017 WHL Championship Series presented by Rogers is brimming with talent – both of the draft and draft-eligible variety. The Pats boast seven players already tabbed by NHL teams, including Steel (Anaheim Ducks), captain Adam Brooks (Toronto Maple Leafs), Filip Ahl (Ottawa Senators), Austin Wagner (Los Angeles Kings), Connor Hobbs (Washington Capitals), Josh Mahura (Anaheim Ducks) and Sergey Zborovskiy (New York Rangers). On the Thunderbirds bench, Barzal (New York Islanders) is joined by Ryan Gropp (New York Rangers), Keegan Kolesar (Columbus Blue Jackets) and recently-honoured WHL Defenceman of the Year, Ethan Bear (Edmonton Oilers).
In terms of players eligible for the upcoming 2017 NHL Draft, there is no shortage on that front. Regina carries Nick Henry (25th, N.A. skaters), Jonathan Smart (149th, N.A. skaters) and Jordan Hollett (15th, N.A. goaltenders). Also expected to go in the early rounds of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft is centre Jake Leschyshyn (42nd, N.A. skaters), though he has missed lengthy time due to a lower-body injury and has yet to suit up in the post-season. For Seattle, Jarret Tyszka (41st, N.A. skaters) leads the way and is joined by Finnish import Sami Moilanen (110th, N.A. skaters) and centre Matthew Wedman (210th, N.A. skaters).
There’s no questioning these two teams have advanced because of enviable depth throughout the lineup. Friday night, the real test begins.
WHL Championship Series presented by Rogers – Game Schedule
|Friday, May 5||1||Seattle||at||Regina||7 p.m. MT|
|Saturday, May 6||2||Seattle||at||Regina||7 p.m. MT|
|Tuesday, May 9||3||Regina||at||Seattle||7:05 p.m. PT|
|Wednesday, May 10||4||Regina||at||Seattle||7:05 p.m. PT|
|Friday, May 12||5*||Regina||at||Seattle||7:35 p.m. PT|
|Sunday, May 14||6*||Seattle||at||Regina||6 p.m. MT|
|Monday, May 15||7*||Seattle||at||Regina||7 p.m. MT|
*= if necessary