The Seattle Thunderbirds have signed four players – center Graeme Bryks, goalie Cole Schwebius, defenseman Cade McNelly and center Samuel Huo – to Western Hockey League standard player agreements.
All four players are eligible to play in the T-Birds first preseason game on Friday against the Vancouver Giants at the Delta Hotels Preseason Classic at Xfinity Arena in Everett.
Bryks, from Edmonton, Alberta, was the T-Birds’ eighth-round selection in the 2016 Bantam Draft. He had 11 goals and 15 assists with 36 penalty minutes for the Knights of Columbus Pats Midget AAA team in the AMHL last season.
“It is always great to have players come in and show that they have done the extra work in preparation to try to make the team,” said general manager Russ Farwell. “Graeme is one of those players and he is making a strong bid to play on our team as a 16-year old this season. He is a gritty two-way center that can make smart plays in the offensive end and step in and really help out in his own end.”
Schwebius, from Kelowna, British Columbia, was the T-Birds’ 10th-round selection in the 2016 Bantam Draft. Schwebius had a 1.93 goals against average and a .911 save percentage in 17 games for the Okanagan Hockey Academy Elite 15 team in the CSSHL last season.
“Cole has had a strong camp so far and his signing gives us some comfort and depth at this important position,” Farwell said. “He has a great attitude and has improved steadily since the Bantam draft.”
McNelly, from Westlock, Alberta, was an invite to T-Birds Training Camp prior to the 2016-17 season. He was added to the team’s 50-player protected list after that Training Camp. Last season McNelly played 20 games with the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers Midget AAA team and had three assists and 60 penalty minutes.
“Cade plays a style and approaches the game much like Turner Ottenbreit,” Farwell said. “Everyone on the other team will know when he is out there and over the years he will be a fan favorite here in Kent. Good, physical defense is hard to find and Cade has the chance to be formidable in that area.”
Huo, from Richmond, British Columbia, was an invite to T-Birds Training Camp this season. Huo had 18 goals and 14 assists with 20 penalty minutes in 28 games for the Burnaby Winter Club Elite 15 team in the CSSHL last season.
“We are excited to sign Sam and get him started with our team,” Farwell said. “He dominated sessions of our rookie camp and will develop into a very exciting offensive center in our league.”
By signing a WHL standard player agreement, the four players are guaranteed a WHL scholarship for every year he plays in the league. A player is able to attend any career enhancing institution of his choice, including universities, colleges, technical institutes, trade schools, or any other institution which will help the player achieve his academic and career goals.
For each season played in the WHL, a player receives a one year post-secondary scholarship, which includes: tuition, compulsory fees and required textbooks.
The WHL scholarship provides the top young hockey talent in western Canada and the U.S., with the opportunity to develop their skills on the ice at the highest possible level, without compromising their academic goals. The WHL is committed to recognizing academic excellence.
On the ice
Friday’s exhibition opener against the Giants begins at 11:30 a.m. Classic play continues the following day as the T-Birds face the Everett Silvertips at 7 p.m., and on Sunday, Seattle takes on the Spokane Chiefs at 3 p.m.
Seattle resumes preseason play a pair of tune-ups next weekend at the Red Lion Hotels’ Preseason Tournament at the Toyota Center in Kennewick.
The T-Birds wrap up preseason play with back-to-back games against the Everett Silvertips – 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15 at Xfinity Arena and 7 p.m. Sept. 16 at the ShoWare Center.
The WHL champion T-Birds open the regular season against the Tri-City Americans at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 23 at ShoWare.
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