U.S. Division Recap: Ty Smith returns, Lee scores, and Roulette hattie

By Andy Eide

It would be understandable if Spokane Chiefs defenseman Ty Smith was a little disappointed to be back in the WHL. After all, New Jersey’s 2018 first-round pick was in camp hoping to stick with the NHL team.

He was sent back early in the week and if he was upset at all, he took it out on the opposition over the weekend.

His first shot of the WHL season, against Seattle on Friday, found the back of the net and Smith led the Chiefs to a 5-1 win over Seattle with two goals. The next night in Kennewick he added another marker, against the Americans. That’s three goals on his first five shots of the year.

It’s an impossible shooting percentage to maintain and playing in his third game in as many nights Sunday against the Everett Silvertips, he regressed by not scoring on five shots. He did add two assists though and earned the WHL Player of the Week award with six points in three games.

Prior to Smith’s return, Spokane’s power play started the season 1-for-12 and had yet to find its groove. With Smith? Spokane scored on the power play in each of it’s three games with Smith back and finished the weekend with an impressive 7-for-16 run with Smith picking up a goal and two assists as the quarterback.

Look out U.S. Division.

Here’s the rest of the U.S. Division news.

Seattle’s own notches his first

Seattle native Brendan Lee scored his first career WHL for the Everett Silvertips Sunday night in Spokane. (Chris Mast, Silvertips)

Early in the third period of Sunday’s Silvertips-Chiefs tilt in Spokane, Everett rookie Brendan Lee put back a rebound off the rush. The goal tied the game at 3-3 – Everett would go on to a 4-3 victory – and it was the first WHL marker for the Silvertips rookie.

Lee, 17, grew up on Capital Hill in Seattle. He played the last two seasons with the Colorado Thunderbirds before signing with the Silvertips this summer.

U.S. Division well represented on NHL Central Scouting Watch List

Every fall, WHL and NHL prospect watchers eagerly await the preliminary NHL Central Scouting watch list. It came out Monday and 44 WHL players were on it. Of those, 12 play in the U.S. Division.

The Portland Winterhawks led the way in the division with five players on the list.

Central Scouting gives prospects a letter grade indicating a range in which rounds of the 2020 NHL Draft they expect a player to be drafted in. An ‘A’ grade represents a first-round projection, ‘B’ means second or third round prospect, and ‘C’ indicates a fourth-round or later prospect.

These lists are often not representative of where the players will actually end up as individual NHL teams rely on their own scouts to grade prospects. As the season progresses players often move up and down the list and while it may not be the most accurate representation, it’s a good starting point to track the NHL caliber prospects playing in the WHL.

Here are the U.S. Division players that are on the list:

Portland Winterhawks – Cross Hanas, left wing, (B) – Seth Jarvis, center, (B) – Simon Knak, right wing, (B) – Jonas Brondberg, defense, (C) – Robbie Fromme-Delome, right wing, (C)

Everett Silvertips – Michal Gut, center, (C), Ronan Seeley, defense, (C)

Seattle Thunderbirds Simon Kubicek, defense, (B), Tyrel Bauer, defense, (C)

Tri-City Americans – Jan Cikhart, center, (C), Ian Ferguson, defense, (C)

Spokane Chiefs – Jack Finley, center (B)

Conner Roulette cashes in for Thunderbirds

The U.S. Division is littered with talented rookies who will be eligible for the 2021 NHL Draft — when NHL Seattle will be selecting for the first time.

One of those players is Seattle Thunderbirds winger Conner Roulette. The Winnipeg native scored his first WHL goal Wednesday in a loss to Kamloops but would erupt Saturday night at the accesso ShoWare Center.

Roulette, 16, picked up his first career hat trick as Seattle snapped a three-game losing streak. It wasn’t the normal hat trick however as the third goal came because he was tripped while behind the defense and the Victoria Royals net empty. It still counts and he now leads the Thunderbirds in goals with four.

Weekly odds and ends

The Tri-City Americans saw Krystof Hrabik returned to them from the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda. The Barracuda, who are the San Jose Sharks AHL affiliate, signed Hrabik to an AHL contract prior to returning him.

Portland Winterhawks rookie Jack O’Brien scored his first WHL goal Sunday night in Calgary. O’Brien, 16, is another of the talented 2021 NHL Draft eligible players in the U.S. Division this year.

U.S. Division Games on the Radar

All five U.S. Division teams will be in action this weekend but there is only one inter-division clash.

Seattle and Everett will renew their rivalry Saturday night in the US Division Game on the Radar. (Brian Liesse/T-Birds)

Saturday night, Seattle will travel up I-5 to take on the Everett Silvertips at Angel of the Winds Arena. These two Puget Sound teams have become bitter rivals over the past five years, which was ignited by a three-year stretch where they played each other in the playoffs.

It will be the first of 10 matchups between the two this season and it is Pink the Rink Night in Everett. Money raised during the game help fund mammography, disease prevention, and breast cancer care for people with financial barriers in Snohomish County.