By Tim Pigulski
The Seattle Thunderbirds announced Wednesday afternoon that they have sent 20-year-old defenseman Jesse Forsberg to the Moose Jaw Warriors in exchange for a third-round draft choice and fellow blueliner Griffin Foulk to the Lethbridge Hurricanes in exchange for defenseman Adam Henry.
The trades serve to clear up both the 20-year-old situation and the crowded blue line that head coach Steve Konowalchuk had been juggling.
Forsberg, who had only played in two games this season while nursing a lower-body injury, had 26 points and 103 penalty minutes in 66 games last year, adding five points in seven playoff games. The trade helps clear up the overage situation, which became complicated with the return of Mitch Elliot from the AHL's Utica Comets. The team is now down to its maximum of three 20-year-old players with veteran forwards Seth Swenson, Erik Benoit, and Elliot.
In what seems to be a more curious move, the team sent Foulk, 18, to Lethbridge for Henry, who is also an 18-year-old defenseman but is 19 in hockey years due to his late birthday. Acquired early last season from Everett, Foulk made huge strides in the playoffs last season and has played well early this year. He is currently a plus-three and the trade doesn't provide a relief to the defensive logjam, where the team already has a very high number of 18-year-olds, including Shea Theodore, Jared Hauf, and Jerret Smith. Henry had 14 points in 32 games last season and 21 points in 60 games the year before, so he will bring a bit more offense than Foulk did.
The Forsberg trade may have been easier to make due to the emergence of Ethan Bear. The Ochapowace, Sask. native is currently pointless but is a plus-two and the team is 6-0 with him in the lineup and 0-2 when he sits. As a 16-year-old, he needed to play in at least 40 games this season to fulfill the WHL requirement. It's unknown how serious Forsberg's injury is, but it likely isn't anything too bad if Moose Jaw was willing to surrender a third-round draft choice in exchange for his services.
With a crowded blue line that still features six or seven defensemen with experience, including a couple who have been with the team since they were 16, hanging on to a veteran such as Forsberg simply due to leadership was not a necessity. In return, the Thunderbirds receive a valuable draft choice in the same round in which they selected Theodore, forward Michal Holub, and promising young goaltender Logan Flodell. That's not to say Forsberg didn't bring some offense and grit on the blue line, but evidently not enough to make him a more valuable piece than any of the aforementioned overagers.
Henry is a player with untapped potential, as NHL Central Scouting gave him a "B" ranking among skaters eligible for last year's NHL Entry Draft, putting him in the same class as Madison Bowey and Mirco Mueller, two highly-capable WHL players, before the season began. After going undrafted himself, Henry hasn't reached the same level as those two, but we've seen many examples of a player excelling after changing teams, including Foulk.
The Thunderbirds' top-six defensemen will likely be Theodore, Hauf, Smith, Henry, Bear, and the currently-injured Evan Wardley. 17-year-olds Austin Douglas and Kevin Wolf will see time if a player goes down with injury or another defenseman is moved.
Henry's first action in a T-Birds uniform will likely come this weekend, either Friday night at Kelowna or when Seattle returns home on Saturday to face the Tri-City Americans.
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