Seattle Thunderbirds win 2023 WHL Championship – WHL Network


The Seattle Thunderbirds have their redemption.

The Thunderbirds made the most of their second consecutive trip to the WHL Championship, defeating the Winnipeg ICE to claim the Ed Chynoweth Cup in 2023 after having fallen to the Edmonton Oil Kings in the spring of 2022.

Seattle sealed the victory with a 3-1 win over the ICE at accesso ShoWare Center in Kent, Wash., capturing the best-of-seven series in five games.

This represents the Thunderbirds’ second WHL Championship in franchise history.

Under the guidance of Head Coach Matt O’Dette, the Thunderbirds were among the class of the WHL all season long, finishing the 2022-23 WHL Regular Season atop the Western Conference with a record of 54-11-1-2. The 111 points represents the best regular season in Thunderbirds franchise history.

All season, the Thunderbirds enjoyed the comforts of home at accesso ShoWare Center, registering an impressive record of 29-3-1-1 on home ice.

Seattle completed the 2023 WHL Playoffs presented by Nutrien with a record of 16-3. The Thunderbirds were once again dominant at home going 9-1 including clinching the Ed Chynoweth Cup at the accesso ShoWare Center.

No team scored more during the 2023 WHL Playoffs, as the Thunderbirds racked up 82 goals (4.32 goals per game) for while only allowing 38 goals against (2.00 goals against per game).

The Thunderbirds rolled through the first two rounds of the 2023 WHL Playoffs presented by Nutrien, sweeping the Kelowna Rockets and Prince George Cougars one after the other. The WHL Western Conference Championship proved a tougher test, as Seattle needed six games to work past the Memorial Cup host Kamloops Blazers.

Arizona Coyotes prospect Dylan Guenther (Edmonton, Alta.) led the charge offensively, recording 28 points (16G-12A) to lead the Thunderbirds in scoring. His 16 goals led the entire WHL during the 2023 WHL Playoffs. Guenther’s impressive run came on the heels of 29 points (13G-16A) during 20 regular season contests, being returned to the Thunderbirds late in the season by the NHL’s Coyotes.

Helping to backstop the Thunderbirds to the second WHL crown in franchise history was 2023 NHL Draft prospect Thomas Milic (Coquitlam, B.C.). The World Juniors gold medallist was named WHL Goaltender of the Year for his regular season performance and he carried that over to the post-season, leading the WHL in all major goaltending categories, including goals-against average (1.95), save percentage (.933), and wins (16).

WHL Executive of the Year Bil La Forge served as the architect of a Thunderbirds roster unlike any other seen in recent WHL history. La Forge made a number of key additions to the 2022-23 edition of the Thunderbirds, including the acquisition of Guenther, Chicago Blackhawks prospect Nolan Allan (Davidson, Sask.), Chicago Blackhawks prospect Colton Dach (Fort Saskatchewan, Alta.), Winnipeg Jets prospect Brad Lambert (Lahti, Finland), and Nashville Predators prospect Luke Prokop.

Seattle’s roster was stacked with NHL prospects, including the aforementioned Guenther, Allan, Dach, Lambert, and Prokop, as well as Calgary Flames prospect and Thunderbirds captain Lucas Ciona (Edmonton, Alta.), Montreal Canadiens prospect Jared Davidson (Edmonton, Alta.), Vegas Golden Knights prospect Jordan Gustafson (Ardrossan, Alta.), Nashville Predators prospect Reid Schaefer (Spruce Grove, Alta.), and Chicago Blackhawks prospect Kevin Korchinski (Saskatoon, Sask).

Davidson had a major impact, both in the regular season and the playoffs. With 82 points (38G-44A) in 60 contests, he led the Thunderbirds in scoring during the regular season. He followed that up with another 11 goals during the 2023 WHL Playoffs, which helped him become the Thunderbirds all-time playoff goal-scoring leader.

Lambert, acquired earlier in the season from the Saskatoon Blades, was assigned to WHL Seattle late in the season by the NHL’s Jets. From there, he did nothing short of wow, logging 38 points (17G-21A) in 26 regular season outings and another 26 points (6G-20AA) in 17 playoff games.

On top of the drafted NHL talent, the Thunderbirds also boast six players ranked by NHL Central Scouting for the 2023 NHL Draft, including Milic, Gracyn Sawchyn (Grande Prairie, Alta.), Nico Myatovic (Prince George, B.C.), Sawyer Mynio (Kamloops, B.C.), Jeremy Hanzel (Coquitlam, B.C.), and Scott Ratzlaff (Irma, Alta.)

The Thunderbirds first captured the Ed Chynoweth Cup in 2017 after finishing the regular season with a record of 46-20-4-2 (98 points). The 2017 edition of the Thunderbirds also swept the first two rounds of the WHL Playoffs, including the Tri-City Americans and Everett Silvertips. Seattle then dispatched the Kelowna Rockets in six games to win the WHL’s Western Conference Championship before knocking off the Regina Pats in six games to win the 2017 WHL Championship.

The 2017 champion Thunderbirds were led by the likes of future NHL stars Mathew Barzal (New York Islanders), Keegan Kolesar (Vegas Golden Knights) and Ethan Bear (Vancouver Canucks). Barzal was named 2017 WHL Playoffs MVP.

The Thunderbirds now move on to compete in the 2023 Memorial Cup presented by Kia, scheduled for Kamloops, B.C. from May 26 to June 4. Seattle’s first game is scheduled for Saturday, May 27 against the OHL Champion.

Previous WHL Champions
2022 – Edmonton Oil Kings
2019 – Prince Albert Raiders
2018 – Swift Current Broncos
2017 – Seattle Thunderbirds
2016 – Brandon Wheat Kings
2015 – Kelowna Rockets
2014 – Edmonton Oil Kings*
2013 – Portland Winterhawks
2012 – Edmonton Oil Kings
2011 – Kootenay ICE
2010 – Calgary Hitmen
2009 – Kelowna Rockets
2008 ­– Spokane Chiefs*
2007 – Medicine Hat Tigers
2006 ­– Vancouver Giants
2005 – Kelowna Rockets
2004 – Medicine Hat Tigers
2003 – Kelowna Rockets
2002 – Kootenay ICE*
2001 – Red Deer Rebels*
2000 – Kootenay ICE
1999 – Calgary Hitmen
1998 – Portland Winterhawks*
1997 – Lethbridge Hurricanes
1996 – Brandon Wheat Kings
1995 – Kamloops Blazers*
1994 – Kamloops Blazers*
1993 – Swift Current Broncos
1992 – Kamloops Blazers*
1991 – Spokane Chiefs*
1990 – Kamloops Blazers
1989 – Swift Current Broncos*
1988 – Medicine Hat Tigers*
1987 – Medicine Hat Tigers*
1986 – Kamloops Blazers
1985 – Prince Albert Raiders*
1984 – Kamloops Junior Oilers
1983 – Lethbridge Broncos
1982 – Portland Winterhawks
1981 – Victoria Cougars
1980 – Regina Pats
1979 – Brandon Wheat Kings
1978 – New Westminster Bruins*
1977 – New Westminster Bruins*
1976 ­– New Westminster Bruins
1975 – New Westminster Bruins
1974 – Regina Pats*
1973 – Medicine Hat Tigers
1972 – Edmonton Oil Kings
1971 – Edmonton Oil Kings
1970 – Flin Flon Bombers
1969 – Flin Flon Bombers
1968 – Estevan Bruins
1967 – Moose Jaw Canucks

*Memorial Cup winner