WHL Next Generation is a 23-part series highlighting a handful of the future stars of the Western Hockey League. From first-round bantam draft picks to later-blooming selections, get to know the names of players set to establish themselves as the newest crop of exciting talent to grace the WHL. From August 1 through August 31, get the inside scoop on the incoming rookie class of 2018-19.
Team: Seattle Thunderbirds
Position: Right Wing
The Seattle Thunderbirds managed a record of 34-28-8-2 last season, which gave them a win percentage of 0.542. Even with this percentage they only placed fifth in what was one of the most difficult divisions to play in. Though they finished fifth they still made playoffs which was short-lived with a loss to the eventual Western Conference Champion Everett Silvertips.
While the team will look different next season, the Thunderbirds are hoping they can introduce some fresh faces to begin building the next wave of talent in their organization. This starts with their first-round pick in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft, Payton Mount.
Mount is from Victoria BC and played his Bantam and Midget seasons with Delta Hockey Academy, posting 67 points (30G-37A) in 30 games in Bantam and 49 points (22G-27A) in 27 games in Midget. He excelled in the playoffs as well, posting seven points in five games in Bantam and two points in three games in Midget.
“My last season with Delta was really good,” said Mount. “I felt that I got bigger and stronger as the season went on, and as a team I thought we played well. We didn’t get the result we were looking for in playoffs but overall it was a really good season.”
Mount’s impressive offensive season saw him invited to play with Team BC at the WHL Cup, where he found more success, helping his team to a gold medal with five points (4G-1A) in five games.
“It was an amazing experience winning gold at the WHL Cup, definitely a once in a lifetime experience,” explained the Thunderbirds prospect. “To be able to win it with the group of guys we had was really cool. It was fun meeting a bunch of good players and people and they were really fun to compete with and it made it even better winning the gold while representing our province.”
Selected by Seattle 19th overall in 2017, the expectations are high for Mount, but the athletic forward isn’t worried, and knows that his game will speak for itself.
“I had received phone calls prior to the draft which gave me an idea I would go late first or early second round,” explained Mount. “I wasn’t sure who was going to select me as a few teams showed interest but when I saw it was Seattle I was really happy because it’s close to where I live for my parents to watch me play and also because they have such a great organization.”
“There is definitely some added pressure being a first-round pick, especially from the fans when all they know is that you are a first-round pick. I think it doesn’t matter when you were drafted, you have equal opportunity as the next guy and have to prove yourself through your play.”
Proving himself through his play is something that Mount has done time and time again, putting up over 20 goals in each of his last two season. So, what does Mount bring to the Thunderbirds?
“I think I bring speed and I am a fast-paced winger,” said Mount. “I don’t have a lot of size but I’m quick and I use my speed down the wall to drive defenders back towards their net. I also like to push towards the net to put myself into a position to score.”
This is how Mount has played in the past and says he plays a comparable game to Washington Capitals forward T.J. Oshie.
“I would say I model my game after T.J. Oshie. He has a bit bigger of a body than I do but we have a similar style of play. We both have pretty good hands and a good shot that can put the puck in the back of the net.”
While Mount didn’t hit the twine with Seattle this season, he did record his first WHL point with an assist. A moment he won’t soon forget.
“I got a pass from [Austin] Strand going through the neutral zone,” explained Mount. “I was on a three on two with Noah Philp. I slid it under the defenceman’s stick and Noah put it in the back of the net. It was a big goal in the third period to help us send it to overtime. It was really exciting.”
With a roster spot on the line this year, now the Mount is eligible to play a full season, he has been putting in the work over the summer, with his sights set solely on playing with Seattle.
“I’m definitely going to give it my all and showcase all the work I have been putting in over last season and the summer,” said the Thunderbirds prospect. “Seattle has given the prospects a program they want us to follow so I have been following it everyday. I have also had some guidance from the Hockey Canada U17 program. It has been busy, but I know it will pay off heading into this season.”
Mount will look to showcase his skill when the Thunderbirds open their pre-season against the Vancouver Giants on Friday August 31st at 11:30 a.m. in the Everett Silvertips Tournament in the Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Wash.
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