Seattle Thunderbirds defenceman Austin Strand can officially say he’s California dreaming.
The 6-foot-4, 193-pound blue liner from Calgary, Alta., signed his first professional hockey contract Monday, inking a three-year entry-level deal with the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League.
One of the more experienced defencemen in the league, Strand has had an eventful WHL career to this date. He was originally drafted by the Red Deer Rebels in the third round, 48th overall, of the 2012 Western Hockey League Bantam Draft. Since then, he’s played in 223 WHL regular season games, accumulating 84 points (25G-59A) in that span, with 10 power play goals and four game-winning goals to his credit.
“We are very excited for Austin with his signing a NHL contract with the Los Angeles Kings,” Thunderbirds general manager Russ Farwell said. “He has worked hard on his game and came in this year with a determined attitude to continue to improve and had a great start to the season. It is always great to see guys get rewarded and there is a lot of upside yet in his game, but a big man that can really skate is what made him attractive as a prospect.
With 26 points (10G-16A) in 24 games this season, Strand is producing at the best rate of his WHL career (1.08) as compared to last year’s rate (0.43). Strand is tied for fifth in the WHL in scoring by defenseman. Nine of Strand’s 10 goals have come on the power play.
“He has played very well for us since coming in last year and both he and Hyman were huge pieces for us winning the WHL Championship last season” Farwell added. “We look forward to watching him develop the rest of the year.”
Two seasons ago, Strand was a part of the Rebels’ playoff run to the 2016 Mastercard Memorial Cup. Last year, he was traded mid-season to the Thunderbirds, helping them win their first Ed Chynoweth Cup in franchise history before making his second appearance at a Mastercard Memorial Cup, appearing at the 2017 edition of the tournament in Windsor, Ont.
In 37 career WHL playoff games, Strand has tallied 17 points (6G-11A) with two power play goals and one game-winner.
Strand joins Brandon Wheat Kings defencemen Kale Clague (Brandon Wheat Kings) and Chaz Reddekopp (Victoria Royals) as well as forwards Jaret Anderson-Dolan (Spokane Chiefs) and Austin Wagner (Regina Pats) as other prospects for the two-time Stanley Cup champions currently playing in the WHL.
The Thunderbirds are back in action Tuesday, November 28 (7:00 PST) when they make their first trip of the year to the Langley Events Centre to battle the Vancouver Giants.