The Seattle Thunderbirds on Dec. 27 traded for center Nathan Pilling, of the Edmonton Oil Kings. COURTESY PHOTO, Edmonton Oil Kings

The Seattle Thunderbirds on Dec. 27 traded for center Nathan Pilling, of the Edmonton Oil Kings. COURTESY PHOTO, Edmonton Oil Kings

Kent-based T-Birds trade center Sawchyn to Edmonton Oil Kings

Two WHL prospects also traded in return for center Pilling and seven draft picks

The Kent-based Seattle Thunderbirds, sitting in ninth place in the Western Conference of the Western Hockey League (WHL), made a big trade Wednesday, Dec. 27 sending Florida Panthers prospect Gracyn Sawchyn to the Edmonton Oil Kings.

As part of the trade, Seattle, which won the WHL title last year, also swapped the rights to Gracyn Sawchyn’s younger brother Luke Sawchyn and defenseman Tracen Ashley, for center Nathan Pilling, five draft picks and two conditional draft picks.

“We would like to thank Gracyn for his time with the Thunderbirds and wish him the best of luck in his future with the Oil Kings and the Florida Panthers organization,” said T-Birds general manager Bil La Forge. “We are excited to add Nathan and his size/skill combo to our forward group and the draft picks coming our way will help in continuing to build our prospect pool for the future.”

Seattle enters this week with a 12-15-2-0 record, ninth place in the Western Conference. The top eight teams advance to the playoffs. Edmonton enters this week in last place in the Eastern Conference with a 9-20-0-1 record.

Sawchyn, 18, a center, was third in scoring for the T-Birds, posting six goals and 15 assists in 17 outings. His 1.24 points-per-game average is second amongst Seattle players. The forward has racked up 24 goals and 55 assists for 79 points in 75 career WHL games over two seasons in the league, adding three goals and eight assists in 17 playoff games en route to capturing the 2023 WHL Championship.

The Florida Panthers drafted Sawchyn in the second round, 63rd overall in the 2023 NHL Draft.

“We are extremely excited to be adding a player and person of Gracyn’s caliber to our organization,” said Kirt Hill, Oil Kings president of Hockey Operations and general manager. “He brings a very driven approach to the game and will add speed, skill, and competitiveness to our lineup.”

Lukas Sawchyn plays for the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League, where he has four goals and six assists in 26 games. The 16-year-old forward was drafted sixth overall by Seattle in the 2022 WHL U.S. Priority Draft. Ashley has a goal and five assists in 20 games with Calgary International Hockey Academy’s U17 Prep team.

Pilling, 19, has eight goals and four assists through 30 career games with Edmonton. He was acquired by the Oil Kings from the Moose Jaw Warriors last season.

In addition to Pilling, the T-Birds received the following WHL draft picks: 2026 (1st round), 2024 (2nd), 2025 (3rd), 2025 (5th), 2024 (7th), a conditional 2027 (2nd), and a conditional 2027 (3rd).

Cami Kepke, of the Canadian Hockey League, contributed to this article.


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