With Kolesar’s big presence in the lineup during the playoffs, Seattle is 7-0. When he was serving a two-game suspension for being a little too physical against a Prince George forward, Seattle went 1-1.
KENT — Keegan Kolesar has three attributes you can’t teach a hockey player.
“He’s big, fast and strong,” Thunderbirds coach Steve Konowalchuk said. But that’s not all. “He can skate, has the physical tools to be a force and also the skill to score goals.”
Add to all up, and Kolesar is a big reason Seattle won the U.S. Division and beat both Prince George and Everett in the playoffs to advance to the Western Conference finals against Kelowna beginning Friday.
WHL Western Conference finals
Kelowna vs. Seattle
Game 1: Friday at Kelowna, 7:05 p.m.
Game 2: Saturday at Kelowna, 7:05 p.m.
Game 3: Tuesday at Seattle, 7:05 p.m.
Game 4: Wednesday, at Seattle, 7:05 p.m.
Game 5: April 29 at Kelowna, 7:05 p.m.
Game 6: May 1 at Seattle, 5:05 p.m.
Game 7: May 3 at Kelowna, 7:05 p.m.
* Game 5-7 are if necessary
These numbers give you an idea of the difference Kolesar makes for the Thunderbirds. With Kolesar’s big presence in the lineup during the playoffs, Seattle is 7-0. When he was serving a two-game suspension for being a little too physical against a Prince George forward, Seattle went 1-1.
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A 6-foot-1, 220-pound power forward, Kolesar put up his best numbers this season after being drafted in the third round by the Columbus Blue Jackets. In 61 regular-season games, Kolesar had 30 goals and 61 points. In his seven playoff games, Kolesar has five goals and an assist.
Kolesar inherited his father’s athletic genes. His dad, Charles Peterson, was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first round (22nd overall) in the 1993 amateur baseball draft, the same year the Mariners selected Alex Rodriguez with the No. 1 overall pick.
Growing up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Kolesar learned what it was like to be a professional athlete at a young age, serving as a batboy for the independent Kansas City T-bones in 2006.
“We would go down and spend a month with my dad wherever my dad was playing,” Kolesar said. “I got to see behind the scenes and how hard he worked. It’s a different sport, but I got to see the focus it took to be a professional athlete. I played baseball and football like my dad, but what I really liked was hockey.”
Peterson is a scout for the St. Louis Cardinals, covering the southern U.S. and into Mexico because he played for the Campeche Piratas in 2002.
Kolesar, 18, also saw the dedication it takes to be a pro again when he was at development and training camp with the Blue Jackets.
“It was eye-opening,” Kolesar said. “To see players like Brandon Dubinsky and Jack Johnson, who have done really well, stay after practice and work so hard made me want to live the dream and play for them even more.”
Kolesar has played on several lines this season. He has the skill to roll with Mathew Barzal and Ryan Gropp on the first line, the speed to pair with Scott Eansor and Cavin Leth or the strength and defensive ability to take on the opposition’s top line.
The Thunderbirds split four games with the Rockets in the regular season — Seattle outscoring Kelowna 14-12 in the series. Kelowna will have the home-ice advantage by virtue of winning three more games in the regular season. Though Seattle has won eight of nine playoff games, Kelowna is 8-6, needing an overtime win in Game 7 to oust Kamloops and another overtime win in Game 7 to edge Victoria.
Seattle has gone 25-3 in its past 28 games.