Two teams of hopefuls — numbering about 40 — showed their skills the past two days as Soo Thunderbirds played host to their annual spring tryout camp at John Rhodes Community Centre.
When the ice had settled from the two-day tryout, the Thunderbirds committed roster spots for the 2014-2015 season to a pair of young defencemen, Alex Morin and Matthew Murray.
Morin, who has a 1997 birth-date, played at the high school level for St. Mary’s Knights in 2013-2014 after being a ninth-round pick of the Plymouth Whalers from the Soo Thunder at the 2013 Ontario Hockey League draft.
Murray, who was born in 1998, played the 2013-2014 season with the Thunder minor midgets and was not selected at this year’s OHL draft.
The Thunderbirds stand to lose several defencemen from their 2013-2014 Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League team to graduation and advancement, thus the addition of youngsters Morin and Murray will help offset the numerous departures.
Thunderbird head coach Jordan Smith noted that Morin “almost made our team last year. He’s a quality player, a really-good defenceman who I kept tabs on while he was playing high school for St. Mary’s this season.”
As for Murray, Smith called the 16-year old “the surprise of our tryout camp.
“I didn’t even know who he was coming into our camp,” Smith said of Murray. “His decision-making and play away from the puck really stood out to us. He’s a puck-mover, a really-good skater. He came in and made the team, similar to what Owen (Headrick) did at our main camp last year.”
Headrick, a 1997 birth-year defenceman and OHL draft pick of the Erie Otters, was NOJHL rookie-of-the-year in 2013-2014 and has been offered a future full-ride scholarship by the Lake Superior State University Lakers of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
While the Thunderbirds only made commitments to the two defencemen, Morin and Murray, several others had impressive weekends and will be invited back to the team’s main camp in August to try to secure roster positions.
For example, 1997 birth-year forward Jacob Palmerio, a local product who scored 12 goals in 28 games for the Nickel City Sons of the Great North Midget Hockey League in 2013-2014, stood out.
“He’s not that big but he competes hard and is always on the puck,” Smith said of the 5-foot-8, 162 pound Palmerio. “He skates really well and plays with a lot of heart and energy. We are a puck-possession team and Jake fits in really well with our style of play.”