More T-Birds with NCAA potential

December 14, 2015

They are a top team that continues to serve as a solid base for players moving on to the Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association ranks.

Within the past year, the reigning Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League champion Soo Thunderbirds have helped to develop defensemen Owen Headrick and David Radke into NCAA players. Both are now Division 1 freshmen — Headrick with the Lake Superior State University Lakers and Radke with the Colorado College Tigers.

And just recently, current Thunderbirds defenseman Caleb Boman got a future Division 1, NCAA commitment from the Niagara University Purple Eagles.

And more Thunderbirds could well be headed the way of the NCAA down the road.

Family advisor David Maciuk has confirmed that a level of NCAA interest is being shown in a number of his younger NOJHL clients, including 1998 birth-year, twin-brother forwards Darian Pilon and Drake Pilon of the Thunderbirds.

And the twin terrors are not the only Thunderbirds who are under the watchful eyes of NCAA recruiters.

Another youngster, 1999 birth-year forward Mark Tassone, has sparked the interest of more than one Division 1, NCAA coach who has called to ask about the skilled skater with good puck sense.

Among the older Thunderbirds, 1995 birth-year defensemen Michael Caruso is a veteran junior who has been the subject of some discussion by at least one Division 1 coach dating back to his two seasons with the Soo Eagles when they were members of the North American Hockey League.

Then there is 1996 birth-year forward Jaren Bellini, a one-time Ontario Hockey League draft pick of the Soo Greyhounds who has preserved his NCAA eligibility.

There is nothing flashy about Bellini but “plays the game the right way” is a phrase that has been used to describe the 5-foot-9, 180-pound, right-hand-shooting forward.

Through 25 games this 2015-2016 NOJHL season, Bellini has scored 13 goals while playing the 200-foot game in a hard-working, effective manner. He also stood out as an all-around player with a good scoring touch at the recent Eastern Canada Jr. A All-Star Challenge showcase that was held in Cornwall, Ont.

Thunderbirds president-director of hockey operations Kevin Cain is of the notion that Bellini could fill an effective role as a Division 1 player — say with the cross-river Lake Superior State Lakers of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

“I think he would be a good fit for Lake State academically and as a useful player,” Cain said evenly. “I got to see Jaren in a different setting at the Eastern Canada showcase in Cornwall and of all of the forwards from the various junior leagues, he was one of the better ones out there.”

Bellini still has a season of junior eligibility remaining after this one but Cain can see the compact forward moving up to the Division 1, NCAA level next fall, even if it were to be as a red-shirt freshman.

Meantime, as the Thunderbirds pursue yet-another NOJHL title, they do so while having a proven record of developing players for the next level of the game.

PHOTO: Jaren Bellini of the Soo Thunderbirds. (Photo by Ali Pearson.)

What you think about “More T-Birds with NCAA potential”

  1. Hardly surprising to anyone who has seen this team play. Lots of talent, but more importantly, they play the game properly, the way it’s played in NCAA Div1. The Head Coach deserves a lot of the credit as well. Her certainly has demonstrated his ability through this team’s continued success.

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