It is like getting the house in order.
Seven homegrown skaters have confirmed their intention to return to the Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League for the 2021-2022 season.
Meanwhile, sources have told Hockey News North that the Thunderbirds have agreed in principle to acquire two more local lads via the trade route and are prepared to sign a number of players from the Soo Jr. Greyhounds of the Great North Under 18 Hockey League.
New player commitments and trades cannot be made official until the NOJHL opens for new registry business on June 1 ahead of the 2021-2022 season.
Meanwhile, returning locals to the T-Bird tent are listed in alphabetical order.
Michael Chaffay. A durable forward with good hands and sharp eyes for the net, the solidly built skater finished tied for fifth on the Thunderbirds scoring chart in 2020-2021 with six goals, 10 assists, 16 points in 21 games.
With the Soo’s top two scorers from last season — Cooper Smyl and Caleb Wood — ticketed to play elsewhere in 2021-2022, Chaffay looms as a serious threat to fill the net as a sophomore.
Tyson Doucette. Somewhat small in size — he is still growing — but smart and with untapped skill, the hard working forward came through with five goals, six assists, 11 points in 20 games for the Soo as one of the youngest players in the entire NOJHL in 2020-2021.
With a 2004 birth date, Doucette has considerable junior eligibility remaining in order to further refine what is already a pretty good all around game.
Kaden Dundas. Dressing for 16 of the Thunderbirds 21 games as a rookie defenseman in 2020-2021, Dundas had five points, all of them assists. He made the jump to the NOJHL last season from the Korah Colts high school hockey program.
Ethan Novello. Seeing limited ice time as a rookie forward in 2020-2021, Novello collected one goal, two assists, three points in 17 games. He will get an opportunity from new coach Cole Jarrett to move up on the depth chart in 2021-2022.
Russell Oldham. Not known as a major scoring threat from his forward position, Oldham had nine points, including eight assists, in 20 games for the Soo in 2020-2021.
Brock Santa Maria. An under-rated forward, Santa Maria finished tied for fifth with the aforementioned Michael Chaffay on the Soo scoring parade in 2020-2021 with six goals, 10 assists, 16 points in 19 outings.
Santa Maria definitely showed some images of dominance for the Thunderbirds last season and going into his third term with the team in 2021-2022 certainly has the ability to be a major difference maker.
Ty Zachary. The hustling forward netted four goals, six assists, 10 points in 21 games for the Thunderbirds in 2020-2021.
Hard work, commitment and a never quit attitude are among the many positive traits that Zachary has.
Oldest to youngest, Oldham has a 2001 birth date, Chaffay, Santa Maria and Zachary were all born in 2002, Novello and Dundas were born in 2003 and Doucette has a 2004 birth day.
New Thunderbirds general manager Jamie Henderson likes what he is in the Soo crew seven.
“We are thrilled to have the returning players commit to the program for the coming season,” Henderson relayed. “They understand they will be in a competitive situation next season in terms of ice time so it will be important for all of our players to have great summers in spite of the challenges we face with COVID-19.
“We have also had some great conversations with incoming players who are excited to be Thunderbirds (for the 2021-2022 season) and we will be excited to welcome them (when the league opens for business),” added Henderson.
Under former head coach Denny Lambert and erstwhile general manager Trev Zachary, the Thunderbirds posted a record of 13-6-2 over 21 games during the abbreviated 2020-2021 season.