WICHITA, Kan. – As the dog days of August continue to drone on, the process of putting together the 2018-19 roster is in full swing for Wichita Thunder head coach Malcolm Cameron. Currently, the Thunder have announced ten players; six forwards and four defensemen, with additional announcements expected soon.
We are at the point of the free agency period where AHL teams have made decisions on free agents in their league and are finalizing their rosters for training camp, which means those higher-end ECHL players who did not get a contract offer may come back and sign. In the last two months of last year’s free agency period, the Thunder added Travis Brown, Joel Rumpel, Shaq Merasty, Guillaume Lepine, Samuel Thibault and Steven Iacobellis (among others) to the roster.
So far, this roster has taken on a younger flavor, with no veterans and three rookies being announced as of Thursday. It is worth mentioning that team captain Dyson Stevenson is the closest to a “vet status” player, with 246 regular-season games played entering the 18-19 campaign.
Here’s a look at the recent signings for the Thunder:
Colin Jacobs (F) – The sixth-year pro is coming off a 2017-18 campaign where he collected a career-high 31 points (14G, 17A) in 55 games between the Atlanta Gladiators and Toledo Walleye. According to Mark Monroe of the Toledo Blade, Jacobs can play both center and wing, and fits in well with the higher-end forwards. Monroe envisions Jacobs fitting into the second line area on a roster. Jacobs will add some size and toughness to the Thunder offensive group, bringing two seasons with over 100 PIMs.
Steven Iacobellis (F) – A significant injury derailed what was on track to be a decent rookie campaign for the forward, who re-signed with the team on July 18.
“Aside from the unfortunate injury I endured, last year was a great introduction to pro hockey for me,” stated Iacobellis. “I couldn’t be more excited to get year two underway back in Wichita with a great group of guys and staff. I’ve been working hard this off season to get back into shape.”
Iacobellis made his presence felt in the playoff series against Colorado both on the scoresheet and off; collecting a pair of assists, while scoring several key faceoff wins and using his speed to get to loose pucks. Look for him to have a solid sophomore campaign for Wichita.
Matt Schmalz (F) – Coming off a strong campaign that saw him finish tied with former Thunder forward Kevin Dufour for 26th overall in rookie scoring, the 6-foot-6 forward signed with Wichita on July 25.
“Matt is a big, strong power forward that has a good shot and touch around the net,” commented Cameron. “He creates opportunities with his size and reach and we expect he will expand upon his excellent rookie season.”
On top of a strong offensive season, Schmalz was also responsible defensively, going +14, compared to Dufour who was a -7.
Mitch Maloney (F) – The product of Ferris State University got his feet wet at the pro level last season in Wichita, playing in a total of six games (five regular-season and one Kelly Cup Playoff). In his four-year run at Ferris State, Maloney put up 57 points in 135 career games. During his senior campaign, he had a career-high 25 points (15g, 10a) in 36 games and was a nominee for the 2018 Hobey Baker award, given to the best player in college hockey.
“Mitch is a big bodied, intelligent forward that meshed seamlessly with us when he joined us for the playoffs last season,” Cameron said. “He protects the puck well and goes to the hard areas and it will be a pleasure to have him right from the start.”
Dylan Labbe (D) – The most recent Thunder signee is coming off an injury-riddled 2017-18 season with the Rapid City Rush, one that saw him play in just 42 games. Labbe joins Wichita with some experience under his belt, having played 143 professional games with the AHL’s Iowa Wild, and ECHL’s Quad City Mallards and Rapid City Rush, collecting just 25 points (10G, 15A) and 129 PIMs.
Where Are They Now?
Here’s a look at players from last season and where they have moved on to:
- Former Thunder netminder Joel Rumpel has signed with the EIHL’s Glasgow Clan
- Former Thunder defenseman Guillaume Lepine has returned to the Nottingham Panthers of the EIHL
- Marc-Olivier Crevier-Morin signed an AHL deal with the Bakersfield Condors and could see time in Wichita this coming season
- Mark MacMillan has signed with Tingsyrds AIF of the Swedish Hockey League
- Travis Ewanyk is rumored to have signed with Krefeld Pinguine of the German DEL league, joining former Allen Americans Greger Hanson and Chad Costello on that squad
- Brayden Low has signed with the Reading Royals after being traded there to complete the Colin Martin trade earlier in the summer
- Kevin Dufour has signed with the Indy Fuel after being traded to the Circle City earlier in the summer to complete the trade for Nick Bligh
- Nick Latta has returned to Germany and is playing for the Grizzlys Wolfsburg squad in the German DEL league
- Ryan Van Stralen has signed an AHL deal with the Bakersfield Condors and could see time in Wichita this coming season
- Evan Polei also has signed an AHL deal with the Bakersfield Condors and could see time in Wichita this coming season
- Kyle Platzer has signed an AHL deal with the Charlotte Checkers
- Zach O’Brien signed an AHL deal with the defending Calder Cup champs, Toronto Marlies
Stay caught up on all the signings and transactions from across the ECHL with our 2018 Transactions page. You can check that out, here: https://thesinbin.net/2018-echl-transactions/