WICHITA, Kan. – The calendar has turned over to September and eventually, there will be ice down and action on the ice at both INTRUST Bank Arena and at the Wichita Ice Center.
As we approach the start of training camp later this month, the roster for the 2018-19 season continues to swell; now sitting at 13 forwards and eight defensemen. The roster continues to take on a younger flavor of, with just two veterans being announced so far.
Here’s a look at the recent signings for the Thunder:
Alex Gillies (F) – The 23-year-old forward is turning pro after a four-year career at Michigan Tech University, where he won back-to-back WCHA championships. In 117 career games for the Huskies, he tallied 39 points (17G, 22A).
“Alex came highly recommended by people I trust and is an extremely intelligent and versatile player,” commented Head Coach Malcolm Cameron. “He comes from a winning program and has been well coached.”
Colton Sparrow (F) – After playing four years with the University of Alaska-Anchorage and the University of Regina, the 25-year-old will embark on his first professional season in Wichita. He posted 37 points (14G, 23A) in 109 career games.
“His energy and work ethic are contagious and that is a vital ingredient to success in the ECHL.” Cameron said. “His past coaches spoke highly about him and people I know in the hockey community raved about him. We’re excited to have Colton join our team.”
Greg Chase (F) – The highlight of the latest wave of signings has to be Chase, who was a point-per-game player with Wichita before Edmonton traded his playing rights to Florida in December. Chase finished the season with the American Hockey League’s Springfield Thunderbirds, collecting five points (2g, 3a) in 24 games.
“I’m excited to be back in Wichita,” Chase Said. “My experience there last year was nothing but positive. Coach Malcolm and the guys were very welcoming. We had a lot of success as a team and with a lot of those guys returning, I’m looking forward to getting the year started. My expectations for this year is for us to win as many games as possible and make a run at the title. We have the tools to do so. We just need to perform.”
Overall, the native of Sherwood Park, Alberta has piled up 54 points (25g, 29a) in 60 games in the ECHL. He also has 97 games of AHL experience, tallying 27 points (7g, 20a) in 97 games.
Kevin Patterson (D) – The announcement of Patterson’s re-signing broke the run of three forwards being announced by the team. Patterson was a serviceable defenseman for Wichita last year, after joining the club via call-up from SPHL Peoria in January. In 46 games, he put up 19 points (1G, 18A) and was a +25 (most of that coming with SPHL Peoria.)
Anthony Deluca (F) – Whoever says you can’t go home again should probably stay away Anthony Deluca. The signing of the third-year pro was announced last Thursday. The ’18-19 campaign will be Deluca’s second tour of duty with Wichita.
“After a couple of great conversations with Coach, I can’t wait to be back in Wichita,” Deluca said. ” I already know how great the city and fans are and I can’t wait to be back with the organization that gave me my first chance at pro hockey. It should be a fun upcoming year for Thunder fans.”
The 23-year-old spent last season playing for the Frederikshavn White Hawks in Denmark and had his best season as a pro, putting up 39 points (15G, 24A) in 47 games. During his first time in Wichita, Deluca posted just six points before being traded to Alaska, where he put up 20 points in 46 games with the Aces.
Ryan Valentini (F) – The final — and latest — signing of the bunch is a 21-year-old forward who is turning pro after a decent career in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). Valentini was limited to one game last season due to injury but was coming off a career-high season in 2016-17 with the Sudbury Wolves, where he piled up 50 points (18G, 32A) in 66 games.
“Playing professional hockey has been a goal of mine for a long time and Wichita sounds like a great place to start,” Valentini said. “I’ve heard nothing but good things about the organization and I can’t wait to be a part of it.”
During his four-year stint in the OHL, Valentini put up 78 points (29G, 49A) in 130 career games.
Other News and Notes:
The team announced they will host an exhibition game against the Tulsa Oilers on Saturday, October 6 at the Wichita Ice Center. Due to a cooler breakdown, the game will be played on the NHL rink and there will only be 200 tickets available.
Coming up soon, I’ll break out the crystal ball and forecast what the opening night roster might look like.