With player graduation meaning a more inexperienced group on the blueline, the Soo Greyhounds added some experience at the position on Thursday morning.
The Ontario Hockey League club acquired overage defenceman Ryan Thompson from the Erie Otters on Thursday in exchange for a draft pick in a move that gives the Greyhounds four potential overage candidates for the 2022-23 season.
The team stands to lose three veteran defencemen in Robert Calisti, Ryan O’Rourke, and Jack Thompson with the remaining returnees all entering their second year in the league.
The trade with Erie was made to bring in a veteran presence.
“We want to give some of our younger players someone of a veteran presence back there,” Greyhounds general manager Kyle Raftis said. “He skates really well. He’s a big body. He can play a physical game and, being a right shot, we thought he would be a good option with any one of those guys and it gives us another right shot on the blueline. It was about finding someone that can take some of those minutes and help out our younger guys.”
The Otters entered the summer with four overage candidates, which played a role in the deal as well.
In a prepared statement, Otters general manager Dave Brown called Thompson “someone who contributed majorly to our culture in terms of leadership on and off the ice.”
With graduation meaning big minutes open for the returning group, Raftis said the ice time will get spread around the group, including Thompson.
“You’re never bringing in one guy to replace anyone graduating,” Raftis said. “This group is going to chop up those minutes and spread it out with the depth of the group and he’s going to add to that. You want to bring in guys that have an expectation of what their year is going to look like. Ryan knows what he is. He’s going to be on our penalty kill and play hard minutes. He’s going to be physical. He’s going to be a leader to our young guys, and he understands that.”
Thompson joined the Otters after spending his rookie season with the North Bay Battalion, who selected him in the first round of the 2019 OHL U18 draft.
After getting into the opening four games of the season with Erie, Thompson missed time due to injury, ultimately getting into 50 games with the Otters last season, scoring twice picking up five assists.
Thompson has played in 93 career OHL games, scoring two goals and 10 points in time split between North Bay and Erie.
In discussing the overage situation, Raftis added that the team expects former defenceman Matthew Halushak to be in training camp as well.
A 2002 birth year, Halushak wasn’t in training camp in the fall due to shoulder surgery and eventually joined the Superior League’s Thunder Bay North Stars when he returned to action. He returned from injury in January and the Greyhounds situation on the blueline at the time, which came at the same point the team had acquired Jack Thompson from Sudbury, meant playing in Thunder Bay made the most sense.
“We had just added Jack and (others) to the team and it was unfair to him to bring him back at that point,” Raftis said. “We’ll see what he has at training camp. There’s no promises either way. He just wants the opportunity.”
“It’s not going to be something that lingers,” Raftis added. “We’ll probably know if there’s a fit right away or not and with a couple of our OA’s it’s going to be a similar boat.”
As it stands, the Greyhounds will enter training camp with Thompson, Halushak, forward Kalvyn Watson, forward Keegan McMullen, and goaltender Tucker Tynan as potential overage candidates.
The OHL’s summer trade window opened early Thursday morning with a handful of deals made around the league.
The Niagara IceDogs were among the busier teams in the league, completing five deals, which included the additions of Pasquale Zito from the Windsor Spitfires and Matthew Papais from the Guelph Storm.
The league trade window closed Thursday afternoon and will reopen in early August.