With the 2021-22 Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League regular season still a few months away, preparations are well underway locally for the Soo Thunderbirds.
On Thursday, the team announced a pair of signings, inking a pair of players from the Great North Under-18 League’s Kapuskasing Flyers in defenceman Kyle Trottier and forward Kelsey Ouellet.
Both players are very familiar to Thunderbirds general manager Jamie Henderson, who coached against the pair while behind the bench of the Soo Jr. Greyhounds.
“It’s a jump for players coming from U18, but we expect big things out of both of them,” Henderson said.
“I know they’ve been coached really well and ready to make the jump,” Henderson said. “They prepare their players for the next level a lot like we do. They were two players that we targeted right away.”
Trottier, 17, had four goals and 14 points in 25 games with the Flyers in 2019-20.
“Kyle’s a really strong-skating defenceman,” Henderson said. “He’s a puck-mover. He’s the modern-day defenceman. He’s going to fit into our style and how we want to play as a team and have the D engaged all over the ice.”
With limited game action, Trottier called the 2020-21 season a good developmental opportunity.
“Last year with the Flyers was a true roller coaster ride as we would say,” Trottier said in a prepared statement. “From jumping in and out of lockdowns it became a good development year having many skill-based practices as we were only able to play a few games.”
Ouellet, 18, was a key piece of the Flyers offensively in 2019-20, scoring 16 goals and 30 points in 38 games.
“Kelsey’s a big kid,” Henderson said. “He’s your power forward type of player and possesses a real strong skillset, a good shot. If we would have had a season this year (in the Great North League), him and (Calem) Mangone (of the Soo Jr. Greyhounds) would have probably battled for the scoring title.”
Ouellet called the opportunity to join the Thunderbirds “amazing.”
“I had no hesitation to sign with them once I heard they were interested in me,” Ouellet added.