AJHL Preview: Drayton Valley Thunder

 

2017/18 Record: 17-40-3 (8rd in the North Division)

Leading Scorer: Vincent Beaudry – 61

Most Goals: Trevor Ayre – 24

Most Assists: Vincent Beaudry – 41

Offseason Movement

In: James Orban (Alberni Valley Bulldogs) Bradley Ong  (Alberni Valley Bulldogs), Jeremy Klessens  (Olds Grizzlys), Zach Aston (Bonnyville Pontiacs), Tanner Foster (Whitecourt Wolverines), Tanner Hopps (Penticton Vees), Trent Campbell (Sherwood Park Crusaders), Brett Bamber (St Albert MAAA Raiders), Jake Ashton (Knights of Columbus MAAA Pats), Braydon Iwaschuk (NAX-Treme Prep), Matthew Kinash (OHA Edmonton Prep), Jaxon Steele (Calgary Canucks), Jakin Smallwood (Leduc MAAA Oil Kings), Zac Gladu (La Ronge Ice Wolves), 

Out: Charlie Risk (Granby Inouk), Joren Patenaude (Calgary Canucks), Marcus Walter (Alberni Valley Bulldogs), Ethan Green (Olds Grizzlys), Marc-Antoine Benoit (Bonnyville Pontiacs), Felix Meunier (Whitecourt Wolverines), Trevor Ayre (Penticton Vees), Sam De Melo (Nanaimo Clippers), Michael Boutoussov  (Neepawa Natives), Branden Voss (University of Victoria Vikes), Vincent Beaudry (Graduated).

Last season was a tough one for the Drayton Valley Thunder, finishing dead last in the AJHL and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2011.

With new management in place and coaching staff now in the building, it could be a quick turnaround in Drayton Valley, and we could even see them push for a playoff spot this season. Eric Thurston is that man management is looking at to revive the franchise. He’s an experienced coach who was named the CIS Coach of the Year in both 2006 and 2009. On top of that, Thurston has also coached at the international with the Hungarian U18 and U20 teams.

The new Thunder general manager and head coach has had a busy offseason bringing in new talent and dispatching last seasons roster.

The addition of two AJHL veteran defencemen – Zach Aston (98) and Tanner Foster (98) – should help them tighten up defensively and also bring some leadership plus winning mentality to a franchise that has lacked that the past few seasons. On the backend, they’ll also have Jesse Pomeroy (99), Zach Bokenfohr (99), and Jeff Waronek (98) all returning. As for rookie, Brett Bamber (01) and Trent Campbell (00) are coming in from Midget AAA programs. Both players play an offensive style of game with Campbell being a converted forward who had 27 points for the Knights of Colombus last season.

On the offensive end, the Thunder are going to be without their three leading scorers from 2018: Trevor Ayre (98), Vincent Beaudry (97), and Marc-Antoine Benoit (99). Coming in to replace those guys are a good variety of youth and veterans. James Orban (98), Bradley Ong (99), and Jeremy Klessens (99) are the experienced players brought in to help the Thunder climb the standings. The three of them have a combined 334 games at the junior A level. You can also add to that list Jaxon Steele from the Calgary Canucks. After joining the Canucks at the deadline, following a tough spell in the WHL with the Medicine Hat Tigers, Steele was excellent for them becoming their biggest offensive threat scoring 18 points (9 goals, 9 assists) in 20 games. However, it’s looking like Steele is going to get another shot with the Tigers which has been rightfully earned. If by chance he does come back to the AJHL, though, the Thunder are going to get one great player. Also joining the offensive attack is Matthew Kinash (99) from the OHA Edmonton Prep Academy where he had 61 points (29 goals, 32 assists) in 34 games last season. By the end of the season, we could see his name up for the Rookie of the Year award.

Between the pipes, Shawn Parkinson (98) looks to remain as the team’s number one choice. Rory Dumelie (99) and Daniel Allin (00) are the ones who will compete for the Thunders backup role. Dumelie is heading into his second season in Drayton Valley and is looking to have a bounce-back season after having a 5.76 GAA and a 0.852 SV% in 2018. Allin spent minimal time with the Thunder last season playing in four games and posting a 4.11 GAA. His numbers in Midget AAA with the SSAC Athletics were decent as he had a 0.908 SV%. Thurston will have a decision to make here.

The Thunder have a much-improved roster due to all the new players that have been brought in. The job now is to get all those players to gel and fast. Depending on how quickly and successfully they can accomplish that should determine how well they do this upcoming season. The talent is there; it’s now just about the execution.