GLENS FALLS, NY – American Hockey League training camps are now underway, and many ECHL players are on their rosters. The Adirondack Thunder currently have five players under contract who are attending AHL camps. There are also several under American League contracts who should make their way to Glens Falls at some point this season.
The five under Adirondack contracts are forwards Patrick Grasso and Billy Jerry, defensemen Ivan Chukarov and Jake Ryczek, and goaltender Jake Theut.
- Grasso (Chicago Wolves): As a rookie last season, Grasso tallied 50 points (26 goals, 24 assists) in 68 games for the Thunder, good for second on the team, trailing only veteran Shane Harper. He also picked up a goal and three assists in nine games for the Utica Devils, who he was under contract with. Grasso is small (5’7″) but speedy and has the offensive skills to be in the top three for Adirondack again this season.
- Jerry (Utica Comets): As a captain at Long Island University last season, Jerry led his team with 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists) before joining the Thunder in March. He played well in his 15 games with Adirondack, picking up four goals and two assists, and earning himself a contract for the 2022-23 season. Jerry should be coming into the season with some confidence after attending the New Jersey Devils rookie camp and prospect challenge last month.
- Chukarov (Utica Comets): Hindered by a leg injury in late November, Chukarov was limited to only 38 games last season, but was solid on the back end when he was healthy. If he can avoid any major injuries, he should be a solid d-man for Adirondack again in 2022-23.
- Ryczek (Hartford Wolf Pack): Like much of the team, Ryczek struggled defensively at times last season. He did show some offensive spark, however (6 goals, 19 assists). With some guidance from Assistant Coach Mike Bergin, Ryczek has the potential to be one of Adirondack’s top offensive defensemen.
- Theut (Springfield Thunderbirds): One of Adirondack Head Coach Pete MacArthur‘s 3ICE teammates this summer, Theut comes to Adirondack with the understanding that he will likely be the number three goalie for much of the season. The Comets are expected to send the Thunder two goaltenders (barring any injuries in the Devils organization). Theut doesn’t have the best numbers in the ECHL, and his best season came in 2020-21 with the Macon Mayhem of the SPHL (16-1-4 record, 1.74 GAA, 0.933 save percentage, three shutouts). But MacArthur trusts him and will rely on him to fill the void if/when another netminder is recalled.
There are several players under two-way AHL contracts with Utica who are likely to see time with the Thunder as well. Those include forwards Noah Corson, Nick Rivera, and Sebastian Vidmar; defenseman Jarrod Gourley; and goaltenders Mareks Mitens and Isaac Poulter.
- Corson: With the Norfolk Admirals for much of last season, Corson showed he can be a multifaceted player. Not only did he put up some impressive numbers offensively (24 goals, 31 assists), he also embraced his role as an enforcer, racking up 162 penalty minutes. His numbers put him in the top five for several rookie categories: 5th for points (55), 3rd for power-play goals (9), 2nd for penalty minutes (162), and 4th for minor penalties (31). Though expected to end up in Glens Falls, if Corson can continue to produce at that pace (almost a point per game), he could be one of the first to return to Utica.
- Rivera: Originally slated to play for Adirondack in his rookie season, Rivera ended up with the Wheeling Nailers after the North Division opted out of the 2020-21 season. He had 29 points (14 goals, 15 assists) in 55 games with Wheeling, then returned to the Thunder for the 2021-22 season. Despite an injury-shortened season, Rivera seemed to thrive in Adirondack, putting up 28 points (13 goals, 15 assists) in 42 games, and earning a chance with Utica, where he picked up his first AHL point. If he continues his strong play this season, he will likely see more ice time with the Comets.
- Vidmar: Once he was finally able to clear the immigration hurdle and join the team in November, Vidmar got settled in and started racking up points (22 goals and 21 assists in 59 games). Like Corson and Rivera, if Vidmar continues to produce at this level, he will end up in Utica’s lineup at some point during the regular season.
- Gourley: Gourley originally joined the Thunder once his collegiate season with UConn ended in late March. He picked up a goal and assist in 10 games with Adirondack before signing a PTO with Utica in mid-April. In his four games with the Comets, Gourley scored a goal, impressing them enough to earn the rookie a contract for the 2022-23 season and an invitation to New Jersey’s training camp. Gourley is likely to end up on Adirondack’s roster, but injuries in Utica later in the season may give him the opportunity he needs to earn a long-term roster spot (and perhaps a one-way contract next year).
- Mitens: In his rookie season, Mitens split his time between Utica and Adirondack. His numbers weren’t great, but the netminder held his own and kept a positive attitude even when traveling back and forth between the two teams. Barring injuries in New Jersey and Utica, Mitens will likely be the starter in Glens Falls this season.
- Poulter: Poulter is entering his rookie season after spending the last four years with the Swift Current Broncos of the WHL. His first three junior seasons were not impressive, with losing records and GAAs over 4.00. Last season was better, with a GAA of 3.00 and save percentage of 0.911, though he still had a losing record (20-23-6). Poulter will likely start out in Glens Falls as a backup. He did attend the Devils’ rookie and training camps, which could be the confidence boost he needs to make it to the next level.
Another skater with a two-way contract is rookie defenseman Filip Bratt, who also attended New Jersey’s development and training camps. This will be the 20-year-old’s first season playing outside of his native Sweden. Of the players on two-way contracts, Bratt is probably the least likely to be assigned to Adirondack, though it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
Adirondack’s training camp opens later this week, with two preseason games coming October 14th and 15th. With the AHL’s regular season beginning that weekend, we should see the majority of these guys in Glens Falls in time for the preseason games.
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