WICHITA, Kan. – Head coach Bruce Ramsay is off and running with putting together his version of the 2022-23 Wichita Thunder. This week, the team announced the return of forward Brayden Watts and defenseman Billy Constantinou.
The 23-year-old Watts was the first offseason signing announced by the team on Tuesday afternoon. The 2021-22 season was a career year for the third-year player, setting high-water marks across the board, finishing with 13 goals, 33 assists, and 46 points. He also earned a four-game call-up to his hometown Bakersfield Condors, where he was held off the point sheet.
“I’m hungrier than ever to get things rolling and help this team get back to the postseason,” Watts said in a team release. “Coach Ramsay is a great person to play for and I know he can get us back to where we want to be.”
Ramsay said of his third-year forward: “Brayden is young, hungry, and ready to be an elite player at this level. He plays in every situation and has great leadership qualities.”
For his pro career, Watts has played in 114 ECHL games, all in a Wichita Thunder uniform, where he’s racked up 76 points (23G, 53A).
This afternoon, the team announced defenseman Billy Constantinou has re-upped and will play his first full season for the blue and white. Last season was one that started rough and ended with promise for the 21-year-old blueliner.
Considering he could have played his over-age season in the Ontario Hockey League, Constantinou made the decision to break into the professional ranks, signing with the expansion Iowa Heartlanders, where he registered 20 points (6G, 14A) in 38 contests before being traded to the Atlanta Gladiators in a deal that saw Luke Nogard end up in eastern Iowa. While with the Glads, he racked up five more points (1G, 4A) in 16 contests and was part of the deal that involved former Thunder defenseman Jacob Graves. In a Thunder uniform, he was the team’s power-play quarterback and registered eight assists, to go with a plus-6 rating, one of the bright spots on a team that was not good in the last month and a half of the season.
Overall, the 21-year-old defenseman played in 63 games, racked up 25 points (7G, 18A) and was a -11.
“I’m looking forward to coming back to Wichita to begin the season,” commented Constantinou. “I really enjoyed my time playing for Coach Ramsay late last season. I can’t wait to help contribute and help this team win.”
The two signings represent a good start to the offseason for the Thunder. It was critically important to get Watts back in the fold for the coming season. There is little doubt he can be a 50-plus point player at this level given his great vision of the ice and playmaking ability, something that will be critical to the Thunder’s success this coming season. Additionally, he’ll be looked to from a leadership aspect next season given his time in Ramsay’s program.
On the blueline, Constantinou is young for ECHL standards but has the potential to be a very good playmaking defenseman in the league, and Ramsay’s system in Wichita has allowed for a player of that ilk to flourish.
Keep up to date with the latest signings from around the ECHL by visiting our transactions page!
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