THUNDER CHIEF RELEASED
Today the Hurricanes announced that they have released 17-year-old Stand Off product Drayton Thunder Chief. Thoughts after the break…
Thunder Chief was not expected to be a head-turner at camp. While his physicality was known, how he would handle himself with/without the puck at this level was up for question. From what I saw, Thunder Chief had a great camp and really exceeded expectations. Clearly the coaches felt the same, giving him two pre-season games.
Since I was not at the game in Cranbrook earlier this week, I cannot speak to his play in that game. I did notice him a number of times against the Tigers. Most notably, the devastating hits he was laying whenever he had the opportunity. Unfortunately for him, the game against the Tigers also saw him take two charging penalties. Not the best way to get noticed. That said, I don’t think those two plays had any significant impact on today’s decision to release the player.
To me, this move speaks less about Thunder Chief’s ability than it does about the exceptional level of play we have seen from other 17-year-old forwards. As much as Thunder brings an element none of the other 17-year-old forwards bring to the table, he isn’t quite at the same playmaking and defensive level as some of the others. That’s not to say that he can’t get there, and I hope he makes a case next year as an 18-year-old either here or with another club, but for now, Thunder was up against very tough odds. I was rooting for him, hope he learnt much from camp, and am looking forward to seeing him transition into a fantastic hockey season no matter where he plays.
From an organizational perspective, it was great to see them give Thunder the benefit of the doubt and reward him for his play throughout rookie and main camp. He certainly gave the staff something to think about as they went to through each round of cuts. I also give the staff some credit for making the decision to assign a local player based on merit alone. Local players are always popular and can really drive interest in the team and sell tickets. The Canes have a long history of local talent being on the team. The Versteeg brothers, Yellow Horn, Ross, the Maxwell brothers, and Clay Plume are all examples. John Hogue was another local name that floated around for a few years. People love to follow and support local guys, and for good reason. In that light, I have to applaud the decision to make a difficult cut even if it isn’t necessarily popular with locals. If at the end of the day the Canes brass are making decisions based on assembling the best possible roster, regardless of fan popularity, I cannot blame them. It’s tough, it’s part of the job.
I wish Drayton the best in this upcoming season and I hope to see him again in the future. Great young energizing player. He will land on his feet.