By Matt Stefano
The 2018-2019 season will mark the 20th anniversary of the Soo Thunderbirds.
In their first 19 seasons, the club has developed many players who went on to be drafted to the NHL.
The list below will also show players who have not been drafted by NHL teams, but have still won championships in the OHL!
PATRICK JARRETT (1999-2000)
In the club’s first season in the NOJHL, the Thunderbirds were led in scoring by forward Patrick Jarrett.
Jarrett, who scored 22 goals and 54 points, became the first Soo Thunderbird to win the NOJHL’s rookie of the year award, before being selected first overall by the Mississauga IceDogs during the 2000 OHL Priority Selection.
That year, Jarrett also became the first Sooite to be selected first overall in the OHL Priority Selection since Rico Fata (1996, London Knights).
Jarrett went on to play five seasons in the OHL, splitting time with the Mississauga IceDogs and Owen Sound Attack.
He also served as captain of the Owen Sound Attack from 2002-2005.
Jarrett was selected by the Nashville Predators in the 5th round during the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.
NATHAN O’NABIGON (1999-2000)
Longlac, Ontario native Nathan O’Nabigon, who was just one of three 20 goal scorers on the Thunderbirds in the 1999-2000 season, went on to play four seasons in the OHL, splitting time with the Plymouth Whalers, Mississauga IceDogs and Kitchener Rangers.
In the 2002-2003 season, O’Nabigon helped the Kitchener Rangers capture a J. Ross Robertson Cup and Memorial Cup title.
JEFF WHITFIELD (2000-2001)
After scoring 1 goal and 7 points in his first season with the Thunderbirds, defenceman Jeff Whitfield was selected by the Sarnia Sting in the 2nd round during the 2001 OHL Priority Selection.
Whitfield, who went on to play three seasons with the Sarnia Sting from 2001-2004, ended up graduating with the London Knights during the 2005-2005 season.
In his final OHL season in 2004-2005, Whitfield helped the London Knights capture their first J. Ross Robertson Cup title, followed by their first Memorial Cup title in the team’s 40th anniversary.
TYLER KENNEDY (2002-2003)
In the club’s 4th season in the NOJHL, the Thunderbirds decided to change their name to the Sault Jr. Greyhounds.
Forward Tyler Kennedy, who was in his rookie season with the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds, also got some ice time with the Sault Jr. Greyhounds, scoring 8 goals and 16 points through 6 games.
Kennedy, who played four seasons with the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds from 2002-2006, also served as their team captain in his final season in 2005-2006.
After being drafted in the 4th round by the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, the Sooite went on to play 9 seasons in the NHL, splitting time with the Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils.
Kennedy, who helped the Penguins capture the Stanley Cup in 2009, became the first graduate out of the Soo’s Junior A program to win a Stanley Cup.
KELLY THOMSON (2002-2004)
After going under the name Sault Jr. Greyhounds during the 2002-2003 season, the club decided to swich back to the Soo Thunderbirds in 2003-2004.
Forward Kelly Thomson, who spent his second and final season with the Thunderbirds in 2003-2004, finished sixth in team points (56), before going on to play two seasons in the OHL, splitting time with the London Knights and Oshawa Generals.
The 2001 11th round pick of the Sarnia Sting, helped the London Knights capture the J. Ross Robertson Cup and Memorial Cup back in 2005.
Thomson was also Jeff Whitfield’s teammate on that London Knights team.
JAKE MUZZIN (2006-2007)
In his first season played with the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds in 2006-2007, defenceman Jake Muzzin also played 4 games with the Thunderbirds that year, where he recorded 3 assists.
Following the 2006-2007 season, the Woodstock, Ontario native was selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 5th round at the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
Muzzin, who served as team captain for the Greyhounds in his final season in 2009-2010, was named the OHL’s Most Outstanding Defenceman.
So far in his NHL career, the 29 year old has already won a Stanley Cup with the Los Angeles Kings back in 2014.
BRETT PERLINI (2006-2008)
Perlini, who spent two seasons with the Thunderbirds from 2006-2008, scored 54 goals and 89 points through 64 career regular season games.
He also holds a pair of team single season records, including most power play goals scored (18) and most power play goals on the road (10).
Perlini did not play in the OHL, but was drafted in the 7th round by the Anaheim Ducks at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
COLIN MIlLER (2009-2010)
Aftet spending one season with the Thunderbirds in 2009-2010, defenceman Colin Miller cracked the Soo Greyhounds roster as a free agent in 2010-2011.
Miller spent three seasons with his hometown Hounds and served as their team captain in his final season in 2012-2013.
The 2012 5th round pick of the Los Angeles Kings, spent his first two seasons of pro hockey with the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs, and helped guide the club to a Calder Cup title in 2015.
In 2014-2015, Miller also set the new Manchester Monarchs record for most goals and points by a defenceman in a single season.
During the 2015 AHL Skills competition, Miller was named the fastest skater and set the new league record for the hardest shot.
The Sooite is currently playing in this year’s Stanley Cup Final with the Vegas Golden Knights.
OWEN HEADRICK (2013-2015)
Through two seasons with the Thunderbirds, defenceman Owen Headrick scored 12 goals and 44 points through 69 regular season games.
The 2013 14th round pick of the OHL’s Erie Otters, also holds the Soo Thunderbirds record for most career playoff points by a defenceman with 33.
After helping the Thunderbirds capture their third Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy title back in 2015, the Garden River, Ontario product was also named the NOJHL’s playoff MVP.
In 2015, he was also named the Dudley Hewitt Cup’s most sportsmanlike player, after helping the Soo capture its second Dudley Hewitt Cup title in team history.
Headrick, who joined the Erie Otters in the 2016-2017 season, helped the club win its first J. Ross Robertson Cup title since 2002.
BORIS KATCHOUK (2014-2015)
The 2014 2nd round pick of the Soo Greyhounds, spent one season with the Thunderbirds in 2014-2015.
That year, Katchouk helped lead the Thunderbirds to a Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy and a Dudley Hewitt Cup title.
The Kitchener, Ontario native went on to play three full seasons with the Soo Greyhounds and suited up for Team Canada at the 2018 IIHF World Juniors, helping Team Canada capture the gold medal.
Katchouk is also tied with Steve Gatzos (1978-1981) for first on the Soo Greyhounds all time career shorthanded goals list with 13.
The 19 year old was also drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2nd round at the 2016 NHL Draft.
MARIO CULINA (2014-2016)
After helping lead the Thunderbirds to a Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy and Dudley Hewitt Cup title back in 2015, goaltender Mario Culina signed as a free agent with the Windsor Spirfires prior to the 2015-2016 season.
Culina, who also got some games in with the Thunderbirds during the 2015-2016 season, ended up playing full time with the Spitfires through 2015-2017, and helped the club capture a Memorial Cup title in 2017.
After beginning the 2017-2018 season with the Sudbury Wolves, Culina ended up being traded to the Kitchener Rangers to wrap up his OHL career.
Thunderbird graduates who are eligible for this year’s NHL Entry Draft, include Owen Headrick (Erie Otters), Darian Pilon (Sudbury Wolves), Drake Pilon (Sudbury Wolves) and Mario Culina (Kitchener Rangers)
Other past graduates who have been drafted by NHL teams, include goaltender Jeff Weber (8th round, Buffalo Sabres) in 2003, defenceman Jordan Smith (2nd round, Anaheim Mighty Ducks in 2004), forward Zack Torquato (6th round, Detroit Red Wings) in 2007 and defenceman Andrew Campbell (3rd round, Los Angeles Kings) in 2008.
(Colin Miller with Calder Cup at Essar Centre in 2015, photo by Matt Stefano)