By Matt Stefano
The Soo Thunderbirds have announced on Tuesday that they have received commitments from three players for next season.
The three players that have committed to the Soo Thunderbirds for next season are forwards Jacob Smith, Callum McAuley and Harley Wardell.
All three of those players also played this past season with the Great North Under-18 Hockey League’s Soo Jr. Greyhounds, where they were all coached under Jamie Henderson.
“Jacob (Smith) was a tremendous leader for the Jr. Greyhounds last season,” said Soo Thunderbirds assistant coach and general manager Jamie Henderson. “Jacob is eager to learn and improve with each passing day. Callum (McAuley) has seen his game take off here in the last few months and he’s made a great impact as an affiliate player with us (Soo Thunderbirds) this past season. Harley (Wardell) is a young player who brings it every day on and off the ice and he was an incredible captain last season with the Jr. Greyhounds. Harley will also make an impact on our culture right away.”
Smith, who is a 2006-birth-year forward, spent this past season with the Soo Jr. Greyhounds, where he recorded 11 goals and 17 assists in 24 regular season games.
This past season, the 5-foot-10 and 160-pound forward also played in 12 games (Including 6 in the regular season and 6 in the playoffs) as an affiliate player with the Soo Thunderbirds, where he had 1 goal and 2 assists.
“I’m very excited to commit to the Thunderbirds and by playing with them for a few games this past season, I got to see first hand what the NOJHL was like and how coach Jarrett runs his program,” Smith said.
Smith, who was originally born in Ottawa, Ontario, was also drafted by the Ottawa 67’s in the 1st round (20th overall) in last month’s OHL Under-18 Priority Selection.
“When I was drafted by the 67’s, I was very excited and honoured,” said Smith, who was born in Ottawa, Ontario and moved to the Soo when he was eight years old. “Getting drafted by any OHL team would’ve been great, but getting drafted by the team I used to watch when I was living in Ottawa was very special for me and my family. I was very grateful my old hometown took a chance on me.”
McAuley, who is a 2006-birth-year forward, spent this past season with the Soo Jr. Greyhounds, where he recorded 8 goals and 18 assists in 28 regular season games.
“I’m very excited to commit to the Thunderbirds for next season, and this past season with the Jr. Greyhounds was a good year for my development,” McAuley said.
This past season, McAuley also played in 16 games (Including 4 in the regular season and 12 in the playoffs) as an affiliate player with the Soo Thunderbirds, where he recorded 2 goals and 5 assists.
The 5-foot-10 and 155-pound forward from Sault Ste. Marie, was also invited to the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit Development Camp at the beginning of this month.
“Getting ice time with the T-Birds this past season was a great experience and it gave me a lot of confidence to be a good player at the next level,” McAuley said.
Wardell, who is a 2006-birth-year forward, spent this past season with the Soo Jr. Greyhounds, where he recorded 10 goals and 11 assists in 28 regular season games.
This past season, Wardell also suited up for 8 games (Including 5 in the regular season and 3 in the playoffs) with the Blind River Beavers, where he recorded 0 goals and 1 assist.
“I’m very excited to commit to the Thunderbirds,” Wardell said. “It wasn’t an easy choice but I felt like it was the right choice, and I’m very excited to play for the team that I watched when I was growing up.”
Wardell, who stands 5-foot-8 and weighs 155 pounds, also served as team captain of the Jr. Greyhounds during the 2022-2023 season.
“As captain of the Jr. Greyhounds last season, I knew I had to set the standards for the rookies and show them would it would take to play on our team,” Wardell said.
Teams in the NOJHL can officially start signing players beginning on June the 1st.
Prior to that, more exciting news with more commitments are expected to be announced by the Soo Thunderbirds hockey club!
(In photo from left to right: Jamie Henderson, Harley Wardell, Jacob Smith and Callum McAuley)