By Matt Stefano
June 29, 2023 was a great day for two Soo Thunderbird graduates in Nashville, Tennessee!
In the second and final day of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft (Which was held at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville), former Soo Thunderbirds defenceman Andrew Gibson was taken in the 2nd round (42nd overall) by the Detroit Red Wings, while former Soo Thunderbirds forward Cooper Foster ended up going in the 6th round (174th overall) to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Both Gibson and Foster were also teammates on the Soo Thunderbirds back in the 2021-2022 season, which was the season the Soo Thunderbirds last won the Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy.
“We are so excited for both Andrew and Cooper and their families,” said Soo Thunderbirds assistant coach and general manager Jamie Henderson, who made a trip to Nashville to attend the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. “Both players were a huge part of our championship back in 2022, and they both enjoyed tremendous rookie seasons last season in the Ontario Hockey League.”
Gibson, who spent one season with the Soo Thunderbirds back in 2021-2022, led all Thunderbird players in goals that season with 21, and finished second in team points that season with 51.
The LaSalle, Ontario product also holds the Soo Thunderbirds record for most goals by a Thunderbird defenceman in a single season.
Following his first and only season with the Soo Thunderbirds, Gibson then moved up to the Ontario Hockey League’s Soo Greyhounds in 2022-2023, where he led all Greyhound rookies in scoring with 7 goals and 21 points in 45 games.
Gibson, who just completed his first season with the Soo Greyhounds, became the ninth player in Soo Greyhounds history to be drafted by the Detroit Red Wings, joining Ryan Sproul (2011), Paul Ballantyne (2000), Jake McCracken (1998), Michal Podolka (1996), Bob Jones (1989), Bob Boughner (1989), Ted Nolan (1978) and Tony Horvath (1976).
Gibson also became the first Soo Thunderbird graduate to be drafted by an NHL team since Boris Katchouk, who was drafted in the 2nd round (44th overall) by the Tampa Bay Lightning back in 2016.
Foster, who spent one season with the Soo Thunderbirds back in 2021-2022, led all Thunderbird players in scoring that season with 18 goals and 60 points in 38 games.
That season (2021-2022), Foster was also named the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Most Valuable Player.
Following his first and only season with the Soo Thunderbirds, Foster then moved up to the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s in 2022-2023, where he led all 67 rookies in scoring with 19 goals and 36 points in 63 games.
This past season with the 67’s, Foster also helped the 67’s to a franchise best 51-win and 107-point season.
Foster, who just completed his first season with the Ottawa 67’s, became just the sixth player in 67’s history to be drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins, joining Jeremy Van Hoof (1999), Craig Hillier (1996), Randy Boyd (1980), Shane Pearsall (1978) and Connie Forey (1970).
The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native also became the first Saultite to be drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins since Tyler Kennedy back in 2004.
“The entire Soo Thunderbirds organization along with Andrew and Cooper’s former teammates are excited and very proud of both of them,” Henderson said. “It’s going to be exciting to follow their journey to hopefully the NHL one day.”
NOT TO FAR FROM THE SOO
Gibson, who got drafted by the Detroit Red Wings on June 29, also got drafted by the nearest National Hockey League team to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
From here, Detroit, Michigan is only a 5-hour drive.
T-BIRDS HISTORY WITH THE PENGUINS
Foster, who got drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins on June 29, became the third Soo Thunderbird alumni to get drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins, joining Tyler Kennedy (2004) and Jake Muzzin (2007).
Both Kennedy and Muzzin also went to win Stanley Cups in their National Hockey League careers.
Kennedy, who had nine-year career in the National Hockey League from 2007-2016, ended up winning a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins back in 2009.
Muzzin, who has been playing in the National Hockey League since 2012, never ended up playing a game with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but still ended up winning a Stanley Cup with the Los Angeles Kings back 2014.
So it appears that every time a former T-Bird gets drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins, the former T-Bird always goes on to win a Stanley Cup!