When Thunder coach Malcolm Cameron makes recruiting pitches for the offseason, he can point to the numerous call-ups this from Wichita to Triple-A Binghamton of the American Hockey League.
But what happens to the players who won’t be called up? Are they in for another poor season after the best players leave for a higher level?
Cameron has a plan for that, too.
“But what we’ll do to edge against (call-ups) is we’ll get our three or four veteran players who we know who have been there and done that,” Cameron said. “They’ll just be here. That will be the glue that keeps it together if we have a catastrophe like we’ve had this year in terms of call-ups.”
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Cameron built a young roster for his first season with the Thunder (18-39-3-1), and Wichita’s first season as an affiliate. The agreement with the NHL’s Ottawa Senators has produced mixed results and led to the depletion of the Thunder’s roster, which began early.
The Thunder never truly recovered from the early-season promotions of Alex Krushelnyski, Chris Rumble, Jack Rodewald and goalie Scott Greenham. Many others have been called up to Binghamton this season, leaving the Thunder in dire circumstances.
The team has been essentially turned over to a group of rookies, and not a large group. The Thunder dressed 12 skaters for a recent game due to injuries and has made several transactions over the past two weeks partly in an effort to fill the roster.
This season will be the fourth straight with no postseason for the Thunder, but Cameron has an eye toward preventing a fifth. He has spent recent weeks evaluating young players and will continue for the Thunder’s final 11 games.
“We’ve talked about that a lot,” Cameron said. “Just in terms of how I’m going to evaluate them, I guess that would be more important. They understand what I’m looking for – guys that are team guys, guys that are selfless. Guys that are getting better, guys that can make adjustments. Those types of things. They all get that right now.”
The Thunder has added four players for the final weeks of this season, but they also could basically the first additions for 2018, especially forward Ben Duffy and defenseman Jeremy Beaudry.
“The reason I brought Duffy and Beaudry in was to get a head start on recruiting for next year,” Cameron said. “They’re both good players put in a tough spot in a rookie lineup. But for the most part, I see real good potential in those guys. I’ve already started recruiting for next year, that’s what that is.
“We’ll continue to do that. If there’s players out there that can help us this year but also give us a head start on recruiting for next year, that’s what we’re going to do.”
Missouri at Thunder
- When: 7:05 p.m. Friday
- Where: Intrust Bank Arena
- Records: Missouri 29-26-3-5, Thunder 18-39-3-1
- Broadcast: wichitathunder.com