ECHL: Adirondack Thunder Announce 2024 Protected List

Cody Conine/InsideTheRink

The Adirondack Thunder have announced that they will be protecting 23 players on this year’s protected list. 20 of the 23 players that the Thunder protected played at least one game with the team over the course of the team’s historic 2023-24 season, and six of the 23 players either spent the 2023-24 season overseas or have already announced that they will be heading overseas for next season. Here are the official rules of the Protected Lists from the ECHL:
Teams are allowed to protect as many players as they wish provided the players protected meet the guidelines as defined in the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the ECHL and the Professional Hockey Players’ Association which state that teams shall retain the rights to each player that:

1. Signed an SPC in 2023-24 with the Member, and has not been traded or released, OR

2. Signed an SPC in 2023-24, and was recalled to the NHL/AHL or IIHF team, and has not been traded or released, OR

3. Had received a Qualifying Offer last summer for the current Season, DID NOT sign an SPC, and has not been traded or released, OR

4. Has been suspended by the Member or League, and has not been traded or released, OR

5. Signed an SPC on or after the first day of the 2023-24 Regular Season, then subsequently signed an NHL/AHL contract, and has not been traded or released, OR

6. Has executed the ECHL Retirement Form, and has not been traded or released.

Protected lists may exceed 20 players.

Players Who Have/Or Are Going Overseas

Patrick Grasso– It shouldn’t come as a shock to Thunder fans that Adirondack is protecting their former Captain and Franchise leader in goals, Patrick Grasso, in the likelihood he decides to return to North America. The 28-year-old winger officially signed with Innsbruck in Austria on June 3rd after spending three seasons with the Thunder, putting up 84 goals and 58 assists for 142 points in 171 games with the Thunder after finishing up his collegiate career at the University of New Hampshire.

Yanick Turcotte- The 6’0 forward signed with Adirondack prior to the 2022-23 season with the Thunder and instantly became a fan favorite among Thunder fans for his hard hits and willingness to drop the gloves with almost anyone at any time. Turcotte would spend parts of two seasons with Adirondack, putting up two goals and three assists for five points in 27 games before announcing he was leaving the Thunder on November 5th to play overseas in Hungary. The 27-year-old forward would put up two goals and six assists for eight points, along with 140 penalty minutes in 28 games with Ferencvarosi.

Tristan Thompson- When Tristan Thompson decided to head overseas at the end of January, it left a hole in the Thunder blueline as he was just starting to find his groove as he was on a four-game point-streak with the Thunder and was leading all defenceman in goals at the time of his departure as he had five goals and 14 assists for 19 points in 38 games. Thompson had gone overseas twice before, both times returning to the ECHL the following season.

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Matt Slick- The 25-year-old Texas native joined the Thunder after playing five years at the NCAA level, four years at the College of Holy Cross, and his fifth year at Ferris State University; he would put up 13 goals and 25 assists for 38 points in 154 collegiate games. Slick would play in 12 regular season games with the Thunder during the 2022-23 season, putting up a goal and an assist, and would add a goal and an assist in Adirondack’s first-round loss in the 2023 Kelly Cup Playoffs to the Newfoundland Growlers.

Kyle Hallbauer-Hallbauer joined the Thunder after playing four years at nearby RPI, where he scored seven goals and 29 assists for 36 points in 137 games with the Engineers. The New Jersey native scored a goal and two assists for three points with Adirondack in 17 games during the regular season and played in four games during the Kelly Cup Playoffs.

Jake Ryzeck—The former sixth-round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks spent three seasons in the ECHL, two of which came with the Adirondack Thunder. In 113 games in the ECHL, he scored 12 goals and 37 assists for 49 points. His best season came in 2021-22 when he scored six goals and 19 assists for 25 points in 48 games.

Players From Adirondack’s Current Roster

Mac Welsher- The 25-year-old center was another one of Adirondack’s late additions as Welsher joined the Thunder after spending five years at Merrimack College, where he would put up 25 goals and 22 assists for 47 points in 138 games. Welsher would finish off the month of March strong as a member of the Thunder, as he would have a three-game point-streak to end the month where he put up two goals and two assists for four points, he would finish the season with three goals and three assists for six points. The Michigan native would make the Thunder Playoff Roster and would play in 15 Kelly Cup Playoff games, putting up five assists.

Shane Harper- It’s very likely that Harper is expected to announce his retirement at some point during the off-season, but if Harper does come back, it would almost be a guarantee that it would be in a Thunder uniform. During the past three seasons in Adirondack, Harper has been a huge part of Adirondack’s core, putting up 63 goals and 120 assists for 183 points in 169 games, along with seven goals and 12 assists for 19 points in 23 Kelly Cup Playoff Games. Harper played in his 800th pro game during the 2023-24 season.

Alex Young- The Adirondack Thunder had a lot of late-season additions during the 2022-23 season, but the last one proved one of the most pivotal down the stretch. Young signed with the Thunder on April 2nd and played in seven games with the Thunder, putting up two goals and four assists for six points; he would play in nine Kelly Cup Playoff games with Adirondack but failed to find the scoresheet. The former seventh-round pick of the San Jose Sharks played four years at Colgate University before spending his final season at Arizona State. He would put up 43 goals and 49 assists for 92 points in 137 games at the collegiate level. There’s no doubt that head coach Pete MacArthur would want to see Young in a Thunder jersey again next season.

Zach Walker– When the Adirondack Thunder signed Walker prior to the 2022-23 season, they were expecting to get an experienced power-forward who plays the style of “ADK Hockey” that Pete MacArthur is always preaching. It was a tough year for Walker as he dealt with multiple injuries that limited him to 27 games in which he would put up three goals and 10 assists for 13 points in 27 regular season games but was a difference maker when he was on the ice. He added a goal and four assists for five points for the Thunder during the Kelly Cup Playoffs.

Travis Broughman– There were high expectations for Broughman going into the 2023-24 season after he joined the Thunder in 2022-23, where he would put up 12 goals, and 21 assists for 33 points in just 48 games while providing Adirondack with a much-needed center who could play on either the first or second line. Unfortunately for the Thunder and Broughman, the season didn’t go as expected as the Virginia native would put up just 14 goals and 13 assists for 27 points in 66 games and, at times found himself being the healthy scratch on a Thunder team that had a lot of depth down the middle, however, he had a decent Kelly Cup Playoff run putting up a goal and four assists for five points in 12 games, with all four assists coming against his hometown team the Norfolk Admirals.

Tristan Ashbrook- There’s no question that the Adirondack Thunder will be looking for goal-scorers with the departure of Patrick Grasso to Europe, and that begins with Tristan Ashbrook. In his rookie season in the ECHL, Ashbrook put up 32 goals and 25 assists for 57 points in 69 games during the regular season; he added eight goals and eight assists for 16 points in 19 games during the Kelly Cup Playoffs.

Mike Gillespie- Heading down the stretch, the Adirondack Thunder dealt with many key injuries, one of which was to Gillespie. In 45 games with Adirondack, the 28-year-old forward would put up six goals and 12 assists for 18 points but could play either on the wing or down the middle. I would expect Gillespie to be back next season and be a guy who could find himself on the third line to begin the year, depending on how the roster shakes out this Summer.

Cody Conine/InsideTheRink

Andre Ghantous- There was a lot to like about the signing of Andre Ghantous as he contributed to the Thunder lineup right away, putting up three goals and 10 assists for 13 points in 10 games with Adirondack and even earned himself a call-up to the AHL where he would play three games with Utica Comets putting up one goal and one assist. Ghantous would add two goals and six assists for eight points in 14 Kelly Cup Playoff Games. I would expect the 25-year-old winger to be with the Thunder next season but I would expect him to sign an AHL deal with the Utica Comets at some point over the Summer.

Ryan Smith- With Shane Harper’s and Patrick Grasso’s departures, Smith will be the longest-tendered member of the Adirondack Thunder. Over the years, Smith has always been one of the best two-way forwards for the Thunder but was never a guy who scored a ton, so he always stayed until the radar, that is, until this season when he put up 27 goals and 23 assists for 50 points in 69 games, as well as adding nine goals and three assists for 12 points in 19 games during the Kelly Cup Playoffs. In three years with Adirondack, Smith has 54 goals and 65 assists for 119 points in 212 regular season games, he also has played in 24 Kelly Cup Playoff Games putting up 10 goals and four assists for 14 points.

Darian Skeoch– Heading into next season, the Adirondack Thunder will be looking for a new captain, and after being named the interim captain at the end of the 2023-24 season, Skeoch’s name would have to be at the top of the list. In December, Skeoch was acquired by Adirondack from the Savannah Ghost Pirates and played in 44 games with the Thunder, putting up one goal and six assists for seven points, along with 150 minutes in penalties. The Ontario defenseman isn’t going to be a guy who’s going to light up the scoresheet, but he’s a guy who’s going to be a fan-favorite and do all the right things on the defensive side and won’t be afraid to drop the body. The 6’4 defenseman brings both skill and toughness, which the Adirondack Thunder didn’t get in either Nico Blachman or Yannick Turcotte.

Ryan Wheeler- There’s a lot to like about the season that Ryan Wheeler had as he began the season on the Thunder blueline but ended up being a big piece for them when Adirondack needed some help up front and moved Wheeler to forward where he seemed to fit right in. In 66 games with the Thunder, Wheeler put up 10 goals and 12 assists for 22 points. He would put up four goals and one assist for five points in 17 games during the Kelly Cup Playoffs. There’s no question that if Wheeler wants to be a part of this Thunder team, Head Coach Pete MacArthur would be more than happy to have him back.

Brendan Less- In 44 games with Adirondack, Less would put up two goals and 11 assists for 13 points. There was a lot to like about Less as he had played a solid game defensively and would have a few moments where he would provide an offensive spark for the Thunder. He would play in eight Kelly Cup Playoff Games but would be unable to find the scoresheet.

Matt Stief- The 28-year-old blueliner would have a solid regular season for the Thunder, leading all defensemen in points as he put up four goals and 31 assists for 35 points in 70 games for Adirondack and was one of the few mainstays on a Thunder team that had 18 different blueliners play at least one game for the Thunder. Despite playing in 70 games during the regular season, Stief couldn’t seem to solidify his spot during the Kelly Cup Playoffs as he would play in just seven games during the Kelly Cup Playoffs, with his only assist coming on May 10th against the Norfolk Admirals.

Connor Blake- We talked about how Ryan Wheeler became a two-way player, but head coach Pete MacArthur would acquire another via waivers from the Idaho Steelheads in Connor Blake. The 25-year-old forward would play in 15 ECHL games combined between Adirondack and Idaho, putting up two goals and two assists for four points, with all his points coming as a member of the Thunder. He would add three assists in 15 Kelly Cup Playoff games for the Thunder.

Ryan Conroy- The 23-year-old defenseman would play nine games for the Thunder during the regular season, putting up a goal and an assist and adding three assists for nine games in the Kelly Cup Playoffs. Conroy didn’t catch many eyes, which isn’t the worst thing for a defenseman, and was a depth piece for Pete MacArthur.

Jackson van de Leest– There’s no doubt that the Thunder had guys on the blueline who could throw the body around, but the addition of van de Leest was a relatively solid one. The 6’7 defenseman wasn’t a guy who played a physical game, but he played a very skilled game and used his size to his advantage. In 14 games during the regular season, he would put up two assists, which would be a solid depth move for head coach Pete MacArthur. The BC native would add three assists during 15 Kelly Cup Playoff games.

Vinnie Purpura– The Adirondack Thunder had a great season when it came to goaltending, so it’s not a surprise that they have protected their only ECHL-contracted goaltender. In 25 games with the Thunder, Purpura went 15-4-4-1 with a 2.78 GAA, .908SV%, and one shutout. The 6’6 goaltender, if re-signed, will likely split time with Tyler Brennan, who still has two years left on his three-year entry-level deal with the New Jersey Devils. It has yet to be seen if the Comets will re-sign Jeremy Brodeur for next season or if Adirondack will sign him to an ECHL deal to keep him in the Devil’s organization.

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Armand Klisivitch

Inside The Rink ECHL Manager | Senior Editor Credentialed Reporter for the Adirondack Thunder & Worcester Railers.

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