The Adirondack Thunder were part of a three-way trade on Monday, as they acquired defenseman Jake Rychzek from the Reading Royals for future considerations. Reading made the decision to flip Ryczek after they acquired him from Wheeling in exchange for Jacob Pritchard. In executing it, this becomes the first trade Adirondack has been a part of this offseason. They continued adding to the roster on Wednesday, as they signed defenseman Greg DiTomaso to a standard player agreement for 2021-22. That was only the first of two transactions, as they added another Canadian with the signing of Chris Lijdsman.
Thunder Add Depth on the Backend
Lijdsman provides the Thunder with experience, albeit only playing in 15 games in 2019-20 with the Jacksonville Icemen. The Calgary native has mostly played in the SPHL, where, over the course of four seasons, he’s taken the ice in 127 career contests. This includes a year as a player-assistant coach in 2019-20 before being loaned to the Icemen. Throughout those 127 games, Lijdsman amassed 40 points, racking up eight goals, while adding 32 assists. He also added 128 penalty minutes.
Lijdsman spent two years overseas, as he spent one campaign in France, which he followed with another in Germany. Speaking of the addition via Facebook Live, Head Coach Alex Loh said, “He is a defenseman that has spent a little time in the ECHL, but more time in the SPHL. He’s a guy who’s going to fit in well plays a simple game, and isn’t afraid to drop the gloves.”
Lijdsman becomes the fourth defenseman and 14th player signed by the Thunder this offseason. Once again, Adirondack is looking to add size, and that’s exactly what they did with bringing in Lijdsman, who stands tall at six-foot-two. I expect him to be a third-pairing guy for the Thunder, who may see some time in the press box, depending on who gets optioned from Utica. I see this as a solid depth signing for the hockey club.
Jake Ryczek Joins Thunder Blue Line
This move doesn’t come as much of a surprise, as the Thunder were lacking in the defensive department, having signed only four defensemen up to this point. The 23-year-old, who stands at five-foot-eleven, spent the 2019-20 season with the Indy Fuel. In 46 contests with the Fuel, Rychezk amassed 17 points, racking up four goals, while adding 13 assists. His journey to the ECHL was a little different than the typical four years in the NCAA, or time in the Canadian Hockey League. Ryczek spent three years in the USHL and a year and change with the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads before signing a contract last season with the Fuel.
The right-handed shooter brings offensive upside and has proven that, as he led the USHL in goals by a defenseman in 2016-17. The Springfield, MA native was a seventh-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. This move may have been to fill the hole left by Charlie Curti, who appears to have signed overseas in Denmark. Ryczek does provide a scoring touch, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if this helps to mend the loss of the young defenseman.
Greg DiTomaso Enters Fold In Glens Falls
For the second signing in two days, the Thunder signed defenseman Greg DiTomaso, who is currently attending AHL training camp with the Utica Comets. Prior to being invited to Comets camp, DiTomaso played three years at Ryerson University, where he skated in 82 games, amassing 62 points on 12 goals and 50 assists. The former Ram plays a solid defensive game, but doesn’t have much upside despite his collegiate statistics. The 25-year-old has also spent time in both the OHL and QMJHL.
He’s one of the younger players that Adirondack has signed this offseason and could be a solid second or third pairing guy once the season gets underway on October 21st. Seeing that he received an invite to camp in Utica, I expect him to be a guy who will be bouncing around between the two clubs throughout the season.
Thunder Bring All-Star Forward Robbie Payne
The Adirondack Thunder announced on Tuesday that they have re-signed Robby Payne for the upcoming campaign. In doing so, he becomes the tenth forward to sign a contract with the team for 2021-22. This is a huge signing for the Thunder, as Payne was named an All-Star in 2019-20 despite missing the game as a result of an injury. That season, he amassed 32 points, having tallied 12 goals, while adding 20 assists. Between the Thunder and Idaho Steelheads, Payne has played in 57 career contests, tallying 18 goals, while adding 26 assists.
In the Gaylord, Michigan native, Adirondack is getting a guy who they know can score and will produce on a nightly basis. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him placed on the wing on the top line once the season officially commences. He becomes the third player from the 2019-20 campaign to sign a standard player agreement, being joined alongside by Blake Thompson and Alex Carrier.