The return engagement: Soo Thunderbirds acquire winger Kelsey Ouellet from the Truro Bearcats

Soo Thunderbirds forward Kelsey Ouellet during NOJHL action at the John Rhodes Community Centre back in 2022. Ouellet returned to the team on Aug. 1 when the Thunderbirds acquired his right from the Truro Bearcats of the Maritime Junior Hockey League. PHOTO BY BOB DAVIES

When Ouellet was here previous he formed a dynamic regular season and post-season partnership alongside Cooper Foster.

Gordon Anderson – The Sault Star

When training camp opens in a couple of a couple of weeks, the locals will have a splash of familiar skating up and down the wing at the John Rhodes Community Arena.

The Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League signed winger Kelsey Ouellet earlier this month.

“Ouellet loved it here before so when he became available this is where he wanted to be,” Thunderbirds general manager Jamie Henderson told the Sault Star. “He is a positive guy around the rink and is somebody that jokes around a lot but when it is time to work it is time to work. Over the course of a long hockey season, it is great to have guys like that in the room. We want to work hard but we want it to be fun and he is a guy that adds that element.”

The first day of training camp for the Thunderbirds is set for Aug. 29.

The club re-acquired the power forward from the Truro Bearcats of the Maritime Junior Hockey League on Aug. 1, in exchange for the Canadian Junior Hockey League rights to former Thunderbirds d-man Mason Chitaroni. The Thunderbirds acquired Chitaroni in November of 2021, transferring the Marathon, Ont., resident to the Acadie-Bathurst Titans of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in July of 2022.

The 6-foot-1 forward wanted to leave the northern Ontario bird nest to explore secondary opportunities after the completion of the 2021-22 season. He was traded to the Bearcats in early September of last year.

On principle alone, Henderson doesn’t stand in the way of players looking for differing alternatives. So, away Ouellet went with glad tidings from the club.

“We granted him his wish,” Henderson said. “We ended on great terms.”

When Ouellet was here previous he formed a dynamic regular season and post-season partnership alongside Cooper Foster. During the NOJHL playoffs the Kapuskasing resident scored four goals and added nine helpers in 14 playoff games. The Thunderbirds won the league title after a seven-game series victory over the Heart Lumberjacks. Ouellet scored once and added one assist in the subsequent Centennial Cup. He also tallied 16 goals and added 25 assists in 41 regular-season games played.

“He is one of the better power forwards in the league,” Henderson said.

Foster subsequently made the Ottawa 67’s hockey club after the Thunderbirds playoff run and was a sixth-round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins back in the June NHL Entry Draft.

Ouellet brings experience and infectious energy to a club that appears–two weeks prior to the beginning of camp–somewhat light in its overall experience factor. With several Junior A first-timers expected to make the team out of training camp, Henderson knows it’s imperative the coaching staff finds a couple of players who can complement Ouellet’s style of play.

“We are hoping we can get him a pair of linemates and he can continue where he left off in this league,” Henderson said.