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After an historically successful season, the Springfield Thunderbirds are back this fall with the season starting at home Saturday, Oct. 15.

Last season, the Thunderbirds claimed the title of Eastern Conference Champions and made it to the Calder Cup Finals before earning the title of AHL Team of the Year by the American Hockey League. They will raise their Eastern Conference Championship banner Saturday in front of their home crowd at the MassMutual Center.

Springfield is joined by several new faces this year, including a new general manager — Kevin Maxwell.

Get to know Maxwell, the coaches and the team ahead of Saturday’s home opener with the photos and bios below:

General Manager Kevin Maxwell:

Kevin Maxwell enters his first season as Thunderbirds general manager after 14 seasons in the New York Rangers organization, including the last 11 years as the club’s Director of Professional Scouting.

In his AHL playing career, Maxwell was a member of two Calder Cup winners with the Maine Mariners in 1984 and the Hershey Bears in his final playing season in 1988.

Head Coach Drew Bannister:

Bannister enters his fourth full season as head coach for the Blues’ AHL affiliation and his second as Thunderbirds’ bench boss. The 2021-22 season was Bannister’s first Calder Cup playoff appearance as a head coach, and he led Springfield all the way to an Eastern Conference championship.

As a player, Bannister was a second-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992. He enjoyed a six-year National Hockey League (NHL) career, including stints with Tampa Bay, Edmonton, Anaheim and New York (Rangers). Overall, he collected 30 points in 164 career NHL regular season games. He also spent four seasons in the American Hockey League (AHL), including 1999-2000, when he captured the Calder Cup Championship with the Hartford Wolf Pack.

Associate Head Coach Daniel Tkaczuk:

Tkaczuk enters his fourth season on Bannister’s coaching staff. The pair also coached together from 2012-15 with the Owen Sound Attack of the OHL. Tkaczuk was the sixth overall draft pick in the 1997 NHL Draft by the Calgary Flames who played 12 professional seasons in both North America and Europe. As a member of the Saint John Flames, Tkaczuk captured a Calder Cup championship in 2000-01. He was tied for second among Flames skaters with 10 goals in the Calder Cup Playoffs that season.

Assistant Coach Jordan Smith:

Jordan Smith was hired as the Thunderbirds assistant coach on August 8, 2022.

Smith spent the last five years in the Ontario Hockey League as an Associate Coach with the Sudbury Wolves (2017-18) and Soo Greyhounds (2018-22). He was on the same coaching staff as current Thunderbirds goalie coach Dan Stewart with the Greyhounds from 2018-20. Smith reached the postseason with the Soo in 2019 and 2022.

Smith is now the third member of the Thunderbirds’ coaching staff with ties to the Soo organization. Head coach Drew Bannister served in the same position for the Greyhounds from 2015-18.

Forwards

Meet the Thunderbirds 2022-23

Springfield Thunderbirds Forward Nikita Alexandrov (Springfield Thunderbirds)

Nikita Alexandrov

The Blues’ second-round pick in 2019, Alexandrov’s first full season in North America showed the skilled forward round his game into an all-around reliable producer from the middle of the ice. He picked up 30 points (12 goals, 18 assists), but more importantly, he helped stabilize the Springfield penalty kill in the second half of the season. Alexandrov nearly made the Blues out of training camp, so it would not be surprising to see him get his first NHL call-up this season.

Meet the Thunderbirds 2022-23

Springfield Thunderbirds Forward Anthony Angello (Springfield Thunderbirds)

Anthony Angello

The towering former Penguin begins the year unable to play due to injury, but upon his return, his combination of size (6-foot-5) and skill (two separate seasons of 16 goals) should give the Thunderbirds a commanding presence around the front of the net. The Cornell product was originally a fifth round pick by Pittsburgh in 2014.

Meet the Thunderbirds 2022-23

Springfield Thunderbirds Forward Andrei Bakanov (Springfield Thunderbirds)

Andrei Bakanov

The 20-year-old Bakanov has already played parts of two professional seasons in his native Russia with the KHL’s Kunlun Red Star and Sochi. His 6-foot-2, 213-pound frame should alleviate his transition to the North American game, and his past includes junior playing stops with the USHL’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders and the OHL’s Guelph Storm.

Meet the Thunderbirds 2022-23

Springfield Thunderbirds Forward Will Bitten. (Springfield Thunderbirds)

Will Bitten

Bitten, who last year was acquired just after Christmas in a trade with the Minnesota Wild organization, became a folk hero in Springfield, leading the T-Birds with 21 points in 18 postseason games, including the first playoff hat trick (and four-goal postseason game) in team history in Game 3 at Laval. Bitten’s tenacious and stellar play earned him a two-year contract extension with St. Louis in the offseason.

Meet the Thunderbirds 2022-23

Springfield Thunderbirds Forward Drew Callin. (Springfield Thunderbirds)

Drew Callin

Callin was a feel-good story in 2021-22, making his AHL debut with Springfield early in the season amid COVID protocols taking a bite into the Thunderbirds’ roster. Through strong face-off abilities and reliable defensive habits, Callin parlayed that initial tryout into an AHL contract and 44 games in the regular season plus two more in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

Martin Frk

Soon to become a father for the first time, Frk may miss the start of the regular season for the happy occasion, but when he arrives, the Thunderbirds will have one of the top goal-scorers in the AHL at their disposal. Frk’s 2021-22 season in Ontario was scintillating, as the 29-year-old hit the 40-goal plateau for the first time and added 33 assists in just 58 games. Frk also has the distinction of registering the hardest shot in NHL or AHL Skills Competition history at 109.2 MPH.

Meet the Thunderbirds 2022-23

Springfield Thunderbirds Forward Brayden Guy (Springfield Thunderbirds)

Brayden Guy

Guy, 21, was a 25-goal scorer between two teams in the Ontario Hockey League a season ago, including time as the captain of the Guelph Storm. He signed an AHL contract with Springfield during the postseason and will contest for an Opening Night roster spot with the T-Birds.

Meet the Thunderbirds 2022-23

Springfield Thunderbirds Forward Jacob Hayhurst (Springfield Thunderbirds)

Jacob Hayhurst

Hayhurst, 25, had a breakout season with the ECHL’s Worcester Railers, where he scored 48 points (15 goals, 33 assists) in 65 games. He saw seven games of AHL action between Springfield and Hartford a season ago.

Meet the Thunderbirds 2022-23

Springfield Thunderbirds Forward Matthew Highmore (Springfield Thunderbirds)

Matthew Highmore

Undrafted but undaunted, Matthew Highmore enters his first season with Springfield on the heels of 137 career NHL games with Chicago and Vancouver. He burst on the AHL scene with the Rockford IceHogs in 2017-18, when he scored 24 goals and had 43 points in 64 games in the Blackhawks’ system. He’s coming off a season that saw him post 12 points in 46 games with the Canucks.

Nick Isaacson

Another big-bodied winger, the 6-foot-3 Isaacson made his professional debut with the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays a season ago, posting five goals and six assists over 26 games. He also made his AHL debut by earning three games with the Hershey Bears.

Meet the Thunderbirds 2022-23

Springfield Thunderbirds Forward Mathias LaFerriere (Springfield Thunderbirds)

Mathias Laferriere

A sixth-round pick by the Blues in the 2018 NHL Draft, Laferriere looks for more consistency in his second campaign with Springfield. He skated in 56 regular season games with the Thunderbirds, and with some departures up front, Laferriere should see more ice time in 2022-23.

Meet the Thunderbirds 2022-23

Springfield Thunderbirds Forward Hugh McGing (Springfield Thunderbirds)

Hugh McGing

The versatile McGing spent time all over the Thunderbirds lineup during his rookie season, playing all three forward positions and providing high energy in all situations. He led Springfield rookies with 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists) in the regular season and added another four tallies in the postseason.

T-Birds last season and will continue to provide veteran leadership from the back line.

Meet the Thunderbirds 2022-23

Springfield Thunderbirds Forward Dylan McLaughlin (Springfield Thunderbirds)

Dylan McLaughlin

Like Highmore, McLaughlin is an undrafted forward who made his mark professionally in Rockford, posting 42 points (13 goals, 29 assists) in 55 games for the IceHogs last season. The Canisius College product had two seasons of more than a point-per-game in college, and he also has Thunderbirds ties, having skated with Hugh McGing in the USHL with Cedar Rapids in 2014-15.

Meet the Thunderbirds 2022-23

Springfield Thunderbirds Forward Matthew Peca. (Springfield Thunderbirds)

Matthew Peca

Peca’s first season with Springfield proved to be his best year to date as a pro. He set career highs in goals (23) and points (60) before adding 16 points in 18 postseason contests. Peca scored the game-winning goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, and then he followed that up with a three-point performance in Springfield’s Game 1 win in the Calder Cup Finals. He will begin this season recovering from injury, but upon his return, he should once again figure to be among the offensive leaders for Springfield.

Meet the Thunderbirds 2022-23

Springfield Thunderbirds Forward Greg Printz (Springfield Thunderbirds)

Greg Printz

The Providence College alumnus made the Thunderbirds out of training camp thanks to a strong showing in a pair of preseason games. Printz has 79 games’ worth of AHL experience with the San Diego Gulls, and the 6-foot-2, 223-pound winger tallied 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists) and 69 penalty minutes over 66 games a season ago.

Meet the Thunderbirds 2022-23

Springfield Thunderbirds Forward Nathan Todd (Springfield Thunderbirds)

Nathan Todd

Even though he lost about two months of his season due to injury, Todd was something of a secret weapon for Springfield offensively, tallying 23 points over 49 regular season games and then adding 11 points in the postseason. He scored the third of four Springfield goals in the club’s Eastern Conference clinching Game 7 win against Laval.

Meet the Thunderbirds 2022-23

Springfield Thunderbirds Forward Keean Washkurak (Springfield Thunderbirds)

Keean Washkurak

An unsung hero from Springfield’s 2021-22 season, the 21-year-old Washkurak chipped in 13 goals as a rookie and was the only T-Bird to score in four consecutive games all season. Unfortunately for the youngster, his 2022-23 season will begin with him recovering from an injury suffered during Blues training camp.

Defense

Meet the Thunderbirds 2022-23

Springfield Thunderbirds Defender and Captain Tommy Cross (Springfield Thunderbirds)

Tommy Cross (Captain)

A Simsbury, Conn. native, Boston College alum & two-time national champion, and a 12-year veteran, the 33-year-old Cross enters his third Thunderbirds season and second as captain. Over his AHL career, Cross has never missed the playoffs in any full season he has played. He was the T-Birds’ “Captain Clutch” in 2021-22, tallying his first three career overtime game-winning goals in the regular season and adding 11 points in 18 Calder Cup playoff games.

Meet the Thunderbirds 2022-23

Springfield Thunderbirds Defender Griffin Luce (Springfield Thunderbirds)

Griffin Luce

Luce enters his third professional season. A defensive-minded blueliner, Luce got 45 games of action for Springfield last season, posting a +9 rating in that time. The Michigan alumnus also saw his first professional postseason action, dressing in two Thunderbirds Calder Cup playoff games.

Meet the Thunderbirds 2022-23

Springfield Thunderbirds Defender Matt Kessel (Springfield Thunderbirds)

Matt Kessel

The UMass-Amherst product made quite the splash after completing his junior season with the Minutemen last March. He jumped right into Springfield and became a steady presence on the blue line for the T-Birds, posting a +9 rating in his first 15 regular season games as a pro. In the postseason, he tallied his first professional goal in Springfield’s 5-4 Game 1 victory in the Calder Cup Finals against Chicago.

Meet the Thunderbirds 2022-23

Springfield Thunderbirds Defender Brad Lyle (Springfield Thunderbirds)

Brad Lyle

A 23-year-old with a hard slap shot from the right side, Lyle revived his early career with 16 combined points in 31 games with Springfield, when combining regular season and playoffs. That came after he registered just nine points in 48 games for Providence. Like Cross, Lyle also had a tendency for clutch moments, scoring tying goals late in regulation of two separate postseason wins. Lyle should figure to be a key component to the Springfield man advantage in 2022-23.

Meet the Thunderbirds 2022-23

Springfield Thunderbirds Defender Austin Osmanski (Springfield Thunderbirds)

Austin Osmanski

Osmanski made his AHL debut with Springfield, skating in four games with the T-Birds during the regular season. A former seventh-round pick by his hometown Buffalo Sabres, Osmanski also played in 32 games with the ECHL’s Worcester Railers, where he tallied 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 32 games.

Meet the Thunderbirds 2022-23

Springfield Thunderbirds Defender Dmitri Samorukov (Springfield Thunderbirds)

Dmitri Samorukov

Acquired earlier this week from the Edmonton Oilers organization, Samorukov was steady on the Bakersfield Condors’ blue line a season ago, posting a +16 rating in 51 games while also chipping in 18 points (three goals, 15 assists). In his final junior season with Guelph, he had 45 points in the regular season before following that up with 28 points in 24 postseason contests, so his game does have more potential on the offensive side of the puck as well.

Meet the Thunderbirds 2022-23

Springfield Thunderbirds Defender Steven Santini (Springfield Thunderbirds)

Steven Santini

Paired for much of the 2021-22 season with Tyler Tucker, Santini was one of Springfield’s most sturdy defensive players, posting a career-best +16 rating during the regular season to go along with a career-high 18 points (two goals, 16 assists). The Boston College alum wore an “A” for the T-Birds last season and will continue to provide veteran leadership from the back line.

Meet the Thunderbirds 2022-23

Springfield Thunderbirds Defender Tyler Tucker (Springfield Thunderbirds)

Tyler Tucker

Tucker made giant strides as a 21-year-old last season, wearing an “A” and serving as a steady physical leader on the Springfield blue line, registering a team-high 114 penalty minutes to go along with three goals and 15 assists. After a strong camp in St. Louis, Tucker figures to be a top-pair defenseman for Springfield.

Meet the Thunderbirds 2022-23

Springfield Thunderbirds Luke Witkowski (Springfield Thunderbirds)

Luke Witkowski

Acquired via trade from Detroit last season, the 32-year-old Witkowski brings nine seasons’ worth of experience and the ability to play both forward and defense. Known more for his gritty play than his scoring touch, Witkowski still put up a career high five goals between Grand Rapids and Springfield in 2021-22. He played in 17 of the 18 postseason games en route to the Calder Cup Finals.

Goaltenders

Meet the Thunderbirds 2022-23

Springfield Thunderbirds Goaltender Colten Ellis (Springfield Thunderbirds)

Colten Ellis

Ellis split time between the Thunderbirds and the ECHL’s Worcester Railers as a 21-year-old rookine last season. He won his first career AHL start for Springfield, then posted 15 wins in 34 games for the Railers, including a .905 save percentage. He was originally a third-round selection by St. Louis in the 2019 NHL Draft.

Meet the Thunderbirds 2022-23

Springfield Thunderbirds Goaltender Joel Hofer (Springfield Thunderbirds)

Joel Hofer

Joel Hofer’s 2021-22 season saw its fair share of twists and turns, but when it came time for Hofer to carry his team in the postseason, he answered the bell, going 3-0 in a sweep of the Checkers and finishing his postseason with a .934 save percentage. Of course, Hofer’s marquee moment came in his playoff debut, when he scored a goal from behind his own net against the Penguins, marking the first time in AHL playoff history that a goaltender physically shot the puck to score a goal.

Meet the Thunderbirds 2022-23

Springfield Thunderbirds Goaltender Vadim Zherenko (Springfield Thunderbirds)

Vadim Zherenko

The Russian-born Zherenko enters his first season professionally in North America after playing in 30 games in the Finnish professional league (Liiga) for Ilves Tampere last season. In those outings, the former seventh-round Blues draft selection went 11-8-11 with a 2.67 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage.

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