Wichita, KS (March 2nd) - The Wichita Thunder, ECHL affiliate of the NHL's Edmonton Oilers, AHL's Bakersfield Condors and powered by Toyota, announced today that the team has acquired Kelly Cup winning defenseman Nolan De Jong from the Utah Grizzlies in exchange for Gabriel Verpaelst.
"It was a very difficult decision to move Gabriel," stated Head Coach Malcolm Cameron. "He's a quality person as well as player. However, with some recent injuries and suspensions, we needed to make some room to acquire both quality players and secure some depth as we continue to chase a playoff position. In addition, Gabriel is a veteran player and will be able to become a free agent in the offseason. We were able to secure a good young defenseman that we can have in the future."
De Jong, 23, is in his second year as a pro. A native of Victoria, British Columbia, the 6-foot-2, 198-pound blueliner has appeared in 37 games this season for the Grizzlies. Over that span, he has collected 20 points (2g, 18a). He has also earned three call-ups to the American Hockey League with the Stockton Heat, Colorado Eagles and San Jose Barracuda.
Prior to turning pro, De Jong played four seasons at the University of Michigan and was the team's captain during his senior campaign. He appeared in 124 career NCAA games with the Wolverines, notching 39 points (4g, 35a). In 2013, he was drafted by the Minnesota Wild in the seventh round (#197 overall) in the NHL Entry Draft.
Verpaelst appeared in 17 games for the Thunder, collecting five points (1g, 4a) and 42 penalty minutes.
"I enjoyed playing for Malcolm," commented Verpaelst. "He was good to me when I decided to come to Wichita. We had agreed before I signed that if we weren't in a playoff position before the trade deadline, he would trade me to a team that had a chance to win and he kept his word. I'm very thankful for that."
The Thunder have the weekend off and will return to action next Wednesday with their first trip of the season to Boise to face the Idaho Steelheads.
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