The Twin City Thunder continue to add international flavor to their National Collegiate Development Conference Tier II team as they have added 18-year-old Finnish defenseman Oskari Lahtinen for the upcoming year.

Lahtinen has spent his youth career with the Ässät organization, where in 2018-19 he spent the season with their U18 team that plays in the Finnish Jr. B league. He had two goals and 11 assists and was an assistant captain on the team.

“He’s a right shot (defenseman) and he was brought to our attention from a contact over in Finland,” NCDC coach Doug Friedman said. “He had a good season out there in their Junior B league with (Ässät). He was really intriguing to us, we haven’t seen him play in person, but we got to see him on video. Just talking to our contacts over there, he comes highly recommended. He’s a pretty solid defenseman in his age group over there.”

Lahtinen is listed at 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds.

He is like a segment of players not only in Finland but all over Europe who wants to give junior hockey a try in hopes of playing college hockey.

“Just like North America, there’s a lot of players over in Europe, they don’t all want to come to North America, but there’s a good number that do now,” Friedman said. “A lot of players are seeing collegiate players in the NHL.”


Over the past 10-15 years, Europeans have started to come over to play college hockey like Gustav Nyquist, a Swede, who played three seasons at the University of Maine from 2008-11 before signing with the Detroit Red Wings. Other European players that have had success at the NCAA and NHL levels include Carl Hagelin (Washington Capitals/University of Michigan) and Erik Haula (Vegas Golden Knight/University of Minnesota).

Friedman said college hockey’s marketing arm — College Hockey Inc. — has also helped the European players to pursue the college option.


Friedman and Alex Drulia, the Thunder’s Tier III Premier League team coach, went out to the Windy City over the weekend, where the USPHL was holding a combine at Fifth Third Arena in Chicago, Illinois, the practice home of the Chicago Blackhawks.

“The (players) and coaches all got to see the Blackhawks’ training area, locker room, the fitness testing was done by the Blackhawks strength and conditioning coach as well,” Friedman said. “It was a first rate showcase that they put on there. There were some good players there, a lot of Premier Level players, a lot of players currently in the USPHL, a lot of players from the Midwest, a lot of high school or Tier I (midget) U18 players had an opportunity to show what they can do.”

Friedman said while most of the player pool was primarily for the Tier III level, he did say there was a few players that could play at the NCDC level this season.


Overall Friedman said the organization is in good shape with NCDC training camp running from August 16-18.

“For our training camp, right now we are excited to have four teams (of prospective players) and we only have a couple spots left at forward and defense for the camp,” Friedman said. “We are in a really good spot with that and the majority of players we have coming to camp, they are all battling to continue with the team at the NCDC level.”


According to, Twin City Thunder future draft pick Guillaume Richard, a University of Maine verbal commit for the 2021-22 season, told the Victoriaville Tigres of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League that he’s committed Maine and won’t join the Tigres, who drafted him seventh overall in the QMJHL midget draft in June. The Tigres will receive the seventh overall pick in next June’s draft by dropping Richard’s rights. He will also be eligible to be drafted in next year’s QMJHL draft.

If he signed with the Tigres, he would have forfeited his NCAA eligibility, as the NCAA considers player playing in the Q pros.

Richard is a 16-year-old defenseman from Quebec City who played for Séminaire St-François Blizzard of Qubec AAA midget league, where he had seven goals and 20 assists in 38 games last year.


Don’t expect him in a Thunder uniform in 2019-20, though. He will be joining Mount S. Charles Academy in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, which will have a midget hockey program for the U15, U16 and U18 levels starting this season.

“That’s his plan,” Friedman said. “They are going to have a great program down there and (the coaching staff) is going to continue on what they started at Selects Academy (in South Kent, Connecticut). I think it’s a really good place for him, it’s going to be a high level of hockey. The training and school piece is there too.”

Mount St. Charles hired Devin Rask, Scott Gainey and Matt Plante from Selects Academy to start their midget program.

The Thunder will stay in touch with him and his family for the 2020-21 season, but that may also be stretch.

“We will wait and see, right?,” Friedman said. “There’s a lot that can happen. He’s proven himself and continues to show himself as a high-level player. He could be in the (United States Hockey League) before we know it.”

Richard, who was also drafted in the Phase I USHL draft this spring by the Tri-City Storm, is the lone Tier I junior league under the USA Hockey umbrella. Like in the USPHL, players playing in the USHL maintain their NCAA eligibility.

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