Twin City Thunder co-owner and coach Dan Hodge continues to rebuild the blue line.

On Friday, the Thunder announced they signed defenseman Sawyer Smith to a National Collegiate Development Conference tender. The 18-year-old played at Shady Side Academy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he totaled 18 points (one goal, 17 assists), which all led Midwest Prep Hockey League defensemen during the 2019-20 season.

It wasn’t Smith’s offense that peaked Hodge’s interest in Smith, who’s listed a 5-foot-10 and 181 pounds.

“He can throw the body, too. I’ve seen some video, he can throw the body, you got to have your head up when he’s out there,” Hodge said. “I have seen some pretty good hits. He’s a guy that I am projecting as a top-four defenseman and does what needs to be done.”

Hodge said another strength to Smith’s game is his skating ability and he plays his position well.

Just like the other defensemen the Thunder has signed this offseason, Smith will get a crack at playing a lot of minutes this upcoming season.

“I want him to be a guy that plays in every situation and that’s what I tell all the defensemen, everyone will have the opportunity to play in every situation,” Hodge said. “It’s a matter of who are going to be the ones that are going to accept the challenge. Everyone knows they will have to earn their time and they have to earn their spots. I am very clear when I talk to the players and they all seem eager and understand it’s a competition, the best players will play.”

Smith, of Gibsonia, Pennsylvania, becomes the fourth defenseman the Thunder have used a tender on this offseason, joining Andriiy Yevtukhov, Logan Radtke and Jack Gilligan. All four have at least two years of junior hockey eligibility remaining.

“That’s what happens when you have an older set of defensemen,” Hodge said. “That’s a thing you kind of run into. You want to have as many solid defensemen that you can. We are on track to have a good, solid (defensive) corps. As a (former) defenseman myself, I am excited to see that group come together and gel — really be the backbone of this team.”

The majority of the blue line on the 2019-20 team was mostly made up of players born in 1999 or 2000. They have aged out or heading to play Division III college hockey.  Defenders born in 2000 who still had junior hockey eligibility left but are heading to school include Bowdoin College-bound Gonzalo Hagerman, Andy Antiles is committed to Middlebury and Drew Gardner will be suiting up for Stonehill College. Nicolas Poirier, a 1999-born player, aged out of junior hockey but is heading off to Plymouth State.


Twin City Thunder forward Christian Blomquist, center, attempts to receive a pass in front of the net next to South Shore Kings goalie Eric Voloshin, left, and Alex Carrothers, right. South Shore spoiled the Thunder’s home opener in 2019, winning 2-0. RAM Sports photography

Twin City Thunder’s second-leading scorer from 2019-20 is off to the North American Hockey League, as Christian Blomquist signed a tender with the New Jersey Titans on May 15.

Blomquist had 24 goals and 26 assists in 50 games for the Thunder. The 6-foot-1, 194 pound 19-year old forward from Milwaukee, Wisconsin will have two years of junior hockey remaining.

Hodge said he didn’t hear from Blomquist this offseason so he wasn’t surprised to hear Blomquist was looking to find a new team for the 2020-21 campaign.

The Titans were leading the NAHL East Division with a record of 38-13-1 before the season was canceled on March 16.

A tender is a contract that gives a team a player’s rights, and the player cannot be drafted or signed by another team within that specific league. The player, however, can sign with another team in another junior league.

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