(HALIFAX, NS) October 31, 2023 -- The Halifax Thunderbirds are set to open training camp ahead of the 2023-24 National Lacrosse League season this coming weekend.
Halifax’s training camp roster consists of 39 players, including multiple off-season free-agent signings, and three 2023 draftees.
Forwards - Ryan Benesch, Colin Berglof, Wake:Riat Bowhunter, Zac Carrigan, Gareth Haigh, Cody Jamieson, Cole Kirst, Briley Maxwell, Jake McNabb, Clarke Petterson, Austin Shanks, Randy Staats, Skye Sunday, Dawson Theede, Max Waldbaum, Aaron Woods
Defence/Transition - Colton Armstrong, Brett Beetow, Tyson Bell, David Brock, Keaton Brown, Kevin Owen Hill, Graeme Hossack, Butch La Roue, Jordan McKenzie, Luc Magnan, Caelan Mander, Johnny Pearson, Cody Radziewicz, Trevor Smyth, Ryan Terfenko, Jordan Trottier, Andrew Vradenburg, Max Wilson, Jeremy Winston, Jake Withers
Goalies - Warren Hill, Drew Hutchison, Craig Wende
PUP List - Eric Fannell, Nonkon Thompson, Kealan Pilon
The Thunderbirds will return their four top scorers from last season in Randy Staats, Clarke Petterson, Ryan Benesch, and Cody Jamieson.
In his first season as a member of the Thunderbirds in 2022-23, Staats potted 34 goals along with 59 assists to finish with 93 points in 17 outings. Petterson also set career highs in goals (32) assists (52), and points (84).
A pair of future Hall of Famers, Benesch and Jamieson both signed new contracts in the summer to return to The Nest. The former has said that this will be the final season of his illustrious career while the Thunderbirds’ captain signed a three-year pact after a strong 2022-23 campaign.
Benesch broke multiple records last season, becoming just the seventh player in NLL history to reach the 1,200-point plateau for a career while also passing Gary Gait for seventh all-time in points.
Jamieson also became the Thunderbirds’ franchise leader in career points (896) with a seven-point performance in the season finale against Georgia.
Austin Shanks will also step into a bigger role in 2023-24 after the off-season trade of Chris Boushy. The righty is just one season removed from a career-best 2022 season where he potted 31 goals and 65 points.
With Eric Fannell opening the season on the PUP List, there will be more room for opportunity on the lefty side, with Dawson Theede and second-year man Wake:Riat Bowhunter set to be the next men up.
Rookie Briley Maxwell will also have a chance to secure a roster spot. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound lefty from Alberta was a leader for the RMLL’s Edmonton Miners this past summer, helping lead them to a second consecutive Minto Cup appearance.
Halifax will also welcome 2022 draftee Cole Kirst to camp after he finished his NCAA career with Syracuse in 2023. The American lefty is a big, physical offensive presence who will look to make the full-time jump into the indoor game after getting some reps with the United States National Team this summer.
Additionally, Jake McNabb has prior NLL experience, spending time with the Colorado Mammoth. Skye Sunday and Halifax product Zac Carrigan are coming off strong summers with Akwesasne and Brooklin, respectively. Aaron Woods was a standout for the Cobourg Kodiaks during the 2023 MSL season. Colin Berglof is also coming off a summer where he played in the President’s Cup with the Sr. Edmonton Miners.
Halifax’s defence will head into the season with assistant captains Graeme Hossack and Jake Withers leading the way.
Hossack is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, finishing with nine points, 139 loose balls, and a career-high 49 caused turnovers. Withers was one of the driving forces for the Thunderbirds, coming just shy of breaking the NLL’s single-season record for face-off wins while also having a league-best .790 face-off percentage.
Ryan Terefenko is set to take another step in his development after a breakout last year. The American transition ace set career highs across the board with seven goals, 21 points, 186 loose balls and 14 caused turnovers.
The defence will return the majority of its contributors for the 2023-24 season. Tyson Bell, Luc Magnan, Colton Armstrong, and Trevor Smyth have played important minutes for the team over the last number of years.
The Thunderbirds also shored up their depth during the off-season, re-signing David Brock, Johnny Pearson, and Brett Beetow, while also adding Jordan Trottier and Cody Radziewicz who have had prior experience with NLL teams.
Nonkon Thompson will also open camp on the PUP List. But he could make a return to the lineup during the 2023-24 season after missing last season with a lower-body injury.
Among the newer faces, the Thunderbirds signed Nova Scotia product Keaton Brown, who the team drafted in 2022. He’ll have a chance to crack the roster for his hometown team after featuring at training camp with the organization last year.
Halifax has two 2023 draftees coming to camp on the back end. Second-round pick Caelan Mander and third-rounder Andrew Vradenburg are both coming off impressive summers with their respective junior organizations.
Vradenburg captained the Burlington Blaze to their first-ever Minto Cup while also logging big minutes out of the back gate for the team. Mander bounced all around summer lacrosse in 2023, playing for both the Junior A and B Port Coquitlam Saints while also appearing in a pair of games for the WLA’s Victoria Shamrocks. At just 18 years old, the 6-foot-5, 205-pounder had 14 goals and 23 points in 19 games of BCJALL lacrosse before featuring in the Founders Cup (Canadian Junior B National Championship) at the end of the summer.
Another American, Jeremy Winston, will also debut at camp after being selected by the Thunderbirds in the 2021 NLL Draft.
The tandem of Warren Hill and Drew Hutchison returns to the team for another season.
Hill had a strong finish to the 2022-23 campaign, coming up big for the Thunderbirds on their run to the NLL playoffs. Additionally, Hutchison showed promise in his rookie campaign, winning his first career game against the New York Riptide in the team’s second game of last season.
In addition to the pairing, veteran netminder Craig Wende was also brought in during the off-season to help bolster the group in the cage. The Kitchener, Ontario product has played four seasons, split between the Rochester Knighthawks and Georgia Swarm.