Column: Future is bright for Thiessen

The men’s hockey team’s rise to prominence has been well documented this season, along with the names of some its heroes:’ Greg Cronin, Joe Vitale, Ryan Ginand, Louis Liotti and, of course, Brad Thiessen.
On April 3, Northeastern learned the bittersweet news that’ Thiessen would no longer be donning the red and black in the Barn on St. Boltoph, but would be heading a few hundred miles away to Wilkes-Barre, Penn., to join the minor league affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Thiessen signed a two-year contract for an undisclosed amount with the Penguins and is now considered one of the Pens’ top prospects.
‘He’s a big part of our plans down the road,’ said Chuck Fletcher, assistant general manager of the Penguins. ‘There is no question that we think he is a top prospect.’
Despite that ringing endorsement, there was not quite as much interest in Thiessen as one might have expected.
‘My agent and I narrowed down a list of five to seven teams that were interested in me,’ said Thiessen, who traded in his No. 39 jersey for a No. 1 with the Pens. ‘Then it eventually got narrowed down to two that we were seriously negotiating with.’
The fact that teams weren’t falling all over themselves to sign him is not a strike against him, though, it has far more to do with the demands of his position.
‘Not everyone needs a goaltender,’ Thiessen said. ‘It’s different then being a forward or defenseman.’
Though he was known to general managers and scouts around the NHL prior to this season, it was his performance this season that brought out the attention and serious offers.
‘We’ve scouted him for the past few years and established him as one of the top goaltenders in the entire NCAA,’ Fletcher said. ‘This was a great season at Northeastern and he was a major part of the success for that team.’
The presence of Joe Vitale, former NU captain and Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick may also have helped the Penguins know what they were getting into. Vitale was also signed by the Pens to an amateur tryout following the final game of NU’s season.
‘We have been watching Joe a lot over the years,’ Fletcher said. ‘So we had the book on most NU players, we have seen that team play many, many times.’
Going forward, the Penguins plan to bring Thiessen along slowly. They have several good young goaltenders in their system already, including Marc Andre Fleury in Pittsburgh, and former BU stand-out John Curry in the AHL.
‘It is a big adjustment at the goaltender position to move up from college,’ Fletcher said . ‘He will need time in the AHL to adjust to the professional game, but we see him as an NHL goaltender.’
It is likely that Thiessen will split time in Scranton next year with either Curry or Adam Berkhoel, the other goaltender in Wilkes-Barre Scranton, who won a national title with Denver in 2004.
While it is difficult to imagine going forward without Thiessen for many Husky fans, it is a mark of how far the program has come.
For now we will be left with memories of Thiess, and what he did for this team. But maybe, with a little luck and a lot of hard work on his part, we will all get a chance to cheer for him again, in the NHL.

‘- Pete Martin can be reached’
at sports@huntington-news.com.

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