The Quad-City Mallards' defense picked up another key returner Tuesday as they announced they have re-signed defenseman Nicholas Rioux in addition to signing forward Kyle Thomas.
Rioux is the fifth defenseman to re-sign with the Mallards, joining Benjamin Dieude-Fauvel, Matt Duffy, Darren McMillan and Mike Monfredo. The team also signed defensemen Caylen Walls and Jannik Christensen earlier in the offseason.
Rioux finished eighth among CHL defensemen in assists (27) last year while also scoring five times in 58 games and had a plus/minus rating of plus-16. Rioux also was a finalist for the league's Most Outstanding Defenseman award last season and played six games with the Iowa Wild in the American Hockey League.
“Rioux was a really important guy for us last season," Mallards coach and general manager Terry Ruskowski said. "He was one of the top defensemen in the league and a guy who can play against other team’s top forwards. We’re looking forward to him coming back and filling that role for us again.”
Thomas joins the Mallards from the ECHL's Reading Royals, where he played just six games due to injury. Collegiately, Thomas played at Division III Norwich University in Northfield, Vt. As a freshman, Thomas led the team and finished third in the nation with 23 goals as the Cadets won the national championship. Thomas was named the 2009-10 Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference-East Rookie of the Year and was selected to the conference all-rookie team.
In his career, Thomas scored 68 goals and recorded 128 points in 114 games and received numerous all-conference and all-American honors. He also skated in the Mallards' NHL affiliate Minnesota Wild development camp twice, catching the eye of the Wild's assistant to general manager and Iowa Wild general manager Jim Mill, who referred him to Ruskowski.
"Jim Mill told me he can really skate and that he’s a good hockey player who should do well with us," Ruskowski said. "Jim Mill knows his hockey, so once I heard that I didn’t hesitate to bring Kyle in.”