For the first time in years, the Wichita Thunder generated legitimate offseason excitement with several splashy signings, acquiring all-star Jesse Bennefield, tough guy Jason Goulet and respected veteran Brent Cullaton.
Those pickups, plus a few others, made news around the Central Hockey League, and rightfully so.
So it may have been easy to forget that, way back at the start of summer, the Thunder made a quieter move that could turn out to be one of its most significant.
On May 30, Andrew Martens joined the team.
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Granted, the defenseman won't score many goals or drop the gloves often.
But based on his solid resume and a small sampling this season, here is what he will do: Play every game, dish out 20 or so assists, score 30 points and be among the team leaders in plus-minus.
It's a virtual lock.
While the Thunder (0-4) has started slowly, Martens has been impressive. In fact, he has played even better than coach Kevin McClelland expected.
"He's come in and been a real horse for our hockey club," McClelland said. "He plays every key situation, and he logs a lot of minutes.
"He's one of the best players on the team, and in practice he's always the hardest worker."
A sixth-year pro, Martens has been consistent and durable.
In each of the past four seasons, most of which he spent in the East Coast Hockey League, he played over 70 games and reached the 30-point mark.
The 6-foot-1 Martens prides himself on being a tough, reliable player, so he has had to play through his share of pain.
Last season, in the season opener for the Ontario Reign, he slammed full speed into the door to the bench — an occurrence he likened to hitting a brick wall.
Based on the impact and the pain he was experiencing, the team initially though that Martens had broken his pelvis. There were no broken bones, so Martens did a little extra work with the medical staff and suited up the next weekend.
"Looking back, I don't know how I did it, it was so painful," he said. "It was a rough week, battling through everything, but getting back on the ice was my goal."
With just one assist, Martens is off to an uncharacteristically slow start; last year, he had a career-high 33 to go along with four goals.
"Our power play has been struggling lately and every one of us has to take a little piece of responsibility; I take my share, too," he said. "It's frustrating, but I'm trying to work out of my own funk. If I do that, maybe a couple other guys will join on board."