DULUTH - The Gwinnett Gladiators added a defenseman to their stable of players on Wednesday, signing rookie Dinos Stamoulis for the 2007-08 season.
Head coach Jeff Pyle described Stamoulis, who matriculated from Providence College, as a physical, defensive-minded defenseman.
Stamoulis isn't too shabby around the net either, if last week's showing at the Atlanta Thrashers prospect development camp is any indication.
During one practice session, the 23-year-old drove the net and lifted a smooth shot over the far side shoulder of 6-foot-6 goalie Dan Turple, who played for the Gladiators as a rookie last season.
"He was billed as a low-end, hard-working, solid defenseman with a good shot and good skater who hits pretty well," Pyle said.
Pyle got a first-hand look at his newest trainee during the Thrashers camp where Pyle was one of the on-ice taskmasters. Pyle said the Thrashers were looking to fill out the 30-man camp roster with a few players who weren't property of Atlanta, the Gladiators' NHL affiliate. Stamoulis was one of the names Pyle offered and the Thrashers picked the 6-foot, 195-pound blueliner as an invitee.
"You're glad anytime you can do that," Pyle said. "That just helps recruiting right there. It does give them that sniff. I'm always telling them, Atlanta does care."
Stamoulis had already agreed to play for the Gladiators when he got the Thrashers call - about six days before he needed to be in Gwinnett for the camp's start on July 5. Primarily a conditioning camp, Stamoulis was feeling the effects of the on- and off-ice workouts.
"I was told I was coming here kind of short notice, so it was a little bit of a grind at the beginning of the week and now some of the gas has run out," he said last Tuesday after a skating session at the IceForum in Duluth.
"I'm just trying to make it through."
Which is exactly what the Thrashers want to put all the young players through for that week. And the fatigue didn't diminish Stamoulis' excitement about the opportunity.
"It's great," he said. "It's a good learning experience. It's nice to see how things are done and kind of see where you're at and where you need to improve."
Stamoulis was just getting back into the training groove when he was called about coming to Atlanta.
"After I graduated, I took two months off just to recharge the battery," he said. "But I started training, off ice, about three weeks before I came here. I didn't really skate much. I was just getting to that when I got the call."
Pyle said it was good to get a chance to work with Stamoulis before seeing him again in October.
"A kid like that, after finishing college, playing some pro last year, now coming to this camp, I think this is huge for these guys," Pyle said. "As long as it doesn't go to his head. But that type of kid, he's probably thinking, 'Man, this is awesome.'"
Stamoulis played four years at Providence College in Rhode Island and graduated with a degree in marketing before turning pro. His college numbers bear out the "defensive defenseman" description. Stamoulis had 30 points in 142 games for the Friars and then, last spring, four points in 17 games for the Toledo Storm.
He did rack up 54 points in a season of junior hockey with the Texas Tornado prior to attending Providence - but either way, offense hasn't ever been an issue for the Gladiators, who have made the playoffs in each of their four seasons.
Stamoulis said he was considering signing with a number of professional teams this summer.
"But I talked to a couple of other guys that played here before that said it was just a great place to play and a great place to live," Stamoulis said. "I talked it over with my agent, and we decided this was probably the best situation for me.
"I wanted to definitely go someplace where they wanted me. So that had a huge impact on my decision."
The Gladiators' relationship and proximity to their NHL parent club didn't hurt either. His presence at the prospect camp illustrated that point pretty well.
"That was one of the other things that I liked about coming here, because it's exposure," Stamoulis said. "It's great, especially for somebody like myself who's trying to move up."