Mavericks add another 'big' defenseman

Bill Althaus
The Kansas City Mavericks have signed defenseman Cole Candella (44), who played professionally in Denmark last season after two seasons with the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League.

The Kansas City Mavericks keep getting bigger and first-year coach and director of hockey operations Tad O’Had believes his ECHL team is also getting better.

The Mavericks announced Wednesday they have signed defenseman Cole Candella to a standard player contract.

Candella, a 6-foot-3, 194-pound native of Mississauga, Ontario, spent last season with the Odense Bulldogs of Metal Ligaen, the premier hockey league in Denmark.

“We like it that Cole got a taste of pro ball last year overseas,” O’Had said. “We think that is going to help prepare him for what he’s going to see this season in the ECHL.”

In 48 games with the Bulldogs, Candella stacked up 18 points on three goals and 15 assists. The 22-year-old was drafted in the fifth round (140th overall) of the 2016 National Hockey League Draft by the Vancouver Canucks.

“There are so many things we like about this kid, and this signing means we’re getting bigger and we are going to have the opportunity to intimidate on the back end,” O’Had said.

“Cole’s an excellent skater along the blue line, has great hands and a high ability to distribute pucks. He certainly has the potential to be an exceptional talent for our team this season.”

O’Had had the opportunity to see Candella play many years ago while he was coaching an AAA elite youth team in Florida.

“He was known as one of the best D-men in junior hockey and everyone in our organization is impressed with his work ethic and his love of the game,” O’Had said. “He asks questions and then goes out and works on the parts of his game we talked about.”

Candella is joined on defense by rookies Tommy Muck and Luke Bafia, who previously signed with the ECHL team. The Mavericks have also re-signed forwards Loren Ulett and Bryan Lemos so far while beginning to build the roster for the 2020-21 season. The team has also extended qualifying offers to seven players – Kevin McKernan, Charlie O'Connor, Mitchell Vanderlaan, Matt Schmalz, Michael Parks, Jack Walker and Sam Kurker – who have yet to sign.

O’Had said Mavericks fans can expect many more signings soon.

“We’re happy where we are, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’re looking at a lot of guys who are on the bubble with signing an AHL (American Hockey League) contract,” he said. “We’re putting together a special team and I can’t wait for our fans to see it.”