Part of the 2017 Markham Thunder draft class, Devon Skeats holds the potential to be one of its gems. Selected 18th overall, Skeats brings solid playmaking abilities and experience in big games, elements that should translate into an immediate impact with the new-look Thunder.
Raised in Whitby, Ontario, Skeats would play her PWHL hockey at home, competing with the Wolves. Enjoying three OUA hockey championships with the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks, recording 87 career points, Skeats’ career would take her internationally.
Competing in the EWHL with the Neuberg Highlanders, she would also bring her skills south of the border, making her mark as a fan favorite with the Buffalo Beauts, recording 21 points over the course of two seasons. As the opportunity to compete with the Markham Thunder represents the next chapter in her accomplished career, there is also the proud feeling of homecoming,
“It feels great to be back at home in Canada and back in the area where I played minor hockey. It’ll be nice to have friends and family come and see the games as the proximity is much better than last season.”
Bringing a tremendous authenticity to the Thunder, Skeats is poised to be a perfect fit on the Thunder’s high-powered offense, which is highlighted by the presence of Jamie Lee Rattray, it presents a unique situation. Of note, Skeats and Rattray have already enjoyed the opportunity to call each other teammates. Having been part of Canada’s bronze medal effort at the 2017 ISBHF Worlds, their chemistry should result in a much more compelling second time as teammates.
In a unique instance of six degrees of hockey separation, the Canadian contingent that competed at the ISBHF Worlds holds a significant amount of linkages to the CWHL. In addition to Rattray, the squad featured Elysia Desmier, a member of the Thunder during the CWHL’s inaugural season.
Heather Berzins, a recent graduate from the University of Calgary also suited up for Canada’s contingent. Her sister, Emily, competed for the former Team Alberta franchise, and is part of the Inferno’s training camp in 2017. Two other members of this year’s Thunder hold proud ball hockey roots. First year General Manager Chelsea Purcell was a member of Canada’s gold medal entry in 2015, while Karolina Urban, making her CWHL comeback with Markham, was one of Purcell’s teammates for Canada. Getting the chance to share her Thunder experience with both of them represents an early highlight for a jubilant Skeats,
“Yes, absolutely they both are great athletes. I’m excited to have a whole new group of talented teammates and friends.”
Of note, 2017 has already been a milestone-filled year for Skeats. Having achieved numerous feats, an element of prestige needs to be considered in the fact that such successes took place in three different countries (Canada, Czech Republic, United States), testament to her status as a world-class competitor.
From the outset, Skeats holds a unique place in professional hockey history, as she is among the first Canadians to have won the incredible Isobel Cup, doing so with a team based out of Buffalo, the city’s first hockey championship since the 1970 Calder Cup. Followed by a pair of ball hockey triumphs, including ISBHF world bronze, plus a CBHA National Championship with the New Tecumseth X-Treme, all these attainments add to a growing legacy.
With the chance to make history as part of the new-look Markham Thunder, it represents a strong point of pride, helping to bring a new chapter to the franchise’s proud legacy, “Of course I am excited, anything to do with the growth of women’s hockey I am honoured to be a part of.”
Skeats’ arrival with the Thunder also serves as the extension of another unique legacy. A graduate of the acclaimed Wilfrid Laurier University, she competed with the Golden Hawks varsity team, which has seen many graduates call the Thunder their pro hockey home.
Competitors such as goaltenders Cindy Eadie and Liz Knox (the winner of the 2010 Brodrick Trophy and 2010 Outstanding Woman of Laurier Award) both appeared in the Clarkson Cup Finals with the Thunder. Other notable Laurier grads that made their mark in pro hockey included Winter Games gold medalist Cheryl Pounder and Amy Turek.
With two seasons of having competed professionally in Buffalo, highlighted by an opportunity to compete on home ice in a prestigious All-Star Game, Skeats is prepared to etch her name among the Laurier legends that have made their mark with the Thunder.
“I am hoping that with my previous experiences that I will be able to come in a play a role where I can utilize my speed and physicality. There are a lot of great players on the Thunder so I am excited to play talented athletes.”
As the club is littered with expectations, Skeats is determined to ensure that the club remains entrenched in the championship conversation. With the expansion Kunlun Red Star playing their first game in North America against the Thunder, it shall mark a key milestone in Skeats’ inaugural sojourn with the club, poised to be the first of many in an exciting season to come.
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit to Adam Gagnon and ISBHF