Brady Smith

Thunder defenseman Brady Smith watches for the puck during a game this past season at U.S. Cellular Coliseum. Smith and the Thunder will be coached next season by former assistant coach Mike Watt, the team announced Monday. 

BLOOMINGTON — The Bloomington Thunder of the United States Hockey League announced Monday they have promoted assistant coach Mike Watt to head coach, with another member of the coaching staff the past three years, Dan Jewell, taking over as general manager of hockey operations.

Jewell also will serve as associate coach.

Dennis Williams, the head coach and GM for the Thunder’s first three seasons in the USHL, has been named head coach of the Western Hockey League’s Everett Silvertips. The Silvertips also are owned by CSH International, the ownership group of the Thunder.

Watt was a standout forward at Michigan State from 1994-97, posting 98 points in 115 career games. He also won a gold medal playing for Canada at the 1996 World Junior Championship.

“I’d like to thank Mr. Yuill (CSH chairman and CEO Bill Yuill) and CSH International for the opportunity,” Watt said. “Having that continuity within CSH International and our organization is huge for the players and their families and their advisers.

"They know that we’ve had a relationship and we’ve developed those relationships. We’ve worked on and off the ice and in the community. They know the expectations and they know the culture that we’ve set here.”

Watt played five seasons in the National Hockey League, totaling 41 career points in 157 games. He also played professionally in the KHL and SHL.

Watt spent four seasons coaching high school hockey in Wisconsin before transitioning to junior hockey.

While in Bloomington he has overseen the Thunder's defensemen. Watt resides in Bloomington with his wife, Niki, and two children, Liam (13) and Avery (9).

“We’ve invested in the community,” Watt said. “We’ve bought a house. We love the Bloomington-Normal area and being back in the Midwest. To have this opportunity and know that the Bloomington Thunder are moving forward long-term is very exciting for myself and my family.”

Moving into his fourth season with the Thunder, Jewell will direct all the Thunder’s personnel efforts as GM as well as serving as associate coach. He will oversee all aspects of drafting future players, including scouting, recruiting, and managing the Thunder’s USHL Draft each May.

“I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity.” Jewell said. “It’s been quite a progression for me coming into this league and working for a premier organization in the USHL. To see my role gradually grow over the three years of the program has been amazing."

Jewell was an assistant coach and director of scouting in the Thunder's first two seasons before being promoted to assistant GM prior to the 2016-17 season.

In only three seasons with the Thunder, Jewell has helped orchestrate a development effort that has already seen 25 players from the team’s first two seasons go on to play college hockey at the Division I level.

Watt and Jewell will start their new positions effective immediately.

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Sports Editor

Sports Editor for The Pantagraph.

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