ALEX D’ORIO AND CHRIS ORTIZ REASSIGNED TO WHEELING
WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins announced today that goaltender Alex D’Orio has been reassigned by the Pittsburgh Penguins from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to their ECHL affiliate, the Wheeling Nailers. Furthermore, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has reassigned defensemen Chris Ortiz to Wheeling.
D’Orio rose to prominence with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton during the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season. The 22-year-old logged a 6-3-1 record and finished fourth in the league in goals against average (2.18) as well as fifth in save percentage (.915).
In 42 career games with Wheeling, D’Orio has amassed a 3.31 goals against average, .892 save percentage, one shutout and a 14-21-3 record.
Pittsburgh signed D’Orio to a three-year, entry-level contract as an undrafted free agent in 2017 after he won the QMJHL Championship with the Saint John Sea Dogs. The Sherbrooke, Québec native proceeded to lead the QMJHL in saves (1478) during 2017-18.
Ortiz, a first-year pro out of the QMJHL, appeared in two preseason games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The 20-year-old defenseman recorded four shots and no points in those exhibition contests.
In 231 QMJHL games played for the Baie-Comeau Drakkar and Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, Ortiz racked up 129 points (20G-109A). Last season, the native of Boisbriand, Québec was a point-per-game player for his hometown team with four goals and 20 assists in 24 games.
Nailers Acquire Forward Nick Hutchison from Adirondack
Wheeling Sends Ivan Chukarov to Thunder; Future Considerations from Ryczek Deal Completed
WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, have announced a trade, which takes effect immediately. Wheeling has acquired forward Nick Hutchison from the Adirondack Thunder in exchange for defenseman Ivan Chukarov. This completes the future considerations trade which originally sent defenseman Jake Ryczek to Adirondack.
Hutchison, 26, enters his second professional season, after collecting six goals, 13 assists, and 19 points in 47 games as a rookie with the Indy Fuel. Nick had started his pro career with a goal and an assist in his Adirondack debut at the end of the 2019-20 season, and was slated to play for the Thunder again last season, before the team opted out of the campaign. The Hicksville, New York native was a key player in Indy's push to qualify for the 2021 Kelly Cup Playoffs, as he tallied ten points in the final 15 games. Prior to turning pro, Hutchison attended Canisius College for four years, where he majored in Sport Management, while playing for the Golden Griffins. His senior season was his best, as he produced 32 points in 31 games, and was named to the AHA Second All-Conference Team. Nick amassed 113 points during his NCAA career.
Chukarov, 26, has appeared in 53 games over the course of two seasons with the Worcester Railers. Ivan notched five points in 15 games at the end of the 2018-19 season, then followed that up with eight points in 38 games, before sitting out in 2020-21. Prior to turning pro, the Des Plaines, Illinois native attended UMass-Amherst for four years, where he registered 25 points in 128 career games.
Team White Edges Team Gold, 2-1
Fans Get an Early Preview Before Next Saturday's Season Opener
WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers gave their fans a preview of what's to come on Friday night, as they played an intrasquad scrimmage at WesBanco Arena. Led by Head Coach Derek Army, Team White came away with a 2-1 win in both the game and the shootout.
Team White tallied the lone goal in the first period, as a pair of familiar faces connected. Patrick Watling and Matt Alfaro skated in on a 2-on-0 rush and exchanged a quick pass, before Alfaro teed up Watling for a one-timer, which opened the scoring.
Early in the middle frame, Team Gold pulled even with a one-time strike of its own. Tyler Drevitch broke up a play in the neutral zone, then sent in Brandon Saigeon, who feathered a feed to Bobby Hampton, who clobbered home a slap shot from the left circle.
The deadlock was broken at the 7:08 mark of the final stanza. Watling had his original shot stopped, but Matt Ustaski was there to scoop up the rebound and squirt it through the netminder for the 2-1 Team White triumph.
Team White also came out on top in a shootout that was orchestrated following the game. Sean Josling and Zach White were the two goal scorers out of their squad's six shooters, while Brandon Saigeon was responsible for the lone Team Gold goal.
Louis-Philip Guindon was the winning netminder, as he made 11 saves on 12 shots in the game, then five saves on six shots in the shootout. Joe Murdaca joined the team earlier in the day, and stopped 27 of the 29 shots he faced for Team Gold, then went 4-for-6 in the shootout.
Nailers, Komets Preseason Games Cancelled
Nailers to Play Intrasquad Scrimmage Friday at 7:10
WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, have announced that the preseason games scheduled for Friday and Saturday night have been cancelled due to ECHL Health and Safety Protocols.
In place of Friday's game, the Nailers will play an intrasquad scrimmage at WesBanco Arena, beginning at 7:10. Admission to the intrasquad scrimmage is free.
Fans who had purchased tickets for Friday's preseason game against Fort Wayne will have their tickets refunded.
The Boys Are Back In Town!
Wheeling #Nailers Training Camp is about to begin!
WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, have announced their 2021 training camp schedule and roster.
The Nailers will open their 2021 training camp at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry on Monday, October 11th at 12:10 p.m. They will then shift to Printscape Arena in Canonsburg on Tuesday, October 12th at 1:00 p.m. The team will hit the ice at WesBanco Arena for the first time on Wednesday, October 13th and Thursday, October 14th, with both practices beginning at 10:30 a.m. Friday, October 15th will be a 10:00 a.m. morning skate, leading to the exhibition opener against the Fort Wayne Komets at 7:10 p.m. All practices are open to the public, and fans must stay in the seating bowl, as ice level access is not permitted.
The first training camp roster for Head Coach Derek Army and Assistant Coach Ryan Kuwabara consists of 14 forwards, nine defensemen, and two goaltenders for a total of 25 players.
Starting in the crease, the Nailers have one familiar face and one new face to start their training camp. Louis-Philip Guindon came to Wheeling in May, and had a solid showing in five games, as he posted a .903 save percentage. He will be joined by Michael Barrett, who had a phenomenal career at Adrian College, which finished with a 12-0-0 record in 2020-21.
On the blueline, Dylan MacPherson and Adam Smith will be looked at as two key leaders, as both enter their third pro seasons and second with the Nailers. Both have spent time in the AHL, including MacPherson last season with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Jesse Lees saw his 2020-21 campaign take off like a rocket when he arrived in Nail City, as he racked up ten goals and 16 points in 27 games. He, Matt Miller, and Matt Foley will all shed the rookie tag, as they look to continue their strong play at the pro level. Miller finished last year as a team best +7. Jake Flegel is one of the new names on defense, and he already made a name for himself in training camp with the Baby Pens, as he dropped the gloves twice. Flegel has prior experience in the ECHL, as do Ivan Chukarov and Josh Victor, who join the squad. Rounding out the blueliners is Alex Stevens out of Penn State University, who pairs a powerful slap shot with a hard all-around game.
Up front, the Nailers return one of their top scorers from a year ago, as Patrick Watling finished tied for the team lead with 48 points in 51 contests. Matt Alfaro and Sean Josling had standout starts to their pro careers, as they ranked fourth and 16th respectively in rookie scoring. Wheeling had a significant amount of players join the team toward the end of last season and gain valuable experience, which should lead to them having success in 2021-22. Included in that mix are Jared Cockrell, Tim Doherty, and Brendan Harris. There is another returning player among the forwards, which will be exciting for the fans, as Tyler Drevitch is back for his second campaign wearing black and Vegas gold. Among the newcomers, Brandon Saigeon is the most experienced at this level, as he posted an 18-point season with Utah in 2019-20. 6-foot-6 Matt Ustaski has also played in the ECHL before, as he comes in with 17 points in 36 career games. Cam Hausinger and Felix Paré played their junior hockey on different sides of the continent, but both bring a mixture of skill and toughness to the table. Rounding out the forwards are Bobby Hampton (Penn State), Cameron Hough (Weeks - MHL), and Zach White (Carolina - FPHL).
2021 Wheeling Nailers Training Camp Roster
F Matt Alfaro
G Michael Barrett
D Ivan Chukarov
F Jared Cockrell
F Tim Doherty
F Tyler Drevitch
D Jake Flegel
D Matt Foley
G Louis-Philip Guindon
F Bobby Hampton
F Brendan Harris
F Cam Hausinger
F Cameron Hough
F Sean Josling
D Jesse Lees
D Dylan MacPherson
D Matt Miller
F Felix Paré
F Brandon Saigeon
D Adam Smith
D Alex Stevens
F Matt Ustaski
D Josh Victor
F Patrick Watling
F Zach White
TRAINING CAMP SCHEDULE:
Mon. Oct. 11, 12:10 p.m. at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, Cranberry, PA.
Tue. Oct. 12, 1:00 p.m. at Printscape Arena, Canonsburg, PA.
Wed. Oct. 13, 10:30 a.m. at WesBanco Arena, Wheeling, WV.
Thu. Oct. 14, 10:30 a.m. at WesBanco Arena, Wheeling WV.
Fri. Oct. 15- Morning Skate at WesBanco Arena, Wheeling WV. 10:00 a.m.
Preseason Game #1 vs. Fort Wayne, at WesBanco Arena, Wheeling WV. 7:10 p.m.
Sat. Oct. 16- Morning Skate at WesBanco Arena, Wheeling WV. 10:00 a.m.
Preseason Game #2 at Fort Wayne, 7:30 p.m.
*Fans are permitted to attend practices, and must stay in the seating bowl. Ice level access is not permitted.
Nailers Sign Alex Stevens
Two-Way Defenseman & Former Nittany Lion Set to Make Pro Debut
WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are excited to announce their 16th player signing of the 2021 offseason. Wheeling has signed defenseman Alex Stevens to an ECHL contract.
Stevens, 24, is set to begin his professional career, after playing four seasons of college hockey at Penn State University. Alex began to make his mark with the Nittany Lions as a sophomore, as he appeared in 35 of the team's 39 games and recorded 11 points, including his first collegiate goal. The blueliner added two more goals and six more points over the course of his final two campaigns, while playing a strong defensive game. During his junior year, Penn State was the Big Ten Regular Season Champion. Stevens also excelled in the classroom, as he was an Academic All-Big Ten honoree three years in a row.
"We are very excited to have Alex Stevens as part of the Nailers, as he is a great fit for our team, and he played college hockey close to here," said Nailers Head Coach Derek Army. "He is a player who is hard to play against, plays physical, and has a great shot."
Prior to his time with the Nittany Lions, the Plymouth, Minnesota native played parts of three seasons of junior hockey in the USHL with the Green Bay Gamblers, Sioux Falls Stampede, and Dubuque Fighting Saints. His best season of juniors came in 2016-17, when he amassed 25 points during the regular season, then tacked on three points in eight playoff contests, as the Fighting Saints reached the league's semi-finals.
"Wheeling is a really good organization to play for, as there is a mindset of wanting to win and also developing players to move up to the next level," Stevens said. "I see myself as a strong, simple, and heavy two-way defenseman, who has a hard shot and also likes to block shots and hit people."
Nailers Re-Sign Jared Cockrell
Rookie Forward Joined Wheeling After Playing in NCAA National Championship Game
WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are excited to announce their 16th player signing of the 2021 offseason. Wheeling has re-signed forward Jared Cockrell to an ECHL contract.
Cockrell, 26, joined the Nailers toward the end of the 2020-21 season, after he finished his collegiate career with an appearance in the NCAA National Championship Game. Jared made his professional debut on April 23rd in Fort Wayne, then got on the board in highlight reel fashion with his first career goal on May 7th in Jacksonville.
"We were excited to have Jared Cockrell join us out of college, and it was great to watch as he started to understand this league," said Nailers Head Coach Derek Army. "He has a lot of hunger and drive, he skates hard, and he made a big impact on our penalty kill, which we'll look for him to do this coming season."
Prior to turning pro, the Kents Hill, Maine native played college hockey for parts of five seasons. He spent four years at Colgate University, then transferred to St. Cloud State University for the 2020-21 campaign. Cockrell posted a pair of 17-point seasons at Colgate, in addition to a nine-goal output during his sophomore season. Last year, Jared accumulated seven points at St. Cloud State, with his biggest being an assist on the winning goal in the game that sent the Huskies to the NCAA Frozen Four. He also experienced team success in juniors, as he won the RBC Cup with the Brooks Bandits in 2015-16.
"I'm excited to get back with a good core of players and a group of familiar faces," Cockrell said. "I've heard that our crowd really gets loud, so we have a lot of drive to win games and see WesBanco Arena rocking at full capacity."
Nailers Re-Sign Dylan MacPherson
Returning Defenseman Attended Pittsburgh Penguins Development Camp
WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are excited to announce their 15th player signing of the 2021 offseason. Wheeling has re-signed defenseman Dylan MacPherson to an ECHL contract.
MacPherson, 23, split last season between the Nailers and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, as he appeared in 28 ECHL games and ten AHL games. Dylan dished out seven assists for Wheeling and finished even in +/-, but his impact on the team was felt in a deeper capacity. The Nailers posted their best record with the blueliner in the lineup (minimum 25 games), and he was also selected as the winner of the Fan Choice Player of the Year Award. 2020-21 was MacPherson's second full season as a pro, as he notched 17 points in 54 games with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits as a rookie. Dylan has seen AHL time in both of his first two full seasons, in addition to a pair of games with the Springfield Thunderbirds in 2018-19 after he finished his junior career. Recently, MacPherson participated in the Pittsburgh Penguins Development Camp.
"Dylan MacPherson is an important leader for this team, and he is the straw that stirs the drink, as our winning percentage with him in the lineup reflected," said Nailers Head Coach Derek Army. "He is big and mobile, and we are looking forward to continuing to push him to the next level, as he has a very bright future."
Prior to making the jump to the professional level, the Redcliff, Alberta native played parts of four seasons of junior hockey, all with the WHL's Medicine Hat Tigers. In his first full season (2016-17), MacPherson posted a +18 rating, helping the Tigers to a 51-win season - the second highest total in the league. Dylan followed that up with his best offensive campaign, as he amassed 22 points in 67 games as a 19-year old. He concluded his junior career with 43 points and a +12 rating.
"Nail City is a great place to play hockey, and the organization gives players lots of opportunities to grow their game," MacPherson said. "Our first goal as a team is to make the playoffs, and we have a good core of guys coming back to help us accomplish that."
Nailers Sign Ivan Chukarov
Defenseman Played Two Seasons for Derek Army in Worcester
WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are excited to announce their 14th player signing of the 2021 offseason. Wheeling has signed defenseman Ivan Chukarov to an ECHL contract.
Chukarov, 26, is entering his third professional season, after spending his first two years with the Worcester Railers. Ivan made his pro debut in February of 2019, following the conclusion of his four-year college career at UMass-Amherst. The blueliner ended his first campaign with a bang, as he recorded points in four consecutive contests, including a two-goal game in the season finale - a 5-4 overtime win at Adirondack. The following year, Chukarov accumulated one goal, seven assists, and eight points in 38 games, with his lone tally being a game winner at Reading.
"I coached Ivan in Worcester, and really enjoyed working with him, because he wants to get better every day, and is always looking for ways to develop," said Nailers Head Coach Derek Army. "He is a long defenseman with elite skating ability and good offensive upside. I'm looking forward to seeing him at training camp."
Prior to the start of his college career, the Des Plaines, Illinois native had a special moment, as he was selected by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Chukarov went on to appear in 128 games during his four seasons with the Minutemen, and skated away with totals of six goals, 19 assists, and 25 points. The UMass-Amherst program experienced a huge turnaround while Ivan was there, as the team won 13 games combined during his freshman and sophomore seasons, before 17 during his junior year and 31 during his senior year. Chukarov also got to enjoy individual and team success in juniors, as he was a member of the NAHL First All-Star Team and a Robertson Cup Champion with the Minnesota Wilderness in 2014-15.
"I had a great relationship with Derek Army when I was in Worcester, and I know he is extremely passionate about building a winner in Wheeling," Chukarov said. "I pride myself in my skating ability and my vision, while being tough to play against."
In a separate transaction, the Nailers traded the rights to defenseman Patrick McNally to the Reading Royals in exchange for future considerations.
Nailers Sign Brandon Saigeon
Former OHL Champion & NHL Draft Pick Joins Wheeling for Second Pro Season
WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are excited to announce their 13th player signing of the 2021 offseason. Wheeling has signed forward Brandon Saigeon to an ECHL contract.
Saigeon, 23, is set to begin his second professional season, after spending the 2019-20 campaign with the Utah Grizzlies. Brandon finished fifth among Utah rookies that season with eight goals, ten assists, and 18 points in 51 games. The forward found his stride early on with the Grizzlies, as he dished out four assists in his first five games. In late November and early December, the puck started to find the back of the net, as Saigeon lit the lamp three times in a two-game set against the Florida Everblades, then scored another goal the following weekend against the Rapid City Rush. Brandon also enjoyed success against the Allen Americans, as he collected a pair of multi-point games in January, including a two-goal effort in a shootout win.
"Brandon Saigeon had an excellent junior career, where he put up huge numbers, and played a big role in winning a championship," said Nailers Head Coach Derek Army. "He is an elite scorer with lots of potential, and we are excited to help him continue to develop at the pro level."
Prior to turning pro, the Grimsby, Ontario played five seasons of junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey League with the Belleville Bulls, Hamilton Bulldogs, and Oshawa Generals. Saigeon's junior career really took off in 2017-18, as he led the Bulldogs in scoring with 35 goals, 35 assists, and 70 points in 65 games. He then added a team-leading 18 goals in the playoffs, as Hamilton captured the J. Ross Robertson Cup as OHL Champions. That performance led to Brandon being selected by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. He followed that up by amassing 92 points in 68 regular season games, then adding 16 postseason points to help Oshawa reach the conference final.
"From the coaches to the players, the Wheeling organization is on the upswing, and I am excited to be part of that," Saigeon said. "I'm looking forward to a fresh start and building a relationship with my new teammates. I want to do whatever it takes to help the team win, whether that's scoring goals, blocking shots, or anything in between."
Nailers Re-Sign Tim Doherty
Rookie Saw His Season Take Off After Joining Wheeling in April
WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are excited to announce their 12th player signing of the 2021 offseason. Wheeling has re-signed forward Tim Doherty to an ECHL contract.
Doherty, 26, is coming off of a busy 2020-21 season, as he played his final college season at Penn State University, then began his professional career with the Allen Americans, and eventually moved on to the Nailers. After registering two assists in 12 games with Allen, Tim found success in Wheeling immediately, as he scored his first pro goal in his Nailers debut on May 12th at Fort Wayne. He ultimately lit the lamp three times in his first four contests with the club, en route to seven goals and nine points in 14 games. One of Doherty's top performances with Wheeling came in the team's 1,000th victory on May 26th, when he earned first star honors with a pair of goals.
"Tim Doherty came in and delivered for us last season, and was a great fit in our locker room," said Nailers Head Coach Derek Army. "He has a knack for scoring, and we are excited to see him come in this season, after seeing what this league is like, and having a full offseason to prepare himself."
Penn State University was the second collegiate stop for the Portsmouth, Rhode Island native, who also played three seasons at the University of Maine. Doherty racked up 95 points in 123 career NCAA games, highlighted by his junior year, in which he averaged over a point per game (37 points in 34 games). Prior to college, Tim played for the Boston Jr. Bruins and was a USPHL Premier Champion in 2013-14.
"Derek Army is a great coach, who instilled a lot of confidence in me, plus I really enjoyed my time with this group of players," Doherty said. "Seeing the video message after our 1,000th win stuck out to me a lot, because it showed the tradition and the people that have come through here. I can't wait to see WesBanco Arena packed, so that we can do good things for our fans, while helping the team and the city continue to come together."
Nailers Sign Cam Hausinger
Skilled & Gritty Forward Set to Make Pro Debut in Wheeling
WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are excited to announce their 11th player signing of the 2021 offseason. Wheeling has signed forward Cam Hausinger to an ECHL contract.
Hausinger, 22, is set to begin his professional career, following five seasons of junior hockey in the Western Hockey League. Cam was originally drafted into the WHL by the Saskatoon Blades at age 15 in 2014, then made his debut with the team the following year. After tallying 14 points in 78 games over parts of two seasons with Saskatoon, the forward was dealt to the Red Deer Rebels, with whom he enjoyed his first taste of playoff hockey. Hausinger's career continued to blossom with his next team, the Kootenay Ice, as he racked up 21 goals, 22 assists, and 43 points in a career-high 70 games. Cam started the 2018-19 season with Kootenay, before returning to Red Deer to finish off a 54-point campaign and play in another postseason. As an overager, Hausinger tacked on 38 points and mixed things up to a tune of 84 penalty minutes, giving him final WHL numbers of 68 goals, 93 assists, 161 points, and 335 penalty minutes in 317 games. Two of his three career Gordie Howe Hat Trick came during his 20-year old season.
"Cam Hausinger is a character player, who comes from a respected junior hockey organization," said Nailers Head Coach Derek Army. "He has a good set of hands that gives him a scoring touch, but he's also gritty, hard-nosed, and in your face. We're excited to have him, and our fans will really enjoy watching him."
The Anchorage, Alaska native comes from a big hockey family, as his three brothers have all played the sport. Cam's older brother Kenny recently completed his collegiate career at U-Mass Lowell, while his older brother Christian recently completed his collegiate career at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. His younger brother Blake played up until the 2017-18 season. The three older Hausinger brothers could play against each other during the 2021-22 ECHL season.
"I had a great conversation with Derek Army, and this is the perfect fit for me, as the entire organization is put together well," Hausinger said. "I take a lot of pride in my work ethic, and I want to play the full game as hard as I can. I see myself as an all-around player, who will play physical and score goals."
Nailers Sign Félix Paré
Big Rookie Forward Coming off 47 Points in Final Two QMJHL Seasons
WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are excited to announce their tenth player signing of the 2021 offseason. Wheeling has signed forward Félix Paré to an ECHL contract.
Paré, 21, is set to begin his professional career, after playing parts of five seasons in the Québec Major Junior Hockey League. Félix was selected into the QMJHL by the Victoriaville Tigres as a 16-year old in 2016, and he made his debut that season, which featured a goal in his second career game. The forward saw his playing time and his role increase over the course of the next three seasons with the Tigres, which included a playoff series win in 2018-19, and a 15-goal, 31-point campaign in 2019-20. Paré started this past season in Victoriaville, before getting traded to Cape Breton, where he wrapped up his junior career with 13 points in 22 games for the Eagles.
"Félix Paré is a big, physical forward, who is first in on the forecheck, and blocks a lot of shots in his own end," said Nailers Head Coach Derek Army. "We plan on continuing his growth and development as a player, as we see a bright future in him."
The Lévis, Québec native will be the second member of his family to play in the ECHL. His brother Cédric tallied 40 points in 67 games last season with the Utah Grizzlies, and was recently acquired by the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. The brothers were teammates with the Lévis Commandeurs in 2015-16.
"Pittsburgh, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and Wheeling have created a winning mentality, and I am excited to join that," Paré said. "My brother played in this league last year, so I am excited to see what I can do in this league. I see myself as an all-around player, who is good on the penalty kill and plays well in my own zone, while contributing to the offense. I can also bring physicality and drop my gloves."
Nailers Re-Sign Adam Smith
Reliable Blueliner Set to Begin Third Pro Season
WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are excited to announce their ninth player signing of the 2021 offseason. Wheeling has re-signed defenseman Adam Smith to an ECHL contract.
Smith, 24, is set to begin his second season with the Nailers and third full year as a pro. Wheeling added Adam to its roster in early February, and he was a reliable player on the blueline, as he posted an even +/- rating, while appearing in 55 of the team's final 56 games. Offensively, he recorded two goals, ten assists, and 12 points. After netting his first goal as a Nailer against his former team, the Florida Everblades, Smith lit the lamp for a second time against the Jacksonville Icemen as part of a two-point, +4 performance. In his career, Adam has played 100 ECHL games, and collected four goals, 16 assists, and 20 points. He also suited up twice for the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals in 2019-20.
"We rely on Adam Smith in all situations, as he is a good skater who can log serious minutes," said Nailers Head Coach Derek Army. "He is a great team guy in our locker room, and we expect him to be a big time contributor to our success this year."
Prior to turning pro, the Sharon, Ontario native attended Bowling Green State University, where he majored in Business, while playing four years of college hockey for the Falcons. Similar to his role with the Nailers, Smith played a strong defensive game at Bowling Green State, as he finished even or better in +/- during three of four years, while notching 18 points. Following his freshman year, he was selected by the Nashville Predators in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Adam was named to the WCHA All-Academic Team during his junior and senior seasons.
"I am really excited to come back to Wheeling," Smith said. "The atmosphere at the final game of the season was pretty special, and I want to do whatever I can to get the city excited about Nailers hockey. Lots of personal goals come from team success, so I want to help this team get back to the playoffs and push for a championship."
Nailers Re-Sign Patrick Watling
Forward Enters Fifth Pro Season, After Tying for Team's Scoring Lead in 2020-21
WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are excited to announce their eighth player signing of the 2021 offseason. Wheeling has re-signed forward Patrick Watling to an ECHL contract.
Watling, 27, returns for his second season with the Nailers, after a phenomenal 2020-21 season, which saw him finish tied for the team lead with 48 points. Patrick had a couple of standout performances during the campaign. First, on January 31st, he assisted on all four of the team's goals in a 4-3 comeback win over the Indy Fuel. Then, on May 8th, he netted the 14th four-goal game in team history as part of a five-point night in an 8-5 triumph over the Jacksonville Icemen. In addition to being tied for the lead in points, Watling also finished first on the club in assists (30), power play points (13), and multi-point games (14), while earning ECHL Player of the Week honors twice.
"Patrick Watling has produced everywhere he's played, from juniors to university to pro," said Nailers Head Coach Derek Army. "He has great vision and a knack for putting points on the board. Last season, he had some standout performances for us, and we look to see that continue, as we push toward the Kelly Cup."
This is the Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native's second time playing professionally, as he spent the majority of three seasons with the Orlando Solar Bears from 2014-17, while also appearing in 29 AHL contests with the Toronto Marlies. Watling has amassed 137 points in 154 career ECHL games. In the middle of his two stints as a pro, Patrick attended the University of New Brunswick, where he majored in Chemical Engineering, while playing for the Reds. In 2019, the Reds captured the David Johnston University Cup, which is awarded to Canada's USports champion. Watling produced at over a point-per-game clip that season, as he tallied 34 points in 30 games. Patrick's dedication to education also dates back to his junior career, as he won the Roger Neilson Award as the top academic university/college player in the Ontario Hockey League in 2013-14.
"I am really happy to come back to Wheeling, as we have a tight knit group, and I think we can carry some momentum from last year to this year and have a different start to the season," Watling said. "Last year was a good year for me personally, as I was relied upon a lot. I'm looking forward to continuing that and taking on more responsibility."
Nailers Reveal 30th Season Logo & Alternate Jersey
WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, have unveiled their 30th season logo and alternate jersey for the upcoming season.
The 30th season of professional hockey in Wheeling is a big celebration, as it is a time to look back at the great history the team has enjoyed, while looking ahead to more exciting times to come. Wheeling has had the longest consecutive tenure in one city in ECHL history, and its 65 NHL graduates are also the most ever.
The logo for the 30th season incorporates parts of the past and present. Red was the team's primary color from its inception in 1992, through the team's name change from Thunderbirds to Nailers in 1996, until the change to Vegas gold in 2012. The red Nailers logo was the one used for the longest time during the first 29 years, and it is found in the center of the 30th season logo. That logo also helps to serve as the middle X in the three that are used to designate the 30 years. The two X's on the sides are designated with crossed nails as a tribute to the city's history. A red ribbon marks the 30 years, with 1992 written on the left and 2022 written on the right. The modern day circle with Wheeling Nailers written in Vegas gold colored Easterly font completes the logo.
The Nailers will wear their traditional black and white jerseys with the Vegas gold logo this season, but have also added an alternate jersey. For the first time in the team's history, gray will be part of the uniform lineup. The gray alternate's major feature is the red Nailers logo on the crest. The jersey is trimmed in black, white, and red, and has black shoulders. The left shoulder has this year's 30th season logo, while the right shoulder pays homage to the team that put professional hockey on the map in Wheeling - the Thunderbirds logo.
Nailers Re-Sign Tyler Drevitch & Matt Foley
Pair of Massachusetts Natives Return for Second Pro Seasons
WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are excited to announce their sixth and seventh player signings of the 2021 offseason. Wheeling has re-signed forward Tyler Drevitch and defenseman Matt Foley.
Drevitch, 26, is set to begin his second season with the Nailers, after notching four goals, two assists, six points, and 69 penalty minutes in 38 games as a rookie. Tyler's first pro game was a memorable one, as he scored a shorthanded goal on December 18th against Orlando. As the year went along, he developed a reputation for getting under the skin of the opposition - especially rival teams from the Central Division who frequently appeared on the schedule.
"Tyler Drevitch took big strides as a player for us last season," said Nailers Head Coach Derek Army. "He is very tough both mentally and physically, and he brings a lot to our team on the ice and in the locker room. He is willing and able to play a variety of roles in our lineup."
Prior to turning pro, the Middleboro, Massachusetts native attended Merrimack College, where he majored in Communications/Sports Management, while playing four years of college hockey for the Warriors. Drevitch recorded 14 points at Merrimack, with his most productive season coming during his junior year. Tyler comes from a hockey family, as his father Scott and Uncle Todd both played professionally, while his younger brother Logan is following in his footsteps at Merrimack.
"I'm super excited and very motivated, as I can see that Derek Army is building something special here, and I want to help this team make a push for the playoffs," Drevitch said. "I love Wheeling, and I love our fans - I felt a big connection with the city, and I am happy to be back in the black and gold."
Foley, 26, is also set to begin his second season in Wheeling, after totaling one goal, five assists, six points, and 41 penalty minutes in 36 games as a rookie. Matt was a reliable player in the defensive zone, and finished the year even in the +/- category. The blueliner collected his first multi-point game with a pair of assists on March 20th against Wichita, but his big night was April 23rd in Fort Wayne, when he scored his first professional goal, then got into a fight later in the period.
"Matt Foley is a heart and soul teammate, and we saw that first hand in Jacksonville, when he got hurt, but stayed out there and blocked two shots," Army said. "He is the ultimate competitor, and we are looking for him to take major strides in his development this year."
Prior to turning pro, the Longmeadow, Massachusetts native attended Yale University, where he majored in Economics, while playing four years of college hockey for the Bulldogs. Foley registered 18 points at Yale, with his most productive season coming during his freshman year. Matt's junior hockey journey took him all the way to Merritt, British Columbia in the BCHL, then to Bloomington, Illinois in the USHL.
"I'm excited to get back to Wheeling, and I love that we're bringing back a lot of the group that we had this past season," Foley said. "Derek Army is building a winning culture here, and I am very motivated to help us win more games, while growing as a player and producing more."
Nailers Re-Sign Louis-Philip Guindon
Late Season Acquisition Posted .903 Save Percentage in Five Starts with Wheeling
WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are excited to announce their fifth player signing of the 2021 offseason. Wheeling has re-signed goaltender Louis-Philip Guindon to an ECHL contract.
Guindon, 26, joined the Nailers in the middle of May, after starting his professional career with the division rival Fort Wayne Komets. Louis-Philip got put to the test immediately when he arrived in Wheeling, as he stopped 44 of the 46 shots he faced in his debut against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. The netminder went on to make 30 or more saves in all five of his starts with the team, including another 44-save effort at South Carolina, as well as a 34-save performance to earn a victory in the season finale against the Indy Fuel. Guindon finished his rookie season with a 7-7-2 record, a 3.29 goals against average, and an .886 save percentage. Although his record was better with Fort Wayne, Louis-Philip's save percentage was .030 higher as a Nailer.
"Louis-Philip Guindon is a pleasure to coach, and we were fortunate to get him this past season," said Nailers Head Coach Derek Army. "His work ethic is impeccable, and his competitive nature is something that we want to see in all of our players."
Prior to turning pro, the native of Montréal, Quebec enjoyed a successful amateur career, as he played four seasons of junior hockey in the QMJHL, then attended McGill University, where he majored in Exercise Physiology, while playing four seasons for the Redmen. Guindon posted a winning record in all eight of those seasons, including a pair of 32-win campaigns with Drummondville and Rimouski. 2014-15 was one of Louis-Philip's most memorable seasons, as he was acquired by the Océanic, who went on to win the President's Cup, thanks to his 11-1 record in the playoffs. Louis-Philip earned more hardware at McGill, as he was named USports (OUA East) Goaltender of the Year twice, and was named to the USports (OUA East) First All-Star Team twice.
"I am excited to return to Wheeling, as this is the best situation for me with great opportunity," Guindon said. "Looking at the players who have been signing, we have lots of names that I recognize, and we have lots of potential. I am excited to get back and be around the guys again."
Nailers Name Ryan Kuwabara as Assistant Coach
1992-93 Thunderbird Returns to Wheeling Behind the Bench
WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are excited to announce that Ryan Kuwabara has been named the team's new Assistant Coach.
"We are thrilled to welcome Ryan back to Wheeling to be our assistant coach," said Nailers President & Governor Brian Komorowski. "Ryan has enjoyed tremendous success as both a player and a coach, which we believe will be a key piece, as we look to put a winning team on the ice. We also couldn't ask for a better scenario than to have two former Wheeling players on our coaching staff, as they understand how much the community means to this team."
Kuwabara, 49, joins the Wheeling organization for the second time in his career, as he first came to town as a player on the inaugural 1992-93 team, which reached the Riley Cup Final. Ryan was a point-per-game player with the Thunderbirds, as he racked up 20 points in 18 regular season contests, then added 13 points in 16 playoff games. After one more season in North America with the AHL's Fredericton Canadiens, Kuwabara took his talents to Japan, as he played eight seasons for Kokudo of the Japanese Ice Hockey League, in addition to competing for Team Japan in international competitions. In addition to winning five JIHL championships and two World Championships, one of Ryan's biggest highlights was scoring two goals for Japan in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano. Another large moment for Kuwabara came five years later in 2002-03, as he won an Ice Hockey Superleague Championship with the Belfast Giants. Ryan concluded his playing career with five more years in Japan, then one year each in Korea and Canada.
"Ryan Kuwabara has a great hockey background with lots of valuable experience both as a coach and as a player," said Nailers Head Coach Derek Army. "He and I have already started to build a relationship, and I can tell that he has a great demeanor, which will work well with our players. I love that Ryan is a former Thunderbird, who embraces Wheeling, and both of us have unfinished business to take care of."
In 2010, the Hamilton, Ontario native turned to coaching, and he began that venture in his hometown as an assistant coach for the Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs U15 AAA team. Kuwabara then moved on to the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, where he served as head coach and general manager for the Stoney Creek Warriors and Ancaster Avalanche. The Avalanche qualified for the playoffs in all four seasons under Ryan and reached the conference semifinals three times. In 2017, Kuwabara made the jump to the Ontario Hockey League, where he spent two seasons as an assistant coach with the Saginaw Spirit, then one season as an associate coach with the Flint Firebirds. The Spirit won the West Division title in 2018-19, and came one win away from reaching the J. Ross Robertson Cup Final, while the Firebirds were in second place in the West Division in 2019-20, when the season was abruptly ended due to the pandemic. During the 2018-19 season, Ryan received another honor, as he was named to Team Canada's coaching staff for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
"It is a little surreal - you never think you'll go back to a place where you played," Kuwabara said. "We had a really good team when I was in Wheeling in 1992-93, and the fans recognized that quickly, as they packed the arena and cheered extremely loudly. It was fantastic to have that support. As a coach, I like to be open and honest, and treat the players how I like to be treated. I think the fact that Derek and I both played here is a great recruiting tool, because we can create a strong culture, which will translate onto the ice, and ultimately give us a chance to bring the Kelly Cup home to Wheeling."
Nailers Re-Sign Matt Miller
Local Defenseman Looks to Build on Rookie Season Which Featured AHL Call-up
WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are excited to announce their fourth player signing of the 2021 offseason. Wheeling has re-signed defenseman Matt Miller to an ECHL contract.
Miller, 25, is set to begin his second season with the Nailers, after he recorded five goals, ten assists, 15 points, and a team-best +7 rating in 42 games as a rookie. Matt showed early on that he was a strong two-way defenseman, and in early February, that play earned him a call-up to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. With his confidence continuing to rise, the blueliner returned to Wheeling later in the month, and promptly scored twice in a weekend series win over the Utah Grizzlies. Miller had another big weekend set against a Western foe less than a month later, as he exploded for two goals, five points, and 11 shots on goal when the Wichita Thunder came to town.
"Matt Miller got a taste of what it was like in the AHL last year, while also playing big minutes with us," said Nailers Head Coach Derek Army. He was a valuable player for us on the penalty kill, and he is the type of player that winning teams are founded on."
The native of East Palestine, Ohio has spent the majority of his hockey career in the tri-state area of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Matt and his older brother J.T. both grew up playing junior hockey for the Pittsburgh Hornets. Matt then went on to play three full seasons with the Youngstown Phantoms in the USHL, before attending The Ohio State University for four years, where he majored in Information Systems, while playing for the Buckeyes. Miller led Ohio State in defensive scoring during three of his four seasons there, and was an NCAA (Big 10) All-Tournament Team selection as a sophomore in 2017-18.
"Last season, I got to dip my toes into the pro hockey life, which was a huge learning experience, so now I feel more prepared," Miller said. "I am excited to be close to home, I know what to expect from the coaches, and there are familiar faces on the team, which will make things a lot better from the start."
Nailers Re-Sign Jesse Lees
Midseason Acquisition Had Huge Finish on Wheeling's Blueline
WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are excited to announce their third player signing of the 2021 offseason. Wheeling has re-signed defenseman Jesse Lees to an ECHL contract.
Lees, 25, was first acquired by the Nailers in a March trade with the South Carolina Stingrays, and his numbers increased drastically following the trade. Jesse amassed ten goals, six assists, and 16 points in 27 games with the Nailers, and became just the fifth rookie defenseman in team history to reach double digits in goals. The ten goals came in a span of 15 games, starting on April 9th - just two weeks after he had debuted with the club. 2020-21 served as the blueliner's rookie season, despite the fact that he appeared in nine games with South Carolina at the end of the 2019-20 campaign. In his pro career, Lees has 14 goals, 13 assists, and 27 points in 54 games.
"We were excited when we got Jesse Lees in the trade from South Carolina, and he quickly became an important piece to our team," said Nailers Head Coach Derek Army. "We will count on him to be a strong offensive player, who also plays well in his own end."
Prior to turning pro, the Calgary, Alberta native attended Mount Royal University in Calgary, where he majored in Health & Physical Education, while playing for the Cougars. Lees enjoyed great success at school, as he ranked first on his team in defensive scoring all four years, and even led the entire team with 26 points in 26 games in 2017-18. He was named to an end of season USports (West) all-star team on three occasions, and was named to the USports All-Rookie Team in 2016-17. Additionally, Jesse played parts of six seasons of junior hockey in the WHL with the Kelowna Rockets and Prince Albert Raiders.
"Wheeling was huge for me, because I was able to get my opportunity to step in, play big minutes, and get my game back on track," Lees said. "We made a push in the right direction at the end of the year, and we have a strong core group of players coming back, which should help us get back into the playoffs."
Nailers Re-Sign Sean Josling
Forward Coming off Solid 28-Point Rookie Campaign
WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are excited to announce their second signing of the 2021 offseason. Wheeling has re-signed forward Sean Josling to an ECHL contract.
Josling, 22, is set to begin his second professional season, after finishing 16th among ECHL rookies with 28 points during his first campaign with the Nailers. Sean showed the ability to be a versatile player early on in the 2020-21 season, as he picked up three goals and four assists in his first ten games, while also dropping the gloves for the first of his six fighting majors, which ranked second on the squad. All of those elements came together perfectly in the season finale, as he recorded a Gordie Howe Hat Trick in a 5-2 victory over the Indy Fuel.
"Sean Josling took huge strides last season as a young rookie, and there is a bright future for him," said Nailers Head Coach Derek Army. "He plays a strong all-around game, and he has some old school Nailer in him. He plays the game the right way, and we look forward to him continuing that this season."
Prior to turning pro, the Toronto, Ontario native played four seasons of junior hockey - all as a member of the OHL's Sarnia Sting. Josling's stat line improved each season, as he topped out with 78 points in 2019-20 to lead his team in scoring and earn a spot on the OHL Third All-Star Team. Sean also enjoyed a taste of team success in 2015-16, when his North York Rangers won the Telus Cup, which is Canada's national under-18 ice hockey club championship.
"Last year was my first year pro and it was a lot different than juniors, but now I feel more comfortable," Josling said. "I learned so much from the older players and I am hoping to have a bigger role than last year. It's awesome to know that a few of the guys are returning, which will be great for our chemistry, and I am excited to see what WesBanco Arena is like this year when it is packed with fans."
Nailers Will Battle Komets Twice in Preseason
Wheeling's Home Game Takes Place on October 15th
WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, have announced their schedule for the 2021 preseason. Wheeling will play a home-and-home series against the Fort Wayne Komets on Friday, October 15th and Saturday, October 16th.
This is the third time that the Nailers and Komets will do battle in the preseason, as they previously met in 2013 and 2019. This year's exhibition slate will begin at WesBanco Arena with the Friday night contest, then shift to Allen County War Memorial Coliseum for Saturday's re-match.
Wheeling and Fort Wayne will be entering their ninth season as ECHL rivals, as the Komets joined the league in 2012. Last year, the rivalry hit a new level, as the two squads clashed on 20 occasions - the most for the Nailers against any opponent in a single season in their history. This season will feature ten head-to-head tilts, including both home openers - October 23rd in Fort Wayne and November 6th in Wheeling.
2021-22 is a milestone year for both of these cities, as the Nailers are celebrating their 30th season - all in the ECHL, while the Komets are celebrating their 70th season.
Season memberships are available, and fans can get more information by calling (304) 234-GOAL. The Wheeling Nailers, considered one of the top things to do in Wheeling, West Virginia, provide affordable family entertainment for fans throughout the Ohio Valley.
Nailers Re-Sign Matt Alfaro
Forward Finished Fourth in ECHL Rookie Scoring in 2020-21
WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are excited to announce their first player signing of the 2021 offseason. Wheeling has re-signed forward Matt Alfaro to an ECHL contract.
Alfaro, 24, is coming off of an excellent rookie season, as he ranked fourth in the ECHL among first year players with 13 goals, 28 assists, and 41 points in 61 games. Matt found success quickly as a pro, as he collected six points in his first eight games, including his first game winning goal, which came in overtime against Greenville. The Calgary, Alberta native's best stretch with Wheeling took place through most of February, when he registered at least one point in nine consecutive games - the longest streak by a Nailer in 2020-21. Alfaro tallied multiple points in a game on seven different occasions, with the biggest of those being a four-point performance against Fort Wayne in a 4-3 overtime win on April 7th. Following that game, Matt earned a brief call-up to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
"Matt Alfaro took a big step in his career last year, as we relied on him in every situation," said Nailers Head Coach Derek Army. "He has a bright future as a player and as a leader, and we are really excited to have him back, as he continues to progress with our organization."
Being toward the top of his team's leaderboard in scoring is nothing new for Alfaro, who led the University of Calgary Dinos in scoring with 15 goals, 21 assists, and 36 points in 27 games during his final year of school in 2019-20. That performance earned him selections on the USports (West) First All-Star Team and USports All-Canadian Second Team. He also finished his junior career as nearly a point per game player, as he racked up 60 points in 61 games during the 2016-17 WHL campaign with the Kootenay Ice and Lethbridge Hurricanes.
"I am really excited to be back in Wheeling, where I was able to gain lots of confidence, knowing the organization and the coaching staff," Alfaro said. "I got a good taste of the pro lifestyle last year, and this year, I look to improve on that, while being a leader on and off the ice, and helping the team get back to its winning ways."
Nailers Extend Qualifying Offers to Eight Players
Three Forwards, Five Defensemen Receive Offers; First Player Signing Coming Soon
WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, have announced their list of players who received qualifying offers for the summer of 2021. Eight players were tendered qualifying offers for Wheeling.
Each team was entitled to reserve the rights to a maximum of eight qualified players. Of the eight qualified players, no more than four could be veterans (260 regular season professional hockey games played as of the start of the upcoming 2021-22 season). Players on open qualifying offers cannot be traded.
The qualifying offer must remain open for acceptance until August 9 at which time the qualifying offer becomes null and void and the team may sign the qualified player to any salary or may elect to take no further action. Teams that extend a valid qualifying offer to a non-veteran player shall retain the rights to that qualified player for one playing season.
A team that extends a valid qualifying offer to a veteran player, or to a goaltender who has played more than 180 regular-season games, will retain the rights to that player until August. After August 9, if the veteran player or goaltender is not signed to a contract by the team, the player shall be deemed a restricted free agent and shall be entitled to seek and secure offers of employment from other ECHL teams. Restricted free agents may not be traded. When a restricted free agent receives a contract offer from a team other than the team with the player’s rights and the restricted free agent wishes to accept the contract offer, the restricted free agent and the offering member must, within 24 hours, notify the ECHL, the team with the player’s rights and the Professional Hockey Players’ Association. The member with the player’s rights shall have seven days after the date it is notified to exercise its right to match the contract offer.
If a restricted free agent is not signed to either an offer sheet or a contract by an ECHL team by August 16, the player shall be deemed an unrestricted free agent.
The eight qualified players for the Wheeling Nailers are:
F Jake Coughler
F Brendan Harris
F Tad Kozun
D Dylan MacPherson
D Patrick McNally
D Adam Smith
D Matthew Spencer
D Aaron Thow
If a player has already signed a contract for 2021-22, that player does not need to be tendered a qualifying offer.
The Nailers are anticipating announcing their first player signing of the summer later this week.
The Wheeling Nailers are just a few months away from beginning their 30th season. The puck drops in Fort Wayne on October 23rd, before the Nailers play their home opener against the Komets on Saturday, November 6th at 7:10. Season memberships are available, and fans can get more information by calling (304) 234-GOAL. The Wheeling Nailers, considered one of the top things to do in Wheeling, West Virginia, provide affordable family entertainment for fans throughout the Ohio Valley.