TEAM NEWS

ECHL Announces Revised Start Date to the 2020-21 Season

PRINCETON, N.J. – The ECHL Board of Governors, in conjunction with the Professional Hockey Players’ Association, has approved a revised start date for the 2020-21 ECHL Season. The anticipated start date is December 4, 2020, for a full 72-game schedule.

“We are eager to return to hockey, but at this time we believe this decision is prudent for the safety of our Players, Employees and Fans,” said ECHL Commissioner, Ryan Crelin. “The ECHL and our Board of Governors are focused on the 2020-21 Season and remain optimistic for the safe reopening of our venues across the continent. We appreciate our partners and fans continued support and patience, as we work together with our venues, local health officials and the members of the PHPA's Executive Committee towards the safe return of ECHL hockey.”

The ECHL 2020-21 Season was originally scheduled to start October 16, 2020. Adjustments to the 2020-21 ECHL Schedule will be announced at a later date.

Nailers Sign Andrew Gaus
Wexford, Pennsylvania Native Attended Pittsburgh Penguins Development Camp in 2018

WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are excited to announce their sixth player signing of the 2020 offseason. Wheeling has signed forward Andrew Gaus to an ECHL contract.

Gaus, 25, will begin his professional career with the Nailers, as he recently completed his play at the collegiate level. Andrew first attended Yale University, where he played with the Bulldogs for parts of four seasons. His best year at Yale came as a sophomore, when he recorded six goals, six assists, and 12 points in 32 games, including a series winning overtime goal in the ECAC Playoffs. In 2019, he opted to switch schools, as he finished his college career at Colorado College. Over the course of his five years in the NCAA, Gaus compiled 14 goals, 18 assists, and 32 points in 113 games.

"Andrew played for two strong NCAA programs, where he played under two good coaches," said Nailers Head Coach Mark French. "He was recommended by his coach as a hard working player, who plays a strong two-way game and is an excellent teammate."

In the summer of 2018, the Wexford, Pennsylvania native got a tremendous opportunity to begin making a name for himself at the professional level, as he was invited to Pittsburgh Penguins Development Camp. That camp had extra meaning for Gaus, who grew up as a Penguins fan and also played for the Pittsburgh Junior Penguins. Andrew's junior career also took him to the USHL, as he played for the Dubuque Fighting Saints and Cedar Rapids RoughRiders.

"I went to Penguins Development Camp and saw how professional the organization was, as well as how much they prioritize development," Gaus said. "This is also close to where I grew up and it will be fun to have my relatives around. I see myself as a two-way forward, and I take a lot of pride in playing both ends of the ice."

Nailers Sign Luke Lynch
Robert Morris Captain One of 12 Players in School History to Eclipse 100-Point Mark

WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are excited to announce their fifth player signing of the 2020 offseason. Wheeling has signed forward Luke Lynch to an ECHL contract.

Lynch, 24, will begin his professional career with the Nailers, after playing four seasons of college hockey at Robert Morris University. Luke was named to the AHC All-Academic Team during his freshman and sophomore years, then served as an alternate captain as a junior, before he became the team's captain as a senior. During his four seasons with the Colonials, the forward appeared in 155 of the school's 156 games, and notched 41 goals, 64 assists, and 105 points. Lynch finished in the top three on his team in scoring twice, including a career best 17-goal, 37-point campaign as a sophomore.

"We are pleased to add Luke to our roster," said Nailers Head Coach Mark French. "Luke has displayed an ability to produce offensively throughout his college career, and at the same time, earn the respect of both his coaches and teammates by being named team captain in his final season."

The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native follows in the footsteps of his older brother Zac, who also played collegiately at Robert Morris, then led the Nailers with 67 points during the 2018-19 season. Luke will become the eighth former Colonial to play for Wheeling when he makes his pro debut. Both Lynch brothers, Cody Wydo, and Daniel Leavens are four of the 12 players who scored 100 points during their careers at RMU.

"All the positives that come with the coaching staff and the organization make me excited to help the team get back to the Kelly Cup Playoffs," Lynch said. "I talked to my brother about it, and he played a big role in getting me to Wheeling. I tend to play more of a net front presence, but I view myself as a 200-foot player, who will do what the team needs day in and day out."

Nailers Re-Sign Jérémy Beaudry
Late Season Acquisition has Produced 87 Career Points from the Blueline

WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are excited to announce their fourth player signing of the 2020 offseason. Wheeling has re-signed defenseman Jérémy Beaudry to an ECHL contract.

Beaudry, 26, was first acquired by the Nailers in a March trade with the Reading Royals, and went on to appear in four games before the season came to its abrupt end. Jérémy has played in parts of five seasons in the ECHL, as he has suited up with Brampton and Wichita, in addition to his time with Reading and Wheeling. 2017-18 in Wichita was his best year both on and off the ice. The blueliner set career highs on the ice with 13 goals, 24 assists, and 37 points in 69 games, and also took home the ECHL Community Award for his work off the ice. The Montmagny, Québec native has collected at least 20 points in three ECHL seasons, and has accumulated career totals of 24 goals, 63 assists, and 87 points in 182 professional games.

"Jérémy is a proven offensive defenseman, who has a good reputation in this league," said Nailers Head Coach Mark French. "We look for him to be a contributor in all situations, especially on the power play."

Prior to turning pro, Beaudry played amateur hockey in both juniors and university. He played three full seasons in the QMJHL with Victoriaville, Sherbrooke, Québec, and Cape Breton, led by a 53-point campaign as a 20-year old with the Screaming Eagles. Jérémy also attended the University of Québec Trois-Rivières for three years, where he tallied 51 points in 64 games.

"After the season ended the way it did, it was always on my mind to come back to Wheeling," Beaudry said. "The feeling in the locker room was like a family, and it's a very nice setup with our apartments. Coach French has lots of experience, and is a good addition to the organization."

Nailers Re-Sign Marc-Olivier Duquette
Blueliner Looks to Build off Rookie Season

WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are excited to announce their third player signing of the 2020 offseason. Wheeling has re-signed defenseman Marc-Olivier Duquette to an ECHL contract.

Duquette, 22, began the 2019-20 season with the Fort Wayne Komets, before he was traded to the Nailers on October 26th and made his debut with the team that night in a 3-1 victory over the Reading Royals. One week later, Marc-Olivier netted his first professional goal in Kalamazoo - the team he scored both of his goals against during the season. The rookie blueliner finished the year with two goals, five assists, and seven points in 43 games. Six of his seven points were recorded against Central Division opponents.

"Marc-Olivier is a player who showed potential during his rookie season," said Nailers Head Coach Mark French. "We expect him to take another step this season and continue to grow his game."

Prior to turning pro, the St-Louis-de-Gonzeau, Quebec native played parts of five seasons of junior hockey in the QMJHL, as he suited up briefly with the Gatineau Olympiques, before his career took off with the Drummondville Voltigeurs. During his three seasons with the Voltigeurs, Duquette amassed 14 goals, 56 assists, and 70 points in 186 games, while he improved his +/- rating from -15 to +33 from year one to year three.

"My first year pro was a learning process, and I am looking forward to coming back, working on my game, and having another shot at the Kelly Cup," Duquette said. "The City of Wheeling is very welcoming, and it makes the experience that much better for us."

Nailers Re-Sign Brad Drobot
Physical Fan Favorite Returns for Third Season with Wheeling

WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are excited to announce their second player signing of the 2020 offseason. Wheeling has re-signed forward Brad Drobot to an ECHL contract.

Drobot, 30, is entering his third season with the Nailers and the seventh year as a pro. Throughout his career, Brad has earned the reputation of being a physical player, as he has recorded at least 100 penalty minutes in three of his first six campaigns. He has dropped the gloves seven times with Wheeling, including a bout on Thanksgiving in which he defeated Fort Wayne's Kyle Haas, then proceeded to yank Haas down to the ice again during their skate to the penalty box. The Calgary, Alberta native has netted one goal as a Nailer - a game winner at Brampton during the 2018-19 season. His outgoing personality and excellent work in the community has also contributed to him being a popular player among the fans.

"Brad is a good person and a good team player, who adds leadership to the dressing room," said Nailers Head Coach Mark French.

Prior to his time with the Nailers, Drobot played four years with Fayetteville in the SPHL. His most productive season was 2016-17, when he notched five goals and 12 points. His highest penalty minute total came one year later, when he spent 214 minutes in the sin bin. Brad majored in Engineering at the South Alberta Institute of Technology, where he played hockey for four years.

"I am super excited to be back in Nail City, where the fans have embraced me and welcomed me as their own," Drobot said. "My goal is to make opposing teams regret coming to WesBanco Arena this season. It's time to bring a championship to Wheeling!"

Nailers Re-Sign Alec Butcher
15-Goal Scorer Returns for Third Season in Wheeling

WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are excited to announce their first player signing of the 2020 offseason. Wheeling has re-signed forward Alec Butcher to an ECHL contract.

Butcher, 26, is set to begin his third season with the Nailers, after finishing the 2019-20 campaign tied for third on the club with 33 points. Alec got off to a strong start to the year, especially at home, as he recorded at least one point in each of the team's first three home contests, including a two-goal performance in the home opener. Other successful stretches during the season included a three-game goal streak in December in which the team won all three games, then a run in January and February which saw him accumulate at least one point in 13 of 18 matches. Butcher also led Wheeling with three shorthanded goals.

"Alec has shown improvement in each of his first two years with the organization," said Nailers Head Coach Mark French. "We are counting on him to continue to take steps forward and continue to grow his game."

The Anchorage, Alaska native upped his production in all offensive categories from year one to year two, as he increased his goal total by three, and his assist total by 11, for a 14-point improvement overall. Alec's career totals with the Nailers are 27 goals, 25 assists, and 52 points in 89 games. Prior to turning pro, Butcher played college hockey at Sacred Heart University for three years, then finished his collegiate career close to home at the University of Alaska-Anchorage.

"I've enjoyed growing as both a person and as a hockey player in Wheeling," Butcher said. "I'm looking forward to a successful 2020-21 season, and am excited to get back playing in front of our fans again."

Nailers Extend Qualifying Offers to Six Players
Four Defensemen, Two Forwards Receive Offers from Wheeling

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 2020. Six 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 2020-21 season). Players on open qualifying offers cannot be traded.

The qualifying offer must remain open for acceptance until July 16 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 July 16. After July 16, 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 1, the player shall be deemed an unrestricted free agent.

The six qualified players for the Wheeling Nailers are:
D Jeremy Beaudry
F Cam Brown
D Chad Duchesne
F Josh Holmstrom
D Steve Johnson
D Kyle McKenzie

If a player has already signed a contract for 2020-21, that player does not need to be tendered a qualifying offer.

Season memberships are available for the 2020-21 season. To purchase yours or to get more information, visit wheelingnailers.com or call (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 Name Derek Army as Assistant Coach
Fan Favorite Returns to Wheeling With New Role

WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are excited to announce that Derek Army has been named the team's new Assistant Coach.

Army, 29, played the majority of his career with the Nailers and was a fan favorite, both for his tremendous contributions on the ice, as well as his outgoing personality with the fans and in the community. Derek first came to Wheeling in April of 2014, after finishing his college career at Providence College. He netted three goals in his first four games, then suited up in three playoff contests as the team reached the second round. In 2014-15, the North Kingstown, Rhode Island native led the Nailers with 29 goals and ranked second on the club with 66 points. The following year, Army saw action with four different AHL teams, but returned to Wheeling to be a key contributor, helping the club win the Eastern Conference. Derek was the captain during each of his final two seasons as a player for the Nailers. His career numbers in Wheeling were 59 goals, 71 assists, and 130 points in 159 games. He is one of just five players in team history to play in parts of five seasons with the Nailers.

"Derek was our top target to be our assistant coach, and we are very fortunate that he accepted the job," said Nailers Head Coach Mark French. "As a coach, Derek has similar qualities to what helped him succeed as a player - character, energy, work ethic, and commitment."

Following his career as a player, Derek immediately joined the coaching ranks, as he worked as an assistant coach under Jamie Russell with the Worcester Railers during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons. The Railers posted a 32-29-11 record during his first season, and missed out on the playoffs by only four points. The Army family has seen a lot of success in the hockey world, particularly with coaching. Derek's father Tim has been a coach at various levels from the NHL and AHL to the NCAA since 1987-88, and is currently the head coach for the AHL's Iowa Wild. Prior to that, Tim worked as an assistant coach for Clark Donatelli with the 2017-18 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Derek, Tim, and Derek's grandfather Tom all played at Providence College.

"I couldn't be happier to be back in Wheeling and with the Penguins organization," Army said. "Wheeling was such a special place for my career and my development. I know the people in the organization and the fans extremely well, and it's going to be great to be part of that community again. On top of that, I get to learn from and work with Mark, an experienced and successful coach."

Army becomes the third former Nailers player to accept a full-time coaching role with the team, following Joe Harney and Chris Jensen. Tim Tisdale, Terry Virtue, and Ron Wilson all held separate roles, as they were player/assistant coaches.

“We are thrilled to welcome Derek back to the organization,” said Pittsburgh assistant general manager Jason Karmanos. “He is a young coach with a bright future. We believe that he and Mark French will be a great combination for our players.”

Derek and his wife Jenn have a dog named Puck, and are expecting a baby boy.

The 2020 offseason is officially underway, as Head Coach Mark French and Assistant Coach Derek Army may begin signing players for the 2020-21 season.

Nailers Announce Season-Ending Roster
Wheeling Lists 15 Players; Teams May Begin Signing Players for 2020-21

WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, have announced their Season-Ending Roster for the Summer of 2020. The roster consists of 15 players.

The Season-Ending Rosters may include up to 20 players, but cannot include players who did not sign an ECHL contract during the 2019-20 season. From this list, teams are entitled to reserve the rights to a maximum of eight players, by extending a qualifying offer to them by June 30th. No more than four of the eight can be veterans (260 regular season professional hockey games), players on open qualifying offers cannot be traded, and if a player signs a contract prior to June 30th, that team does not have to extend a qualifying offer to said player. If a player does receive a qualifying offer, that offer remains open for acceptance until July 16th.

Teams are now allowed to begin signing players for the 2020-21 season. Each signing must be approved by the ECHL, and will be announced by each respective club, following the approval of the transaction.

The Wheeling Nailers Season-Ending Roster consists of the following players:
D Jeremy Beaudry
F Cam Brown
F Alec Butcher
F Brad Drobot
D Chad Duchesne
D Marc-Olivier Duquette
F Carlos Fornaris
F Josh Holmstrom
D Steve Johnson
D Kyle McKenzie
D Andrew McLean
D Nick Minerva
G Jordan Ruby
D Craig Skudalski
F Willy Smith

Nailers Complete Future Considerations Trades
Wheeling Adds Duchesne & McLean; Saracino & Trapp Traded

WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, have announced the completions of their future considerations trades. The Nailers have acquired defensemen Chad Duchesne and Andrew McLean, and have traded forward Nick Saracino and Spencer Trapp.

To complete the trade which originally sent forward Cedric Lacroix to the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, Wheeling selected defenseman Chad Duchesne. The 25-year old from Inverary, Ontario will be entering his fifth professional season, after playing each of his first four years in Greenville. Duchesne saw his offensive game evolve during his time with Greenville, as he compiled 11 points during his first two seasons, then upped that total to 37 points over the course of the last two years, which includes a career high in points (19) during the 2018-19 season and a career high in goals (3) this past season. Chad is an experienced and stable player, who has appeared in 237 career ECHL games, and has only missed nine games in the last three seasons.

To complete the trade which originally sent defenseman Ruslan Rakhmatov to the Norfolk Admirals, the teams agreed on a deal to send defenseman Andrew McLean to Wheeling. The 25-year old from Waterford, Michigan made his ECHL debut on March 10th in Norfolk's 3-2 road win against the Maine Mariners. Prior to that, McLean played four seasons of college hockey at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point. Andrew led the Pointers in scoring by defensemen during both his junior and senior campaigns, with his junior year being his most productive, as he recorded 22 points. Overall, the blueliner accumulated 13 goals, 48 assists, and 61 points in 108 games.

To complete the trade which originally sent defenseman Steve Johnson to the Nailers, South Carolina selected forward Nick Saracino. The 28-year old from St. Louis, Missouri spent the last two seasons with Wheeling, and produced at over a point-per-game clip, as he amassed 25 goals, 35 assists, and 60 points in 58 games. Saracino served as team captain for the majority of those two years, with the exception of a 38-game stretch with the AHL's Binghamton Devils during the 2018-19 slate. Nick has played four full seasons professionally, and has notched 46 goals, 69 assists, and 115 points in 197 games.

To complete the trade which originally sent forward Josh Holmstrom to the Nailers, Norfolk selected defenseman Spencer Trapp. The 24-year old from White City, Saskatchewan was acquired early in the season from South Carolina, then went on to play in 42 games with Wheeling. Trapp tallied two goals, four assists, and six points, including his first professional goal in his Nailers debut - a 3-2 road win against the Indy Fuel on November 22nd. Spencer had played in one game with the Worcester Railers during the 2018-19 campaign, after he completed his college career at Holy Cross College, which is located in Worcester.

The next key date in the 2020 offseason is Monday, July 15th, when Season Ending Rosters are due. Teams will then be allowed to begin signing players for the 2020-21 season on Tuesday, July 16th.

Nailers Name Mark French as Head Coach
Two-Time Calder Cup Champion Brings Winning Experience to Wheeling

WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are excited to announce that Mark French has been named the team's new Head Coach & Director of Hockey Operations.

French, 49, has been a head coach for 14 of the last 15 seasons, working in the AHL, CHL, and WHL in North America, as well as the NLA in Switzerland. Mark began his professional coaching career as an assistant coach in 2004-05 with the ECHL's Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies, who recorded 42 wins and 92 points. He then accepted his first head coaching position with the CHL's Wichita Thunder. Wichita went 70-59-16 under his guidance, and reached the playoffs twice in three years.

In 2007, the Milton, Ontario native joined the AHL's Hershey Bears as an assistant coach. There, he won two Calder Cups - first as an assistant coach in 2008-09, then in his first season as head coach in 2009-10, when the Bears set an AHL record for the most wins in a season, as they went 60-17-3. Hershey qualified for the playoffs in all four of French's seasons as head coach, as they compiled a 180-100-32 record. Mark's .627 winning percentage with the Bears ranks third in AHL history among coaches with at least 300 games. He was also the head coach twice at the AHL All-Star Classic.

"Mark has had tremendous success as a head coach throughout his career, putting winning teams on the ice and developing NHL talent," said Nailers Governor Don Rigby. "He will be instrumental in leading our team back to the playoffs, while working to get our players to the next level. We are extremely fortunate to have a coach of Mark's caliber in our organization."

French continued to his coaching success with Zagreb Medvescak of the KHL, where he led the team to the playoffs in their inaugural season. From there, he returned to North America with the WHL's Calgary Hitmen. Mark led the Hitmen to three consecutive postseason appearances, and also had six players from that team reach the NHL. Most recently, French was the head coach for HC Fribourg-Gottéron in Switzerland.

"Knowing the history of hockey in Wheeling and the relationship of support from Pittsburgh and Wilkes Barre, I see this to be an exciting coaching opportunity," French said. "I believe in getting teams to play to a specific identity, generally built around speed and competitiveness, which certainly in my opinion is a characteristic of current and most recent Penguin teams."

Throughout his coaching career, French has had the opportunity to work with some outstanding players who have gone on to have tremendous success in the NHL. Highlighting the top players are Jay Beagle, John Carlson, Braden Holtby, Matthieu Perreault, and Jake Virtanen. Mark has also had the pleasure of working with some former Nailers, led by Grant McNeill and Dany Sabourin as players, and David Aebischer, who worked on his coaching staff.

“We are very excited to have Mark join our organization,” said Pittsburgh Penguins assistant General Manager Jason Karmanos. “We are impressed with his extensive experience and success. The organization believes Mark will bring the necessary leadership and change we are looking for with our Wheeling affiliate.”

Mark and his wife Kimberly have two children - a daughter Ellie (13) and a son William (11).

See all that happened leading up to the 28th season, 2019.20, by visiting the Pre-season page here: https://www.nailersboosters.com/season19-20

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