WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are excited to announce their season-opening roster for the 2017-18 campaign. The roster consists of 23 players - 14 forwards, seven defensemen, and two goaltenders.
The 2017-18 roster is a more experienced one than those that have taken the ice recently in Wheeling, as the team consists of three veterans (one shy of the league's maximum) and only six rookies. 12 of the 23 players have spent time with the Nailers in previous seasons.
Starting with the goaltenders, Sean Maguire is the lone NHL contracted player on the club, as he begins his second season in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization. The highlight of Maguire's rookie season took place in January, when he won ECHL Goaltender of the Month. His partner in the crease this season will be Colin Stevens. A 2014 NCAA National Champion from Union College, Stevens is entering his third pro season, after spending his first two years with the Manchester Monarchs and Tulsa Oilers.
On defense, there are three returning players from last year's squad, starting with ECHL All-Rookie Team and All-ECHL 2nd Team member Kevin Schulze, who is coming off of a magnificent 60-point campaign. Danny Fick returns for his third season with the Nailers, after earning his first chance to play in the AHL at the conclusion of 2016-17. Community Service Award Winner Ross McMullan also returns to the Friendly City. Joining those three are four players who have combined to play in 1,015 professional games. The leader in that category is Benjamin Dieudé-Fauvel, who enters his ninth pro season in North America. Dan Milan is also a veteran, and he is on pace to appear in his 300th career game during the opening month of the season. Zach Tolkinen crossed the 200-game plateau last season, as he returns to the Eastern Conference. Finally, Jake Bolton has appeared in 62 career matches with the Atlanta Gladiators and Wichita Thunder.
Up front, Wheeling has lots of players who can put the puck in the net, led by each of their top three forward scorers from last season. Cody Wydo became the first Nailer since 2009-10 to score 30 goals in a season, and he will once again have Nick Sorkin (57 points) and Garrett Meurs (25 goals) in the lineup. Derek Army spent 38 games with the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals last season, but the 2014-15 ECHL All-Rookie Team member will start this year with Wheeling. Daniel Leavens, Riley Bourbonnais, Johnny Daniels, and Alexandre Carrier were late additions during the 2016-17 campaign, and all four will get to begin this season with the Nailers. New, but experienced additions to the group of forwards include veteran Kenny Ryan, who has played in 247 AHL games, and Hunter Fejes, who is coming off of an 18-goal year with the Rapid City Rush. Reid Gardiner played in 23 games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins last season, but is still considered a rookie, as he gets to wear a Wheeling uniform for the first time. Cam Brown got his first taste of pro hockey with the Adirondack Thunder at the end of last season, while Jeremy Beirnes and Bryan Arneson are also rookies in the ECHL.
Nailers Head Coach Jeff Christian announced his team captains during the fifth annual State of the Team Event on Wednesday. For the second straight season, the captain will be Derek Army. Nick Sorkin and Danny Fick are the alternate captains to begin 2017-18.
This is Christian's second season as the team's head coach. Joining him on the hockey operations staff are Assistant Coach Riley Armstrong (2nd season), Athletic Trainer Jared Degler (2nd season), and Wheeling's own Bill Higgins, who enters his 15th season as the equipment manager.
The Wheeling Nailers will play their first two games of the 2017-18 season on Friday and Saturday in Greenville against the Swamp Rabbits. Both tilts start at 7:00. DJ Abisalih is back behind the mic for his seventh season with the Nailers, and you can catch his call of the action on Mix 97.3 and WTRF My Ohio Valley.
The home season begins on October 21st, when the Nailers clash with the Cincinnati Cyclones at 7:05. The party starts with a pregame fan fest at 4:00, featuring music from the band "Hit Play," as well as team introductions, refreshments, and activities for all. To purchase tickets, or to get more information about season tickets, flex plans, group tickets, and more, call (304) 234-GOAL.
2017-18 Wheeling Nailers Season-Opening Roster3 D Ross McMullan4 D Jake Bolton5 D Danny Fick6 D Dan Milan8 F Nick Sorkin11 F Cody Wydo12 F Bryan Arneson13 F Daniel Leavens14 F Riley Bourbonnais15 F Johnny Daniels16 F Derek Army17 F Kenny Ryan18 F Hunter Fejes19 F Alexandre Carrier21 F Cam Brown22 F Jeremy Beirnes23 F Garrett Meurs24 F Reid Gardiner26 D Kevin Schulze27 D Zach Tolkinen30 G Colin Stevens31 G Sean Maguire37 D Benjamin Dieudé-Fauvel