WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, have announced their season opening roster for the 2020-21 season. Wheeling is opening the season with 26 players - 15 forwards, eight defensemen, and three goaltenders.
Starting in the crease, the Nailers have three netminders who all have professional experience. Shane Starrett was assigned to Wheeling from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, after spending all of last season with the AHL's Bakersfield Condors. The last time Starrett played a full season in the ECHL was in 2017-18, when he was an all-star with the Wichita Thunder. Brandon Halverson has also spent significant time in the AHL, primarily with the Hartford Wolf Pack, while also appearing in an NHL game with the New York Rangers. Halverson spent last season with the Norfolk Admirals, and posted a .904 save percentage. Hayden Hawkey saw limited action last season as a member of the Kansas City Mavericks, but the former Montreal Canadiens draft pick had a sensational college career at Providence, where he went 72-36-13.
On the blueline, there are two familiar faces in Dane Birks and Marc-Olivier Duquette. Birks played for Wheeling in 2018-19, then was involved in an NHL trade, which led him to the Rapid City Rush last season. Duquette was a rookie with the Nailers last season, and is one of only two returning players from that squad. Chad Duchesne is the most experienced player among Wheeling defensemen, as he begins his fifth pro season, after spending each of the first four with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. Dylan MacPherson also played for Greenville last season and contributed 17 points as a rookie. Drydn Dow makes his North American pro debut following two seasons with the EIHL's Dundee Stars, and is coming off leading the EIHL with 14 goals a year ago. Ohio State's top defensive scorer Matt Miller is set to make his pro debut with the Nailers, in addition to Matt Foley out of Yale University and Shane Kuzmeski out of Clarkson University.
Up front, Cody Sylvester is one of two forwards who has played in Wheeling before, as he led the 2013-14 team with 24 goals. He has spent the last six seasons playing in Europe. The other familiar face is fan favorite Brad Drobot, who returns for his third season in the Friendly City. Michael Pelech ranks fourth in ECHL history with 705 games played, sixth with 372 assists, and 21st with 541 points. Michael Joly has spent the last two seasons in the AHL, and the last time the ECHL saw him, he was hoisting hardware as the 2018 Kelly Cup Playoff MVP with the Colorado Eagles. Kevin Dufour eclipsed the 20-goal plateau the last time he played in the ECHL, and is coming off a successful season as Dow's teammate in Dundee. Patrick Watling notched 89 points in 103 ECHL games with Orlando and Tulsa, and he returns to the pro ranks after two seasons at the University of New Brunswick.
The Nailers also have a significant amount of rookies among their forwards, starting with AHL contract Felix Robert, who ranked third in the QMJHL with 92 points last season, while playing with Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick Samuel Poulin in Sherbrooke. Luke Lynch continues the Robert Morris University pipeline to Wheeling, and will look to enjoy similar success as his brother Zac did two seasons ago. Sean Josling had a standout performance in Saturday's intrasquad scrimmage, after leading the OHL's Sarnia Sting in scoring last year. Matt Alfaro and Ben Freeman also led their teams in scoring in 2019-20, as Alfaro did so for the University of Calgary and Freeman did so for the University of Connecticut. Brady Tomlak is a Lieutenant in the Air Force, Lawton Courtnall of Western Michigan University continues his family's legacy by playing pro hockey, Tyler Drevitch was a captain at Merrimack College, and Nick Rivera was a captain at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
The ECHL has announced the following roster modifications that are in place for the start of the 2020-21 season:
The ECHL has temporarily approved additional roster spots for each team for the assignment of National Hockey League and American Hockey League contracted Players. As a result of these additional roster spots, ECHL teams will be allowed to dress two additional skaters for each game, raising the lineup limit to 18 skaters and two goaltenders.
ECHL teams can carry a maximum of 20 Players on the active roster, no more than 18 of whom may be skaters, at any one time. For the first 30 days of the regular season, teams can carry a maximum of 21 Players on the active roster, no more than 19 of whom may be skaters, at any one time.
Teams are permitted to carry up to three (3) Players at a time on the Reserve List, while an unlimited number of players can be placed on the 14-day Injured Reserve.
The Wheeling Nailers will open the 2020-21 regular season on Saturday, December 12th at 7:10, when they play host to the Indy Fuel. 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.