WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are excited to announce their 2023-24 Season-Opening Roster and captains, as the team prepares to open its 32nd season on Saturday night with a road contest against the Cincinnati Cyclones.
Head Coach Derek Army begins his fourth season behind the bench for the Nailers, as he ranks sixth on the team's all-time list with 72 head coaching wins. Mitch Giguere enters his first season as Wheeling's assistant coach with over a decade of coaching experience at a variety of levels. Equipment Manager Bill Higgins is the longest tenured member of the organization, as the Wheeling, West Virginia native starts his 21st season with the club. Lauren Rittle heads into her second season as the Athletic Trainer, and is one of five females to hold that role in the ECHL.
The captain of the 2023-24 Nailers is second year forward Justin Addamo. The 6-foot-6 forward made his presence felt in his rookie campaign, as he racked up 21 goals and 33 points in 42 ECHL games, in addition to five goals in 14 AHL matches. A native of Clermont-Ferrand, France, Addamo will be the second ever European captain for Wheeling, joining Stefan Brannare, who was the captain in 2000-01. The team will begin the season with two alternate captains, and both are second year defensemen - Louis Roehl and Davis Bunz. Both players served as more traditional defensive defensemen in college, before seeing their offensive games expand in the pros, as each player eclipsed the 20-point plateau. Roehl, who attended the University of Minnesota-Duluth, had 24 points in 60 games, while Bunz, who attended Providence College, registered 23 points in 58 games.
The Pittsburgh Penguins and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins put their stamp on Wheeling's roster, as seven players have either an NHL or AHL contract, including the aforementioned Addamo. Goaltender Taylor Gauthier and forward Jordan Frasca both enter their second seasons in the organization, and both spent time with the Nailers a year ago. Gauthier turned in a 16-10-7 record between the AHL and ECHL last season, while Frasca tallied 12 points in 36 games with Wheeling. Forward Lukas Svejkovsky spent all of last season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and the 2020 draft pick collected 15 points in 47 games as a rookie. Forward Dillon Hamaliuk was acquired by Pittsburgh from San Jose this summer, and the 2019 draft pick has enjoyed success in his short time in the ECHL, as he put up seven points in six games with the Wichita Thunder. Forward Evan Vierling makes the jump to the pro game, after concluding his junior hockey career with a 95-point season as a member of the OHL's Barrie Colts. Defenseman Thimo Nickl will be the first Austrian in team history, as he will make his North American pro debut, following three seasons in Sweden. Nickl was originally selected by Anaheim in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
The 2023-24 roster features a lot of familiar faces, as there are 12 more returning players joining the players mentioned above. Defenseman David Drake is the active player with the most games in Wheeling, as he has played in 112 contests since being acquired from the Reading Royals in 2021-22. Drake was tied for the team lead with a +12 rating last season, was one of three players to appear in all 72 games, and is the club's lone veteran with 262 pro games under his belt. One of the other players to play in every game was forward Cédric Desruisseaux, who had an explosive offensive season, as he led the Nailers with 30 goals and 59 points. Two other players are returning for their third journeys in Wheeling - forwards Bobby Hampton and Félix Paré. Both players finished last year with 15 points, and both have shown the ability to play various roles in the lineup. Forward Peter Laviolette III will begin his second season in his hometown, after posting 11 points and 96 penalty minutes on the ice, and earning the team's Community Award for his efforts around the Ohio Valley. Forwards Matthew Quercia and Shaw Boomhower are back after missing the majority of last season due to injuries. Quercia scored the winning goal in overtime of game seven of the 2022 Kelly Cup Playoffs against Fort Wayne, while Boomhower's 127 penalty minutes in 2021-22 make him a feared opponent when he steps onto the ice.
Five returning players are still considered rookies, as they joined the Nailers late last season, following the conclusion of their collegiate careers. Forward Jarrett Lee was one of the first to arrive on the scene, as he needed less than seven minutes to notch a point in his pro debut on March 15th. He finished with eight points in 13 contests. Forward Matt Koopman also debuted on March 15th, and his first point came two nights later, as he assisted on the tying goal in Wheeling's eventual overtime victory. Next up was forward Tanner Laderoute, who was teammates with Roehl and Lee at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. A former NCAA National Champion, Laderoute collected seven points in his first 11 tilts as a Nailer. As March came to an end, forward David Jankowski's career was just beginning. Jankowski finished the year on a five-game point streak, as he totaled six points during that stretch. Sebastian Dirven was the lone defenseman out of the group, but he also showed a flare for offense, as he amassed three points in back-to-back home wins.
There are three players who are brand new to the Friendly City. Goaltender David Tendeck enters his fourth pro campaign, after spending the first three in the Arizona Coyotes organization between the AHL and ECHL levels. Tendeck earned 12 wins a year ago with the Atlanta Gladiators, placing him second on the club. He was teammates with defenseman Quinn Wichers in 2021-22, as Wichers played the majority of his first two pro seasons with the Rapid City Rush. Quinn has played in 119 pro games, which includes time in the AHL with the Tucson Roadrunners and San Diego Gulls. Defenseman Avery Winslow will make his pro debut this season, after playing three seasons of junior hockey in the OHL. Winslow got valuable playoff experience in the spring, as his North Bay Battalion reached the conference final.
Prior to final rosters being submitted, the Nailers made a trade with the Florida Everblades. Wheeling dealt forward Cam Hausinger to the Florida Everblades in exchange for the rights to defenseman Brandon Hickey (currently with Henderson [AHL]), as well as future considerations.
Catch all of the action all season long on the Nailers Broadcast Network presented by Main Street Bank. All of the games will air on radio on Mix 97.3 and stream on FloHockey. 20 home games will be televised on COMET TV. DJ Abisalih returns for his 13th season as the Voice of the Nailers, and is joined on the home broadcasts by fourth year Color Commentator Isaac Basinger.
The Nailers are just a few days away from the beginning of their 32nd season, as they will drop the puck in Cincinnati on Saturday at 7:35. That will be followed by two additional road matches, before Wheeling plays its home opener against Reading on November 4th at 7:10. Opening Night will feature Mad Chad Taylor - the chainsaw juggler, as well as a magnetic schedule giveaway, and the debut of Nail Ale by Big Timber Brewing. Season memberships and other terrific ticket plans for the 2023-24 season are available now 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.
2023-24 Wheeling Nailers Season-Opening Roster
#11-F-Peter Laviolette III