The Wheeling Nailers, proud members of the ECHL, are excited to announce that they have extended their affiliation agreement with the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League.
Wheeling enters its 15th consecutive season as the ECHL affiliate for both Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, as well as its 16th season overall with the NHL Penguins. Over the course of those years, 13 former Nailers have made their NHL debuts with the Penguins, including forwards Adam Payerl and Zach Sill, along with defensemen Philip Samuelsson, who all accomplished that feat during the 2013-14 campaign. In addition, a total of 15 former Nailers/Thunderbirds have suited up with Pittsburgh, featuring the likes of goaltender Tomas Vokoun and forward Paul Bissonnette.
“We are thrilled to extend our relationship with the Penguins and their AHL affiliate, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins,” said Nailers Governor Don Rigby. “Pittsburgh does an excellent job of balancing the values of winning and player development on the ice, while also helping us make a valuable connection with our fans off of the ice.”
Pittsburgh, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and Wheeling have a strong history of advancing players in their organization, and the 2013-14 season followed suit. Last year alone saw 14 different players dress in at least one game for both the Nailers and the AHL Penguins, including forward Anton Zlobin and goaltender Peter Mannino, whose large contributions helped Wilkes-Barre/Scranton reach the Eastern Conference Final. The NHL/AHL pipeline was equally busy last season, as 14 players suited up for both Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, led by forward Brian Gibbons, who racked up 47 points in 69 games between the two levels.
“The Penguins are pleased to extend our relationship with the Wheeling Nailers. Penguins fans saw the importance Wheeling has within our organization last season when we had a handful of former Nailers see NHL action with us,” said Pittsburgh Penguins Associate General Manager Jason Botterill.
The 2014-15 crop of future Penguins will get an immediate taste of the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia rivalry, when the Nailers open the regular season against the Reading Royals on Saturday, October 18th at 7:35.