Wheeling has Re-Signed Forward Tyler Fernandez

The Wheeling Nailers announced yesterday their third player signing of the 2014 offseason. Wheeling has re-signed forward Tyler Fernandez to an ECHL contract.

Fernandez, 25, had a breakthrough season in 2013-14, as he appeared in a career-high 54 games with the Nailers, after previously playing in just 16 ECHL games over the course of three professional seasons. Tyler’s offensive numbers reflected that opportunity, as he finished tied for fifth on the team with 13 goals, while adding 12 assists for 25 total points. The Bloomfield, CT native wasted little time in making his presence felt, as he netted his first ECHL goal in his second game with Wheeling – the game-winner in a 3-1 triumph at Elmira on November 29th. During February and March, Fernandez experienced two of his better stretches of the campaign, as he notched two point streaks of at least five games, in addition to a run which saw him light the lamp in six of seven tilts.

“Tyler Fernandez is a player who joined our team last season in late November, and played extremely well, making an immediate impact,” said Nailers Head Coach Clark Donatelli. “He is someone who can play all three forward positions, and he makes himself difficult to play against, which allows us to utilize him on our special teams,” he said. “Tyler scored some big goals for us last season, and I am looking forward to seeing him make even bigger strides this year.”

Prior to joining the Nailers, Tyler had spent the majority of his pro career in the SPHL, split between four teams. While his 11 points in 12 games with Peoria to start 2013-14 were certainly notable, it was the 2012-13 season that remains the forward’s best, as he registered 21 goals and 50 points in 42 games with Knoxville. In addition, Fernandez attended Brown University for three seasons, while playing his junior hockey with the EJHL’s New England Jr. Coyotes/Falcons.

“I am very happy to be back in Wheeling with a team that I established myself with last season,” Fernandez said. “Last year was great for me to get my first ECHL season under my belt, and I am grateful that Clark Donatelli not only liked me enough to bring me in last season, but that he also wants me back again this season,” he said. “We had a really good team, and regardless of my spot, I felt like I was always playing with great players.”

Tyler Fernandez and the Wheeling Nailers will open the 2014-15 regular season on Saturday, October 18th at 7:35, when they take the ice against the Reading Royals.

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Nailers Announce 2014 Qualifying Offers

The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens, have announced their list of players who received qualifying offers for the summer of 2014. Seven players were tended qualifying offers for Wheeling.

Each team is entitled to reserve the rights to a maximum of eight qualified players. Of the eight qualified players, no more than four can be veterans (260 regular season professional hockey games played as of the start of the upcoming 2014-15 season). Players on open qualifying offers cannot be traded.

The qualifying offer must remain open for acceptance until August 1st, 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 will retain the rights to that veteran until August 1st. After August 1st, if the veteran player is not signed to a contract by the team, the veteran 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 31st, the player shall be deemed an unrestricted free agent.

The seven qualified players for the Wheeling Nailers are:
D Jake Areshenko
F Shane Bakker
D Paul Cianfrini
D Barry Goers
D Myles Harvey
F Max MacKay
F Zack Torquato

The Wheeling Nailers will open the 2014-15 regular season on Saturday, October 18th at 7:35, when they play host to the Reading Royals at WesBanco Arena.

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Penguins Remain Stanley Cup Futures Favorites Despite Uncertain Offseason

After another early exit from the NHL Playoffs, winds of change are blowing for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Since winning the Stanley Cup in 2009, the Penguins have reached the Eastern Conference Final just once, while making early first and second round exits against arguably inferior teams four times in the past five years.

The Penguins appeared to be on the verge of a berth in the Conference Final this year after dominating early in their second round series against the New York Rangers. The Pens posted back-to-back shutouts en route to a 3-1 series lead, but let the series slip away in seven games to a surprisingly resilient Rangers squad.

Change has been swift and dramatic in Pittsburgh. The Penguins fired general manager Ray Shero, replacing him with Jim Rutherford. The former Carolina Hurricanes’ boss wasted no time in making his mark, immediately firing coach Dan Bylsma, and replacing him this week with rookie coach Mike Johnston.

With the 2014 NHL Draft on Friday, the challenge facing Rutherford will be remaking a Pens’ lineup that has consistently dominated during the regular season, while coming up short in the NHL Playoffs.

With current odds of 10/1 in futures wagering, Pittsburgh are among the early summertime favorites to win the 2015 Stanley Cup. But what will the Penguins look like when they hit the ice in October?

Most likely to depart the Penguins fold this summer are unrestricted free agents Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik and Jussi Jokinen. Niskanen enjoyed a breakout year on the blueline after Paul Martin was felled by injury last fall. The 27-year old Finn recorded 46 points and was among the NHL’s leaders with a +33, while Orpik has been a mainstay on the Pittsburgh blueline for a decade.

But their departure will make room for the growing number of young stud defensemen in the Penguins’ system, including Olli Maata and Derrick Pouliot. Jokinen’s grit and leadership will also be missed, further compounding concerns about the club’s lack of identity.

Key cogs in the Penguin machine that raised the Cup in 2009 remain on the roster, but speculation about major trades has become an annual summer pastime in Pittsburgh. Pens’ captain Sidney Crosby, winner of the 2014 Hart and Art Ross Trophies is staying put. But forward James Neal, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and defenceman Kris Letang are rumored to be part of trade discussions that would remake the franchise.

While the Penguins enjoy depth on the blueline, the prospect cupboard is otherwise bare. The club also has almost $16 million in cap space available for next season, but with only 14 regulars signed, Rutherford will have his hands full blending superstar veterans and young talented prospects into a team that can once again be playing NHL hockey in June.

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Nailers Resign Local Boy Patrick McGrath

The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens, are excited to announce their first player signing of the 2014 offseason. Wheeling has re-signed forward Patrick McGrath to an ECHL contract.

McGrath, 21, returns to Wheeling for his second season of professional hockey, after appearing in 45 regular season games and six playoff tilts with the Nailers in 2013-14. Although he registered his first career point with an assist on March 28th, Patrick’s reputation was that of a physical player, as his team-leading 18 fighting majors (tied for second most in the league) helped Wheeling finish third in the ECHL with 60 altercations. In addition, the Wilkes-Barre, PA native racked up 176 penalty minutes, while also taking home the Riesbeck’s Food Markets Fan Choice Player of the Year Award.

“Patrick McGrath is a fierce competitor, who brings enthusiasm and toughness to our lineup,” said Nailers Head Coach Clark Donatelli. “The guys in the room like him, because he works his tail off, he’s humble, and he is a great teammate, who will back everyone up. He is also a fan favorite, because he’s tough and he works hard, which are qualities that our fans really appreciate,” he said.

Prior to turning pro, McGrath spent two seasons playing junior hockey in Prince Edward Island with the MHL’s Summerside Western Capitals and QMJHL’s P.E.I. Rocket. Once again, the spirited forward found himself near or at the top of column four, as his 186 penalty minutes were fourth in the MHL in 2011-12, while his 29 fighting majors and 171 penalty minutes both ranked first in the QMJHL in 2012-13. Patrick tallied two goals, six points, and 415 penalty minutes in 93 career games at the junior level.

“I am looking forward to returning to the Nailers, as I continue to further my development, while keeping moving forward in hopes of getting to the next level,” said McGrath. “The support we received from the whole city of Wheeling last season was great. Everyone was involved and supportive of our team, and inside the room, our coaching staff and team were a tight-knit group,” he said.

The Wheeling Nailers will open the 2013-14 regular season on Saturday, October 18th at 7:35, when they play host to the Reading Royals (whom McGrath had six fights and 42 penalty minutes against).

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Penguins Announce New Head Coach

The Pittsburgh Penguins announced the appointment of the newest Head Coach Mike Johnston. This article is from the Penguins website

Mike Johnston, whose long coaching resume includes eight seasons as an assistant/associate coach in the National Hockey League, has been named head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, it was announced today by Executive Vice President and General Manager Jim Rutherford.

Johnston, 57, was assistant/associate coach of the Vancouver Canucks from 1999-2006 and associate coach of the Los Angeles Kings from 2006-08. For the past six seasons he has been head coach and general manager of the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League.

That native of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia also was an assistant coach for Canada at the Olympics (1998), at the World Championships (six times) and the World Junior Championships (twice). He worked full-time for Canada’s national team for five seasons from 1994-99, serving in varying roles as associate coach, head coach and general manager. He was head coach of Team Canada at the 1999 World Championships.

“Mike comes to Pittsburgh with great experience at all levels of hockey,” Rutherford said. “He has terrific knowledge of the game and proven leadership ability. His coaching style is going to be a good for the players we have here with the Penguins — it’s an up-tempo style, but it begins from deep in the defensive zone. We’re very excited to have him.”

Johnston’s international accomplishments include five medals at the World Championships (two gold, two silver and one bronze) and two gold medals at the World Junior Championships. Among the NHL players he worked with at the Olympics and World Championships were Wayne Gretzky, Ray Bourque, Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic, Jarome Iginla, Mark Recchi, Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur, Rob Blake and Martin St. Louis.

Johnston’s Portland teams have been a power in Canadian major junior hockey, reaching the WHL finals in each of the past four seasons. The Winterhawks’ 2013-14

roster featured 10 players already drafted by NHL teams, including Penguins 2012 first-rounder Derrick Pouliot.

Johnston played collegiate hockey at Brandon University in Manitoba and began his coaching career with stints at Camrose College, the University of Calgary and the University of New Brunswick.

He has co-authored two hockey books with former NHL player Ryan Walter: “Simply The Best: Insights and Strategies From Great Hockey Coaches” and “Hockey Plays and Strategies.”

Mike and his wife, Myrna, have two children, Adam and Gabrielle.

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Penguins Re-Sign Kostopoulos

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins announced today that they have re-signed Tom Kostopoulos to an AHL contract for the 2014-15 season.

Kostopoulos, 35, will return for his seventh season with the Penguins organization after leading the team this past season in goals (22) and points (47). He also ranked third on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with 25 assists in 71 games.

Kostopoulos is the organization’s all-time leader in games played (406), goals (122), assists (178) and points (300). He is also atop of the Penguins’ postseason lists with 48 points (15G-33A) and 68 games played.

A fifteen-year veteran, Kostopoulos has skated in 630 NHL games with Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Montreal, Carolina, Calgary and New Jersey, totaling 61 goals, 96 assists, 157 points and 723 penalty minutes. He was originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the seventh round (204th overall) of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, and was a member of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins inaugural team in 1999-2000.

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Penguins Playoff’s Come To An End, IceCaps Blank Them 5-0

WBS gets the first power play of tonight’s game a double minor assessed to Kael Mouillierat for high sticking but the Penguins have troubles getting things going not converting takes the Pens to 0 for 29 on the power play for this series.

Just after the first power play devolves Farnham gets high sticked by Patrice Cormier as he goes after a rebound putting WBS back on the power play but again the Pens do nothing.

Penguins give the IceCaps a power play chance later in the first as Simon Despres gets whistled for holding. Harrington had a chance to clear the puck but couldn’t the IceCaps capitalize and score making it one nothing St. John’s with just over two minutes to go in the first.

IceCaps score again just 3:24 into the second period as the Pens lose track of Lowry at the back post and he scores Penguins are falling deeper now 2-0.

With just nine minutes left in the second and down by two WBS’s Andrew Ebbett sits for a hook giving the IceCaps a dangerous power play opportunity, but the WBS penalty kill holds.

Nearing the end of the second period Jaffrey and Kobasew get matching minors for their little dance creating some 4×4 hockey. neither side would get anything from the 4×4 in the second leaving the ice St.John’s leading 2-0.

Early in the third the IceCaps make it 3-0 with a shot that gets tipped in front of Mannino and sneaks through the five hole, Penguins get called for too many men on the ice creating another power play for the already leading IceCaps and they hit pay dirt making it 4-0 beating Mannino top shelf.

The WBS Penguyins would attempt to come back but it was just too much of a hole to climb out of. The IceCaps would score an empty netter with just 46.8 ticks on the tock and that would be that, the St. John’s IceCaps would move on to the Calder Cup finals.

Well that’s it fans another season gone by another playoff run but yet no CUP, yes I know we are all frustrated and want our boys to win a cup but it just wasn’t in the cards. As always we will be here all summer bringing you the news as we get it about your WBS Penguin team from the 2013-14 season and the upcoming 2014-15 season.

As always

– Let’s Go Pens

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