WHEELING - The Wheeling Nailers announced Thursday that they have re-signed defenseman Mike Ratchuk to an ECHL contract.
Ratchuk, 26, experienced his most productive season as a professional in 2013-14, as he accumulated 15 goals, 29 assists, and 44 points in 69 regular-season games with the Nailers, before tacking on two goals, two assists, and four points in 10 playoff contests.
Ratchuk's 15 goals ranked first among ECHL defensemen, which would be impressive in its own right, except he also had a flair for the dramatic. Six of the 15 were game winning goals, with four coming in overtime, and a fifth in another one-goal game. Despite being a blueliner, the South Buffalo, N.Y., native was also one of Wheeling's shootout specialists, as he converted on 4 of 6 attempts. Ratchuk's performance last season earned him All-ECHL second team honors.
"Mike Ratchuk is a game changer for our team," Nailers coach Clark Donatelli said. "He has National Hockey League skating ability, which allows him to create offensive plays off of the rush. Mike will be a veteran this season, so he understands the game well, and guys enjoy his presence in the room.''
Prior to joining the Nailers in the summer of 2013, Racthuk spent five seasons with eight different teams in North America at three different levels (AHL, ECHL, CHL). He was originally selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round (42nd overall) of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, which led to a two-year stint with the Philadelphia/Adirondack Phantoms.
After stops in Syracuse, Springfield, and Fort Wayne, Ratchuk spent the 2011-12 campaign with four different clubs, but the end result made it all worthwhile. He and the Florida Everblades captured the 2012 Kelly Cup, defeating the Las Vegas Wranglers in five games. During his six-year pro career, the former Michigan State University standout has suited up in 316 games, recording 40 goals, 102 assists, and 142 points. Because he has appeared in more than 260 professional games, Ratchuk will have veteran status in 2014-15.
"I am really excited to come back to Wheeling after having such a good year with a great group of guys and an unbelievable community around us," Ratchuk said. "The bond that we had in the dressing room was something that you hope for, but doesn't always happen.
''We had our identity as the Island of Misfit Toys, we took pride in it, and the fans joined in with us. I also love playing for Clark Donatelli. He and I have a great relationship, because he is able to understand me as a player, and help me where I need it."
atchuk and the Nailers open the 2014-15 regular season at 7:35 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 18, when they collide with the Reading Royals. Season tickets are available, starting as low as $10 for adults and $8 for kids. For tickets and more information, call (304) 234-GOAL.