Wheeling, Pittsburgh Will Continue Long Affiliation

WHEELING – The Wheeling Nailers announced Thursday that they have renewed their affiliation agreement with the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League for the 2013-14 season.

Wheeling enters its 14th consecutive season as the ECHL affiliate for both Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, as well as its 15th season overall with the NHL Penguins. During the course of those years, 10 former Nailers have made their NHL debuts with the Penguins, with goaltender Brad Thiessen being the most recent. In addition, a total of 12 former Nailers/Thunderbirds have suited up with Pittsburgh, including goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who led the Penguins to the Eastern Conference Final this past spring.

“We are excited to continue our relationship with the Penguins and their AHL affiliate, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins,” Nailers Governor Don Rigby said. “We look forward to continuing to develop their young talent here in Wheeling.”

Pittsburgh, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and Wheeling have a strong history of advancing players in their organization, and 2012-13 is a perfect example of that. Last season saw 12 different players dress in at least one game for both the Nailers and the AHL Penguins, including forward Bobby Farnham, who led all 2012-13 Nailers with 65 games played for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The NHL/AHL pipeline was also in full effect last season, as seven players suited up for both Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, led by rookie Beau Bennett, who tallied 28 points in the AHL, before adding 14 more in the NHL.

“We are pleased to announce our continued partnership with the Wheeling Nailers,” Penguins Assistant General Manager Jason Botterill said. “The Nailers have been a great asset for player development over the years, and we are looking forward to maintaining a successful affiliation.”

The 2013-14 crop of future Penguins will begin their season with the Nailers at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 18, when they play host to the Elmira Jackals at WesBanco Arena.