Nailers’ Sylvester Lifting His Game

WHEELING – Fans of the Wheeling Nailers were no doubt perplexed.

Coming out of the Western Hockey League where he captained Calgary, forward Cody Sylvester was known as a scoring machine. After all, the 21-year-old Vernon, British Columbia, native, racked up 237 points (95g-142a) in 315 games during five seasons with the Hitmen.

Something, though, seemed amiss as he began his professional career with the Nailers. The goals and the assists weren’t coming and it seemed Sylvester was thinking too much on the ice instead of letting his natural instincts take over.

A call-up to the American Hockey League’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, where he spent 17 games, appears to have done wonders for Sylvester’s confidence.

”I am starting to shoot the puck a lot more because (Coach Clark Donatelli) is giving me a hard time about it,” Sylvester said recently. ”I think I have kind of found my game again and I want to keep it going.”

Funny, because that’s exactly what Donatelli cited as the reason for Sylvester’s ‘demotion.’ He played well enough for the Penguins, but needed to rediscover his offensive game.

”He was playing a different role up in the American League – third, fourth line and he was shutting people down,” Donatelli said. ”His call was to come down here and get his touch back.

”I think he had 45 (goals) last year in the Western League, so he has the capability to be a goal scorer, along with a good checker and good all-around player.”

Consider that touch found.

Sylvester was recently named Sher-Wood Hockey ECHL Player of the Week after registering five goals, including three game-winners. The rookie has 14 points (11g-3a) and is a plus-5, while accumulating an ECHL-leading five game-winning goals in 23 games.

”I maybe struggled at the beginning a little bit, but the last few games we’ve picked it up and are starting to find each other,” Sylvester said.

Sylvester opened the season with four scoreless games and was held off the scoresheet the first four after returning from Wilkes-Barre, so it stands to reason he is the type of player that requires a few games to get his feet beneath him.

”It’s always difficult going from team to team like that, but the Nailers, Wilkes-Barre and the (Pittsburgh) Penguins try to keep the systems the same,” Sylvester said. ”It’s kind of an easy transition that way, but it’s a little hard when you’re playing with different faces.

”It takes a couple games to get used to but I think we’ve got it going right now.”

During the preseason Donatelli compared Sylvester to another former Nailer, Ben Street, who only played a half season in Wheeling but performed well enough to be named ECHL Rookie of the Year. Street has since played a handful of NHL games, but has been a solid performer in the American League.

”He’s a dynamic player who can play physical, can play finesse and can score goals,” Donatelli said of Sylvester. ”He’s on the penalty kill and he’s on the power play, so he really does it all.

”Great attitude coming back down, too.

”He’s done everything they’ve asked him to do and we’re very proud of him.”