WHEELING, W.Va. – The Wheeling Nailers announced 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 18th consecutive season as the ECHL affiliate for the Pittsburgh Penguins, which is the longest active affiliation between an NHL and ECHL team. The 2015-16 season will also mark the 16th straight season that the Nailers will be affiliated with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, dating back to their inception into the AHL in 1999. Over the course of those years, 15 former Nailers have made their NHL debuts with the Penguins, including forwards Bobby Farnham and Dominik Uher, who both accomplished that feat during the 2014-15 campaign. In total, 17 former Nailers/Thunderbirds have donned a Pittsburgh uniform during their NHL careers.
"We are very happy to extend our relationship with such an outstanding organization in the Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins," said Nailers Governor Don Rigby. "We take a lot of pride in having the longest active affiliation agreement in the ECHL, and we look forward to having another exciting season on the ice with their prospects."
Pittsburgh, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and Wheeling have strong histories of both advancing players in their organization, while being able to build winning teams on the ice. Five different organizations saw teams from all three levels reach the postseason in 2014-15, but of those, Pittsburgh was the only organization to see all three make the playoffs in consecutive seasons. Last year, the pipeline between Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Wheeling saw 13 different players appear in games for both teams, including Patrick McGrath and Clark Seymour, who both recently signed American Hockey League contracts. Additionally, 12 players suited up for the Penguins at both the NHL and AHL levels.
"We are pleased to extend our partnership with the Wheeling Nailers," said Penguins Associate General Manager Jason Botterill. "The Penguins and Nailers have the longest active NHL-ECHL affiliation, and we are looking forward to maintaining that successful partnership."
The 2015-16 season will mark the first season since 2009-10 that the Nailers will have the Penguins as their sole NHL affiliate, after sharing an affiliation with Pittsburgh and the Montreal Canadiens from 2010-15.
"We are very proud to continue the longest active NHL-ECHL affiliation," said Nailers Head Coach Clark Donatelli. "We have the opportunity to work with some first class athletes, and develop those players into successful professionals both on and off of the ice."