Derek Nesbitt will don the Gladiator garnet and gold come this October. Gladiators Head Coach and General Manager of Hockey Operations Andy Brandt announced Saturday that the club has agreed to terms with the 33-year-old veteran forward.
“You look at Nezzy’s background – where he’s been, where he started. Obviously, he started here in Gwinnett, so he has the familiarity with the program, with the organization,” said Brandt. “Once he decided that Gwinnett was a place he wanted to come back to, it was an easy decision for us [as an organization].”
Nesbitt spent last season with the Bolzano HC Foxes of the Austrian Hockey League. In 53 games played, the Foxes’ leading scorer notched 42 points (14 goals, 28 assists) and ended the season with a +18 plus/minus rating. Prior to playing overseas, Nesbitt spent seven years playing all, or part, of each season in the American Hockey League. Throughout his career, the Ontario native has appeared in 372 AHL-level contests, racking up 104 goals and 121 assists for 225 total points, and 211 ECHL-level games with 210 points amassed.
“Last year was definitely a learning experience for me and I got to see the world a little,” offered Nesbitt, “but to come back and play for Andy definitely piqued my interest. I’m getting really excited for wanting to turn this thing around and the direction they [the Gladiators] want to go in is something I want to be a part of.”
Nesbitt spent his rookie year with the Gladiators during the 2005-2006 season, before being traded to the Idaho Steelheads during Training Camp the following fall. He returned to the Gladiators line-up in 2007-2008, but would spend the bulk of that year in the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs. Remaining at that level for the following season, Nesbitt then found himself splitting time between Rockford and the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye in 2009-2010. Once again, he would start the year in Gwinnett for 2010-2011, but after playing 11 games and scoring 18 points found himself in Peoria and back in the AHL, where he would remain through the end of the 2013-2014 season.
“Nezzy’s going to be the leader,” said Brandt. “You talk about a guy that’s played over 500 pro games – he knows what the league’s about. He knows what the next level’s about. He’s going to be here to not only lead our guys, but he’s expected to produce offensively. That’s Nezzy’s game – he’s a goal scorer. He’s a shooter.”
“I think most importantly, his leadership skills are going to carry this team to success,” Brandt added. “That’s what we’re looking for.”