WHEELING, WV – The 2016 Eastern Conference Champion Wheeling Nailers announced extension of their affiliation agreement with the National Hockey League’s Pittsburgh Penguins and American Hockey League’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for the next two seasons.
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. 2016-17 will also mark the 17th 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, 17 former Nailers have made their NHL debuts with the Penguins, including forwards Tom Kuhnhackl and Josh Archibald, who both donned a Pittsburgh sweater during the 2015-16 campaign. In total, 19 former Nailers/Thunderbirds have suited up for the Penguins during their NHL careers.
“We are very happy to extend our relationship with the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins,” said Nailers Governor Don Rigby. “Last season was an outstanding one for our entire organization, and we aim to replicate that again this year, continuing to put a winning product on the ice, while helping players advance in their professional careers.”
The organization of Pittsburgh, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and Wheeling produced the most playoff success in all of professional hockey in 2015-16, combining for 36 victories. The NHL Penguins captured their fourth Stanley Cup, the AHL Penguins reached the Atlantic Division Final, and the Nailers were the Eastern Conference Champions in the ECHL. This past year marked the second time in the last three seasons that all three clubs won at least one playoff series.
“We are pleased to extend our partnership with the Wheeling Nailers,” said Penguins Associate General Manager Jason Botterill. “It was encouraging to see the fans of Wheeling rally around our organization’s success last season, and we look forward to maintaining our strong partnership, which is the longest active NHL-ECHL affiliation.”
“We are fortunate to have a great affiliation with the Penguins organization,” said Nailers Head Coach Jeff Christian. “We are able to rely heavily on them to access people and resources to help us recruit players to Wheeling. They invite us to their development camp and main camp, and take a vested interest in our players and our organization.”
The Nailers open defense of their Eastern Conference title on October 15, when they take on the Brampton Beast.