WHEELING, W. Va. – Despite setting a team record in short-handed goals with a team total of 19 and having a player reach 50 assists, the Wheeling Nailers missed out on the Kelly Cup playoffs for a third straight season in 2018-19.
Gone are players like Zac Lynch (17G, 50A = 67p) and franchise games played leader, Dan Fick. Cedric Lacroix, who led the Nailers with five short-handed tallies, was traded to Greenville.
Returning to the Nailers is a solid group of players, including netminder Jordan Ruby, who led all Nailer goalies with 12 victories last season; the team’s third-leading goal-scorer, Yushiroh Hirano, who finished with 19 goals to go with 38 assists for 57 points. Nick Saracino and Cam Brown also return as the pair turned in an impressive December last season, starting with both being named co-ECHL Players of the Week, followed the two alternating the award the next two weeks.
Nuts and Bolts:
Division/Conference Finish: 6th Central Division/10th Western Conference
Playoff Finish: Did not qualify
Record vs. Division: 15-22-4-2
Record vs. Conference: 16-23-4-2
Goals For Per Game: 3.32 Goals for per game — 7th ECHL
Goals Against Per Game: 3.34 Goals against per game — 19th ECHL
Power Play: 59 power-play goals in 295 chances — 20.0%, 5th ECHL
Penalty Kill: 63 power-play goals allowed in 321 times shorthanded — 80.4%, 23rd ECHL
- Can the Nailers improve upon the penalty killing and goaltending issues that befell them last season?
- Will the Nailers speed game be an advantage for this year’s team?
- How will the affiliated players play a factor in not only the make up but the results of this years team?
“You know what; I really like the pace that we’re getting through our group, you know (Jan) Drozg is really a skilled player with really quick feet, you know (Renars) Krastenbergs, Hirano, (Brandon) Hawkins I think those guys have really upped the ante in terms of being shooters, making plays. Then you got guys like (Lucas) Kohls, (Tommy) Munichiello, the (Willy) Smith kid can skate, you know it’s a good group.” — Nailers head coach Mike Bavis
- Brandon Hawkins – Rookie scored five goals in two preseason games for Wheeling. Was signed by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton late last season after putting up 108 points (46G, 62A) in college
- Yushiroh Hirano – Japanese-born forward looks to follow up a 57-point season in year two
- Cam Brown – Put up 37 points in 35 games with Wheeling, before spending considerable time with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Can he regain his form with the Nailers this season?
Gone but not Forgotten
- Cedric Lacroix – five SHG and five PPG included 42-point campaign
- Dan Fick – Franchise all-time leader in games played
- Zac Lynch – Finished ninth in the league in scoring with 67 points in 2018-19
Sin Bin Swami Sez:
With improved goaltending and plenty of top-end speed to go along with the skill the Wheeling Nailers could very well make the postseason and snap the three-year skid. Hailing from the only ECHL division in which all the teams finished .500 or better last season, making the playoffs would be no small feat. That said, don’t be surprised to see Wheeling in the postseason and possibly go into the second round.