The first major move the Wheeling Nailers made this off-season was the announcement of new head coach Stan Drulia. Now comes the hard part: assembling the roster. The Penguins will eventually assign some of their property to play in Wheeling, but in the meantime it's up to Drulia and his staff to find some talent. So far, so good in this department.
The Nailers have agreed to terms with four players so far to help shape their 2010-11 team. The first is center Kris Vernarsky. Vernarsky is a big left-handed center center that brings something invaluable to the Nailers. See Vernarsky has played 529 games as a pro, including 17 of them with the Boston Bruins, With this type of experience, he'll absolutely be looked upon to fill a much needed leadership role this year
Vernarsky was a second round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2000 and is a character guy with a bit of a scoring touch. He netted 21 goals in back-to back season with Port Huron of the IHL in 2007-09. Drulia knows Vernarsky well, having coached him at Port Huron the last four seasons.
Vernarsky isn't the only signing to be excited about. The Nailers locked up part of the blue-line by signing Mike Gershon and announcing the re-signing of Kyle Bushee.
Gershon too is no stranger to Drulia, having also played at Port Huron for him last year. Gershon only checks in at 5'10, but plays much bigger then that. He netting 7 goals and 25 assists this past year, his rookie year. According to Drulia, Gershon is a player that prepares well and gets better every game.
Kyle Bushee returns to Wheeling for a second season and is a four-year veteran of the ECHL. Bushee was acquired in a deal with Johnstown last season and instantly became a fan favorite at WesBanco Arena. He put up a six-goal, nine-assist season in 59 games with the Nailers. By the end of the season, Bushee garnished enough respect to even wear the "A" for the Nailers.
The final signing adds some scoring punch to the Nailers. Wheeling agreed to terms with last seasons IHL Rookie of the Year Mikael Bedard. Bedard is a 5'10 left wing for also played with Drulia at Port Huron. Bedard brings with him an impressive stat line from his first season as a pro, including 35 goals and 38 assists, leading all IHL rookies. He also scored 11 power play goals, netted five game winners, and led the IHL in plus-minus at +34.
Bedard was named the IHL Rookie of the Week six times and IHL Rookie of the month twice. A talent upgrade was certainly needed, and it appears Drulia and the Nailers are off to a good start preparing for the 2010-11 season.