The Penguins have extended their affiliation agreement with the Wheeling Nailers for two more years, it was announced on Monday.
Wheeling has been the ECHL affiliate of the Penguins for 20 seasons, the longest active affiliation between an NHL and ECHL team. The Penguins also have been affiliated with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the AHL for 19 seasons, since Wilkes-Barre's inception in 1999.
In the 20 seasons that Wheeling has been affiliated with the Penguins, 20 former Nailers have reached the NHL with the Penguins. Three — Carter Rowney, Tom Kuhnhackl, and Josh Archibald — have won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins.
"The Pittsburgh Penguins are pleased to extend our relationship with the Wheeling Nailers for two more seasons," Bill Guerin said in a team release. "Wheeling plays an instrumental role helping to develop young talent for our organization in both Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. We look forward to continuing our partnership."
Multiple Nailers told me last season that Wheeling has a reputation around the ECHL of being one of the best pathways to the NHL, in part due to the team's close relationship (and proximity) to Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh's development coaches visit Wheeling to work with all players — not just those on NHL deals — more often than in other organizations.
"Just knowing that their relationship with Pittsburgh is so strong, it's a good place to develop, and at the same time it's not a place where it's the end of the road, right?" defenseman Dan Milan said of Wheeling last season. "It's a place where you can get called up, and there's still a chance."
Captain Nick Sorkin also told me Wheeling's history of moving players up through the system was one of the reasons he chose to play in Wheeling.
"I just like how they produce a lot of players who play in the NHL and play at a higher level," Sorkin said. "It's a good place to develop your game."