Courtesy of Point Park University

Vellucci named Wilkes-Barre coach, Donatelli resigns


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Clark Donatelli. -- MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

CRANBERRY, Pa. -- Clark Donatelli has resigned as head coach of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton due to personal reasons, Bill Guerin announced on Friday.

Mike Vellucci, who earlier on Friday stepped down from his role as head coach of the Charlotte Checkers, as well as assistant general manager and director of hockey operations for the Hurricanes, was named Wilkes-Barre's new head coach. Wilkes-Barre assistant coaches JD Forrest and Jarrod Skalde will remain in their current roles.

Vellucci led the Checkers to a 51-17-7-1 record during the 2018-19 regular season and a Calder Cup championship. He was named the AHL Coach of the Year for the Checkers' historic season.

Vellucci was the Checkers' head coach for the previous two seasons, but was in his assistant general manager and director of hockey operations roles with the Hurricanes since 2014. Prior to joining the Hurricanes organization, he was the general manager and head coach of the OHL's Plymouth Whalers from 2001-14, and he was a head coach in the NAHL from 1994-99.

The move reunites Vellucci and Jim Rutherford. Rutherford first hired Vellucci for the NAHL Compuware team.

“I’m thankful for my time with the Hurricanes organization,” Vellucci said in a Hurricanes release. “We created some great memories in Charlotte, including winning the franchise’s first Calder Cup and bringing the first championship to Charlotte last season. After 27 years it’s hard to leave, but I have been presented with an exciting opportunity that makes sense for my future.”

Donatelli was Wilkes-Barre's head coach since being promoted from Wheeling in Dec. 2015. He was head coach of the Nailers from 2011-15.

"(Donatelli) resigned yesterday for personal reasons," Bill Guerin told reporters after Friday's development camp tournament. "Leading up to it, him and I had a number of discussions about it. Yesterday was the day. Because of that, we knew Mike Vellucci was available and we knew a lot of teams were after him. We had to act really quick and we're fortunate enough to get him to agree to Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre. We're very excited, he's coming off a championship season, he's been a very good coach for the last 25 years or so. Very accomplished at the American League level. We couldn't ask for a better guy, we're really excited."

It's rare to see a head coach like Vellucci become available after a championship season.

"This just doesn't happen all that often," Guerin said. "I guess we saw it with Barry Trotz in the last year. But I can't really remember too many times of this happening. We're extremely excited to have the opportunity to get a guy like Mike."

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