WHEELING - Things got a whole lot more crowded in Wheeling Nailers camp early Monday morning. That's when Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, one of their two American Hockey League affiliates, cut seven players and sent them on their way to the ECHL.
Expected to arrive soon are forwards Tom Kuhnhackl, Adam Payerl, Dominik Uher, Cody Chupp and Scott Zurevinski, defenseman Reid McNeill and goalie Patrick Killeen. The Baby Penguins also released Michael Neal, brother of Penguins All-Star James Neal, but it is believed he will sign elsewhere.
''A lot of these guys I saw them in prospect camp earlier this summer,'' Wheeling coach Clark Donatelli said following practice Monday at WesBanco Arena. ''Very talented players, and a lot of them are young players - first-year pro guys. It's going to be exciting to watch.''
Donatelli said he had an idea the Nailers would receive a large number of players from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He didn't, however, expect to see as many as seven coming from Hamilton.
If Wheeling gets seven from the Bulldogs, that's a total of 14 from the affiliates. Including two goaltenders, teams are only permitted to carry 20 players, though there are two reserve spots and a 21-day IR.
What's that mean? For starters, there are going to be some familiar faces -holdovers from last year - that are going to be let go or traded. The deadline to submit an opening roster to the league is 3 on Wednesday.
''There's going to be some tough decisions by the coaching staff, and we're going to try to do everything we can to keep our core guys here,'' Donatelli said. ''We've been working on this the last couple days, so it's not a surprise to us.
''A little bit surprised Montreal is sending us (several) guys. But they're our affiliates and our job is to develop our affiliates' prospects.
''That is our first job.''
The coaching staff is confident that those coming down from Wilkes-Barre will have little trouble fitting into the system, but conceded it may take those from Montreal a little longer.
The Nailers began to make room by releasing goaltender Michael Chiasson and forward Ryan Maunu, who scored twice Sunday night.
Here is a look at the newcomers:
Goal Horn Gone?
Those in attendance Sunday noticed that there was no goal horn following any of the nine Nailers goals. According to team officials, a survey was given to former season ticket holders who decided not to return, and among the chief complaints was the goal horn, for which the Nailers are widely known, was too loud.
Diehard fans took to social media to voice their displeasure and even started a petition to get the horn put back in use.
Nailers vice president Craig Bommer released the following statement Monday:
"No final decision regarding the horn has been made,'' he said. ''We are exploring options on enhancing our post-goal celebration.''
Merth Joins Nailers
The Nailers announced defenseman Peter Merth has joined the team, effective immediately, after attending training camp with the AHL's Abbotsford Heat.
Merth, 25, returns to the Nailers for his third season of professional hockey, with each of his previous two campaigns taking place in Wheeling. Prior to turning pro, Peter played four seasons of junior hockey in the BCHL with the Coquitlam/Burnaby Express, on his way to attending R.P.I., where he majored in Environmental Science, while also playing hockey for four years. During his time with the Engineers, the New Westminster, BC native produced four goals, 28 assists, and 32 points in 151 games. During the fall of 2010, Merth made the jump to the professional level, joining the Nailers for the 2010-11 season. He appeared in all but three games as a rookie, recording one goal and 12 points, continuing to solidify his position on the roster. This past season, Peter added three goals and 12 points in 50 games with Wheeling, while also earning the opportunity to play in 11 games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.