The Wheeling Nailers, the ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadians, have seen a lot of great goaltenders in their 25-year history that dates back to the origin of the league itself. Saturday night, 2008 Colorado Avalanche second round draft pick and current Montreal Canadians prospect Peter Delmas put himself among the elite to have put on the franchise’s sweater by recording his franchise record ninth career shutout.
The Nailers, formerly known as the Thunderbirds, originated in Winton-Salem, North Carolina and won the ECHL’s inaugural championship in 1988-89. The team moved to Wheeling, West Virginia for the 1992-93 season, and became the Nailers in 1996-97. The organization is the league’s last standing original franchise, and has graduated more players to the NHL than any other ECHL team.
Among the many goaltenders that have put on a Wheeling sweater in their history is current Pittsburgh Penguin Tomas Vokoun, who was a Wheeling Thunderbird his first pro season in North America back in 1995-96. Vokoun played 35 games, and had a 20-10-2 record. Other goaltenders to reach the NHL after playing for the franchise include David Aebischer, Danny Sabourin, and Brad Thiessen.
Delmas, a 23 year old third year pro, has spent parts of all three of his professional seasons in Wheeling. This season, Delmas has played 24 games for Wheeling, and holds a 13-8-3 record with a 2.42 goals against average and a .914 saves percentage.
Before turning pro, Delmas spent parts of four seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, including three seasons with the Lewiston MAINEiacs from 2006 to 2009. While with Lewiston, Delmas was teamates with current Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonothan Bernier. He also played for the Quebec Remparts and Halifax Mooseheads in 2009-10, also making two appearences with Halifax in 2010-11 before turning pro. Delmas finished his junior carer with a 59-66-5 record.
Over the past three seasons, Delmas has made 85 appearances for the Nailers, going 46-28-8. He also has nine appearances for the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs in the past three seasons, going 2-4-1. Delmas has also shown that he has the ability to get it done in the post season, as he backstopped the Nailers in the 2011 Kelly Cup Playoffs, going 8-5-1 and leading Wheeling to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Andy Franck held the franchise record for shutouts with eight, which he set in his second of two seasons with Wheeling in 2006-07. Franck played 114 games for Wheeling between the two seasons, and recorded 60 wins, which is the current franchise record. Delmas’ 46 wins are second only to Franck.
Delmas, tied the record with a 44 save shutout last Sunday on the road in Fort Wayne, Indiana in a 1-0 win over the Anaheim Ducks affiliate Komets. Saturday night Wheeling faced divisional rival Trenton, who is the ECHL affiliate of the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers. His teammates helped him out by scoring a goal of every variety (even strength, power play, and shorthanded) to give the team a 3-0 lead late in the contest. Trenton’s Kory Nagy found himself all alone with puck on the doorstep with just 1:53 remaining, but as he had done all night, Delmas stole the show with a spectacular glove save to seal the 3-0 victory and his second shutout in three games and third of the season to set the record.
After the game, Delmas said “it’s cool,” also adding “I know there’s lots of goalies that have been here, it’s an old franchise, so I guess it’s pretty meaningful.” Nailers Head Coach Clark Donatelli said Delmas is “a really good goaltender,” and also added the record was “well deserved.”
Delmas is 6-foot-3, 188 pounds and plays a very smooth, relaxed, and composed French-Canadian butterfly style. Delmas signed a three year contract with Montreal during the summer of 2011, a deal that has one more year remaining on it after this season. One would have to think that Delmas will get his chance to move up to the AHL next season.