07/19/2018 9:21 AM
DULUTH, Ga. – The Atlanta Gladiators announced Thursday that the team has agreed to terms with forward Derek Nesbitt for the 2018-19 season.
“When Nez (Nesbitt) gets anywhere near the net he is going to score,” said Head Coach Jeff Pyle. “I know firsthand of what he is capable of and I expect he will have a great year this season.”
Nesbitt, 36, returns to the Gladiators for his fourth straight season in Atlanta and seventh stint overall. The Seaforth, ON native has recorded 277 points (115g, 162a) in 323 games played with the franchise. All-time in Gladiators history, he ranks first in goals, third in assists, second in points and second in games played. The team’s captain from the past three seasons has notched 15 points (8g, 7a) in 20 career playoff games for Atlanta/Gwinnett.
“Atlanta is home for me and this is where I want to play,” said Nesbitt. “I still feel good enough to keep going and have a lot left in the tank to contribute.”
Nesbitt ranked third in goals (15) and points (37) in 71 games played for the Glads last year and led the team in power play goals with five. The veteran finished the 2017-18 regular season with 12 points (5g, 7a) in his last 14 games helping the team reach the playoffs for the first time in four seasons. He went on to add two goals in four playoff games.
“It was not the perfect scenario for him at times last season,” said Pyle. “Going from left wing to defense then back up front to right wing during certain stints last season didn’t allow him to get any sort of rhythm. He is a true team guy, and I commend him for helping the team in a time of need like he did last season.”
“Once I got familiarity with my line mates at the end of the year after all the injuries, I was playing my best hockey I’ve played in years which gives me confidence going into this season,” added Nesbitt. “It doesn’t sit well with me when people say they are happy just by us being in the playoffs again finally. I want to win when we get there. I fell just short of the Kelly Cup here my first season and have had a determination to capture a title in Georgia ever since.”
The 6-foot, 194-pound forward helped the Gladiators to the Kelly Cup Final in his rookie season in 2005-06. After he registered 69 points (26g, 43a) in 71 regular season games, Nesbitt earned 13 points (6g, 7a) in 17 playoff contests en route to an American Conference Championship and the franchise’s only Kelly Cup Final appearance. Under Coach Pyle, the Glads ultimately fell to the Alaska Aces in five games. Nesbitt went on to win the Kelly cup the next season with the Idaho Steelheads.
“I made the finals in my first two seasons of pro hockey and It was an amazing experience,” said Nesbitt. “It is almost like an addiction, once you feel what it’s like to win a championship, you want to do it every season.”
The 14-year pro has accumulated 658 points (274g, 384a) in 851 professional games in the AHL, ECHL and Austrian League. Nesbitt compiled 225 points (104g, 121a) in 372 AHL games for Rockford, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Chicago, Manitoba and Peoria. In 426 ECHL games for Atlanta, Toledo and Idaho, Nesbitt has engineered 391 points (156g, 235a).
“We gave the best team in the league that came within minutes of winning the Kelly Cup everything they could handle in the first round last year. Say what you want about the sweep, we were in every game and all four of those losses could have went the other way,” said Nesbitt. “We now have a new coach that has a special gift of getting the most out of his players and a talented group of players coming back. Our goal is to win the Kelly Cup and if we progress all season long and deify any adversity thrown our way like professionals, we will have a legit shot at winning.
The 16th season of Atlanta Gladiators hockey begins at the Infinite Energy Arena on Friday, October 19th against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits at 7:35 PM. For ticket information, visit the official team website at www.atlantagladiators.com or call the main office line at 770-497-5100.
The Gladiators are members of the ECHL, the nation’s premier "AA" hockey league. All home games are played at the 10,867-seat Infinite Energy Arena, located just off I-85 on Sugarloaf Parkway in Duluth – where parking is always free. The Gladiators have established an unrivaled commitment to excellence, maintaining a distinctive reputation for affordable and family-friendly sports entertainment and consistently ranked as one of the top “Things To Do” in the Atlanta area and across the North Georgia region.
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