The Atlanta Gladiators announced Tuesday that defensemen Drew Baker and Zach Yuen as well as forward J.T. Barnett have agreed to terms for the 2015-2016 season. From the start of my pro career, I have always wanted to play for the Gladiators, said defenseman Drew Baker. I had a short stay here a few years back but getting the opportunity to play a full season in my hometown was a very easy decision for me. Giving friends and family that have not yet seen me play a chance to do so in my own backyard is surreal. Baker, 29, grew up just a short drive from the Arena at Infinite Energy Center in Dawsonville, GA and played his youth hockey in the Atlanta area. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound defender first appeared for the Gladiators and made his ECHL debut during a brief three game stint in 2012-13. The local product began last season as a member of the Pensacola Ice Flyers of the SPHL. The d-man collected five goals and nine assists in 30 games played before he was called-up to the ECHLs Idaho Steelheads. In 28 games with Idaho, Baker notched eight points and a plus-17 rating for the Steelheads. There will be some added pressure on me playing back where it all started, but hopefully it will give the local youth an incentive to try a sport not traditionally played much in the south, added Baker. Its my mission to give kids in Georgia the inspiration to believe they can play pro hockey no matter where they are from. No stranger to professional hockey, the veteran has 315 career games played in the AAHL, FHL, SPHL and ECHL. Over the course of his career, Baker has amassed 37 goals, 81 assists and 394 penalty minutes with 21 of those coming from his 60 ECHL games played for Greenville, South Carolina, Idaho and Atlanta (formerly Gwinnett). Before turning pro in 2009-10, the blue liner played in 110 games in the CJHL and registered 101 points. Drew is a physical, hard-nosed defenseman who is very difficult to play against and isnt afraid to drop the gloves, Gladiators Head Coach Andy Brandt said. The experience he brings at the professional level will be valuable in our locker room and his willingness to support and stick up for his teammates is a quality we value. Yuen, 22, started last season with the Wheeling Nailers where he posted three goals and four assists in 27 games played before he was dealt to the Gladiators at the end of January. The 6-foot, 205-pound defenseman finished last season with the Gladiators as he appeared in 35 games and manufactured 16 points. The former fourth round selection (119th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft by the Winnipeg Jets, notched 12 points in 48 games during his rookie season of professional hockey in 2013-14 for the Orlando Solar Bears. Yuen also saw time in the AHL for the Toronto Marlies that season as the Vancouver, BC native competed in three contests for the Toronto Maple Leafs top minor league affiliate. Zach has a track record of producing offense at the professional and junior level, said Brandt. If hes ready to take the next step as a defenseman and contribute in both ends of the ice, hell have success this year. Yuen made history when he was drafted into the NHL as he became the first ever Chinese-Canadian defenseman to be selected in an NHL Entry Draft while he was a member of the WHLs Tri-City Americans. The defender suited up for the Americans from 2008-2013 where he engineered 118 points in 255 games played. Yuen also produced 12 points in 59 career playoff games for Tri-City. Barnett, 23, set career highs as a professional with nine goals, 16 assists and 25 points in 62 games played for the ECHLs Stockton Thunder last season. The Scottsdale, AZ native turned pro in 2013-14 after he signed with the Ontario Reign, registering nine points in 31 games before he concluding his rookie campaign with the Orlando Solar Bears. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound forward earned two goals and three assists in just six games played to close out the season in Central Florida. J.T. brings a strong mixture of skill and grit and is a player we feel we can easily slot into a scoring or checking role, stated Brandt. His versatility is a big asset for us and hes shown he can both play and score at the ECHL level. Prior to inking his first professional contract, Barnett played five seasons of major junior hockey in the WHL for the Vancouver Giants, Kamloops Blazers, Everett Silvertips and Kelowna Rockets. In 249 career WHL games, the lefty managed 57 goals, 74 assists and 131 points in addition to his seven points in 14 post-season matches. The Atlanta Gladiators are set to drop the puck on their 13th season at The Arena at Infinite Energy Center in October 2015. 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 nations premier AA hockey league. All home games are played at the 11,355-seat Arena at Infinite Energy Center, 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.For all the latest team news, contests, and more visit AtlantaGladiators.com, or like the Gladiators on Facebook (www.facebook.com/AtlantaGladiators), follow the team on Twitter (www.twitter.com/ATLGladiators), Instagram (www.instagram.com/atlgladiators) or Snapchat (www.snapchat.com) at gladshockey . -###-
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