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Full Circle: Pens Prospect Velischek Signs with ECHL Wheeling

Pittsburgh Penguins 2009 Draft Pick Alex Velischek comes back around, signing with the Penguins' ECHL affiliate Wheeling Nailers.

Justin K. Aller

A quote by Stephen King, "Sooner or later, it always comes around to where you started again," seems particularly fitting for Alex Velischek, whose career has gone from being drafted by Pittsburgh to signing an ECHL deal in The Wheel.

Velischek was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 5th Round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. At the time he was an 18 year old Defenseman playing for the Delbarton School, which is one of the most prestigious prep schools in the country with a hockey program that has won the state championship for the past 6 years straight. Velischek was with the team for 3 state championships, 3 All-Star nods, and serving as a Captain and being named New Jersey Player of the Year his final season in 2009.

After the Draft he committed to Providence College of the NCCA's Hockey East and played for the Friars for 4 seasons, finishing out his college career with a degree in Political Science. During his time in Providence he earned Most Valuable Freshman honors and one All-Star nod.

During that time he attended Penguins Prospect Development Camp in both 2011 and 2012, but upon graduation he remained unsigned. He joined the Wheeling Nailers following the conclusion of his college season, playing in 3 games at the end of the season and earning his first professional point with an Assist on a Power Play Goal by Paul Crowder. During the 2013 Prospect Development Camp his absence was noted, and Tom Fitzgerald told the press that he was still a players the Penguins were interested in, and that the plan for now was to sign him to a minor league contract.

So now we have come full circle, with Velischek signing an ECHL contract with the Wheeling Nailers for the 2013-14 season. He is following in the footsteps of the likes of Deryk Engelland and Zach Sill, trying to work his way up through the system. If he impresses this year he could earn an AHL deal in WBS, and from there may even earn a 2-way NHL deal with Pittsburgh. He was a decently talented prospect, so it will be interesting to see if he can rise through the ranks.

"Alex is a strong skater, who can make the first pass coming out of his own zone," said Head Coach Clark Donatelli. "He was drafted by the Penguins, came in last year, did a good job in a variety of roles, showed that he was coachable and had a great attitude."

"When I came in last year, I noticed that the pro game is different than the college game in that it's more wide open," Velischek said. "The game is more creative, faster, and the puck moves quicker, so those are the areas that I've been working on this summer."
"I view myself as a two-way defenseman, who likes to move with the puck," said Velischek. "I am hoping to find my offensive game this year."
"Last season, I came out and played three games with the Nailers, and I loved it," Velischek said. "I had a great relationship with Clark Donatelli, as he was my assistant coach at Providence College, so being familiar with him was also one of my deciding factors."

An additional connection, he played with another recent Nailers signing Forward Chris Rooney. Both Velischek and Rooney are the sons of former NHL players who were also alumni of Providence College and played together in the early 80s. Alex's father Randy Velischek played for Providence 1979-1983 before being drafted by the Minnesota North Stars, and during his career also played for the New Jersey Devils and the Quebec Nordiques.

Chris' father Steve Rooney played for Providence 1981-1985 before being drafted by the Montreal Canadiens, also playing for the Winnipeg Jets and even joining Velischek in New Jersey for one season.