In a city where one’s fortunes can turn on a roll of the dice, the Wranglers might have turned what was expected to be a rebuilding year into one in which they’ll reload with three recent acquisitions.
Las Vegas — which opens its fifth training camp today at the Las Vegas Ice Center on West Flamingo Road — signed two-time ECHL All-Star goaltender Mike McKenna on Wednesday, then on Thursday inked Peter and Chris Ferraro, who in 1995 became the first identical twins to play for the same NHL team when they made their debuts with the New York Rangers.
The signings should help offset the loss of last year’s top two scorers, Derek Edwardson (69 points) and Steve Crampton (62), as well as several other players to Europe for the second straight season.
Still, the Wranglers, who finished last year with the league’s best regular-season record, at 46-12-14, and matched a professional hockey mark with 18 straight wins before falling in the second round of the playoffs to eventual Kelly Cup champion Idaho, return only seven players.
“With the roster we have, it is a rebuilding year, but our expectations are to be a playoff hockey team and put ourselves in position to win the (Kelly) Cup,” Las Vegas coach and general manager Glen Gulutzan said.
The 34-year-old Ferraro brothers have played a combined 168 NHL games for six teams and have been together for nine of their 13 pro campaigns in a career that includes plenty of American Hockey League experience.
Peter, a forward and former first-round NHL Draft pick, has 591 points in 620 AHL games, including 26 points in 49 games for Bridgeport and Peoria last season. Chris, a center and former fourth-round NHL Draft pick, has 474 points in 497 AHL games, including 36 in 49 games with San Antonio last year.
“Leadership-wise and skill-wise, we needed a boost, and they’re certainly going to help us,” Gulutzan said.
The Ferraros, whose younger sister runs a modeling agency in Las Vegas, looked at the ECHL when they couldn’t find an AHL team able to sign them in a package deal.
“We could’ve gone to Europe if we were focused on a more appealing financial situation, but it’s not all about that,” Peter said. “Our sister lives out here, and we just decided to make a commitment to the team here. They also gave us the ability to play together.”
Chris Ferraro said it’s a “blessing” to be able to play with his brother again, and he hopes they can push each other.
“They’re doing something extremely right here with their winning tradition, and hopefully my brother and I can maybe be the final pieces of what they’re looking for,” he said.
McKenna is a huge piece and the only goaltender in camp. He went 27-4-7 with five shutouts, a 2.21 goals-against average and .927 save percentage for Las Vegas last season and finished second in the league’s Most Valuable Player and Goalie of the Year voting.
McKenna, a St. Louis native, recently excelled in NHL training camp with the Blues and also at AHL camp with Peoria.
“It gave me a fresh look at my game, and hopefully I can take some of that into this year,” McKenna said.
The Wranglers also return forwards Shawn Limpright, Marco Peluso and Adam Cracknell and defensemen Aaron Power, Jason Josza and Jason Krischuk.
Other newcomers include forwards Brandon Kaleniecki, Matt Byrnes and Josh Sciba and defensemen Gerry Burke and Jason Dest.
Las Vegas will host Bakersfield at 7:05 p.m. Thursday at the Orleans Arena in a preseason game and opens at home on Oct. 21 against Stockton. The season opener is Oct. 19 at Fresno.Las Vegas WranglersMore