The South Carolina Stingrays, proud ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Washington Capitals and AHL’s Hershey Bears, announced they have agreed to terms with defenseman Joey Leach for the 2017-18 season. Leach split his time between South Carolina and Hershey last year, playing 35 games with the Stingrays and 18 with the Bears before helping SC in 22 playoff games during the team’s run to the Kelly Cup Finals.
"When Steve Bergin and I sat down at the end of the year, Joey was a guy that we really wanted back,” said Head Coach and Director of Hockey Operations Ryan Warsofsky. "He sorted through his options and we stayed in communication this summer. He’s a great kid and what he does on the ice, you don’t just get those guys anywhere.
“He’s a really valuable piece to our team and with his big reach and big body, he’s hard to play against,” Warsofsky said. “That’s how we want to play and we’re excited to bring him back. I thought he was instrumental in us going on a long playoff run last year.”
Leach, 25, finished the regular season with 20 points for South Carolina (four goals, 16 assists) and three assists with Hershey. As Warsofsky mentioned, the blueliner was very valuable in the postseason for the Stingrays and added six points (one goal, five assists) in 22 contests.
The native of Wadena, Sask. who stands at 6-foot-3, 203-pounds has now totaled 204 career ECHL games with South Carolina, the Fort Wayne Komets and the Bakersfield Condors and racked up 64 points on 12 goals and 52 assists. He has also contributed seven assists in 40 career AHL games for Hershey, the Lake Erie Monsters and the Oklahoma City Barons.
Leach said he’s very excited to get back on the ice with a lot of teammates he knows very well.
“There’s a lot of guys on the team that I’ve played with for two seasons now,” said the defender who is entering his fifth professional season. “I’m excited to get back on the ice and get a chance to go for the Kelly Cup again. That’s what South Carolina prides itself on and to do it with a group of guys that were so close last year it should be fun.”
Previously a third round selection of the Calgary Flames in the 2010 NHL Draft, Leach played four years of junior hockey in the Western Hockey League (WHL) with the Kootenay Ice where he was an offensive threat from the blue line. In his final two seasons, he totaled 77 points. The blueliner made his professional debut in 2012 with the AHL’s Barons.
Leach becomes the ninth member of the 2016-17 team to sign for next season, as well as the sixth defenseman. South Carolina now has 20 players under contract for the 2017-18 year.
“There are a ton of guys coming back and with all the coaching staff and everyone else around the rink coming back it made for an easier decision to stay in Charleston,” Leach said.
The Stingrays open their 25th anniversary season at the North Charleston Coliseum on Oct. 20 against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits at 7:05 p.m.