Shortly after Saginaw Spirit GM Dave Drinkill announced the selection of 6-foot-3, 201-pound Belarusian defenseman Ilya Solovyov (52 overall) in the first round of the 2019 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft on Thursday afternoon, Saginaw head coach Chris Lazary added that the Spirit had also hired former Michigan State University defenseman Jared Nightingale to join Lazary behind the Spirit bench as associate coach for the 2019-20 Ontario Hockey League season.
“Jared came highly recommended and we are excited to add him to the coaching staff,” Lazary said. “Jared is a 'hockey guy' through and through. When I spoke to Jared there was instant chemistry. We share the belief that you must not only develop players on the ice, but off the ice into good human beings. Jared's longevity in the game shows he understands the value of hard work.”
Nighingale, a 36 year old Jackson, MI native who played junior hockey for three years (1999-2002) for the Soo Indians in the North American Hockey League, then headed off to East Lansing for a four year NCAA career with the Spartans (2002-06) which led to a 13 season pro hockey career, playing in both the American Hockey League and the East Coast Hockey League, where he retired as a player during the 2017-18 season, before joining the Omaha Lancers of the United States Hockey League as an assistant for one season (2017-18) eventually moving to the United States National Team under-17 program as an assistant in the USHL last year.
“I am extremely excited to become a member of the Spirit family,” Nightingale said. “I would like to thank ownership, (GM) Dave Drinkill, (asst. GM) Brian Prout, and Chris Lazary for this opportunity to coach in major junior hockey. I spent my entire hockey career around players that came from the OHL, and had nothing but respect for them. I think the league itself -the pro schedule and the similarities to the National Hockey League game- is what gravitated me to this position. I am looking forward to meeting the players and getting to work.”
He would finish out the 2018-19 hockey season playing for Team Belarus U20 in the Belarusian Extraleague-A,
where he would put up 8-points (3-goals, 5-assists) through 53-games in the top hockey league in Belarus.
With veteran defensemen Reagan O'Grady and Justin Murray aging out of the league last year and the recent trade of veteran defenseman Hayden Davis, along with the anticipated departure of Bode Wilde, Drinkill was particularly impressed with how Solovyov was able to compete with and against grown men at the World Championships, hoping he'll add some veteran depth to the Spirit back end this year.
“We are pleased to select Ilya Solovyov in the CHL Import Draft and welcome him to the Spirit family,” Drinkill said on Thursday afternoon. “One of the things that attracted us to Ilya was the fact that he played against men in the World Championships this past spring. We felt like we needed to add a veteran defenseman to our group. We are excited to bring Ilya to Saginaw and get him started with us in training camp.”
The Spirit will remain on the hunt for at least one more assistant coach to join Lazary, Nightingale, and Saginaw goal tending coach A.J. Waczak on the Spirit coaching staff after former assistant coaches Ryan Kuwabara and Darren Rumble moved on following the 2018-19 OHL season, however, with the addition of Nighingale and Solovyov the Spirit have now completed two major pieces to the puzzle heading back into training camp this August.