The fan favorite is back
Norfolk announced the re-signing of defenseman Gabriel Verpaelst today. The Baie-Comeau product enters his third year in the ECHL, after spending the majority of last year with the Admirals. Verpaelst led all Norfolk defensemen in goals, assists, and points, with a mark of 6G=28A=34 points. The strong play all year earned Verpaelst a call up to the Stockton Heat, the AHL affiliate of the Calgary Flames.
Verpaelst evolved his game last year under Eric Veilleux, registering the strongest offensive season since his last year in juniors. His rookie ECHL season saw the 23-year-old primarily as an enforcer on the ice, racking up 141 PIMs. Verpaelst continued to engae in pugilistic pursuits last year, with 162 PIMs. HockeyFights has Verpaelst in 15 bouts at the ECHL level in both of his professional seasons. The additional penalties, no doubt, come from playing for one of the most penalized teams in the ECHL.
Verpaelst can take another step forward this year on his path towards the AHL. As much as this might disappoint some fans, he can’t fight as much. I’m not saying he won’t fight, but that he needs to be on the ice a lot more this season. Verpaelst has proven he can help in the “creating goals and therefore winning games” department. He doesn’t need to prove he can fight, it’s well-established. Verpaelst and Aaron Harstad are probably looked on to be the leaders of the defense this year. As such, they need to prove winning is an important part as much as knocking someone’s block off. Verpaelst has progressed in a great fashion his first two pro seasons. His third could be monumental.
Stats from eliteprospects.com/norfolkadmirals.com