The Gwinnett Gladiators have re-signed hard-hitting defenseman Jon Sitko and the versatile Jamie Milam, announcing the two roster additions on Friday.
Both are entering just their second professional season.
Milam played 68 games for the Gladiators last year, starting as a defenseman, but began taking regular shifts at forward after the midway point. The Northern Michigan alum collected 22 goals and 25 assists in the regular season and was named to the ECHL All-Rookie team.
Milam's 47 points were good for a share of first among all rookie defenseman last season in the ECHL. The 23-year-old Michigan native was the league's rookie of the month in February with 13 points and a plus-6 rating in 10 games for Gwinnett.
"Jamie, right now, I look at putting him up front," Gladiators head coach Jeff Pyle said. "But he runs the power play back there (on defense); that may change too.
"He's a guy I'd like to see step up from where he started last year and just be a little bit more ... I'm not really looking for points, I think points will come with it, but I need him to be more of a calming, leader-type guy. Just be more relaxed, get into a maturing stage of a second-year guy."
Sitko joined the Gladiators in mid-January, coming over from Toledo in a trade for forward Bruce Mulherin. The bruising defenseman made an thundering impression when he first arrived in Gwinnett, throwing his weight around and dishing out some crushing hits. But injuries hampered the soon-to-be 24-year-old, and he missed a handful of games for the Gladiators.
"I don't think it was the (injuries) so much as there was a lot of stuff going on in our locker room that I think was kind of tough for guys to swallow," Pyle said. "No. 1, it shows why guys are at this level, mentally anything can get into their kitchen at times. But it gives guys an out. It's an easy out for guys.
"I don't blame any of the young guys. A couple of them could have been better, but that's really neither here nor there. The chemistry just wasn't there and you could see it, almost for the whole season. At times it would get better. But just the way we'd never get on those streaks. I never felt it anyway. There was just too much inconsistency."
Sitko, who spent four years playing at Bowling Green before turning pro, had five points and 42 penalty minutes in 27 games for the Gladiators last season.
He had a similar number of points (six) in 33 games with Toledo.
"With Jonnie Sitko you're getting a guy that needs to be in better shape, but is physical and finishes hits and could be a pretty good D," Pyle said.
Milam and Sitko join a Gwinnett roster that includes veteran forward Mike Vigilante, Derek Nesbitt - who returns to the Gladiators after winning the Kelly Cup with Idaho last season - and rookie defenseman Dinos Stamoulis.
Gwinnett begins its fifth season on the road in Pensacola on Oct. 19 and opens at home the following night, also against the Ice Pilots.