DULUTH - Just as training camp began in earnest, the Gwinnett Gladiators got an influx of talent.
Former ECHL MVP Brad Schell was signed to a contract Friday after spending more than a week at AHL Rockford's camp.
Head coach Jeff Pyle was also expecting to see two big defensemen, Chad Denny and Drew Paris, arrive in town by today. Both were at AHL camp, Denny in Chicago and Paris in Syracuse.
The additions flesh out an already solid roster and Pyle was happy with Friday's initial on-ice workout.
"There's a lot of good players," Pyle said. "We've never had a camp with this many qualified guys.
"I think the guys are already looking around and going 'it won't be easy (to make the team).'"
Schell has been plagued by back injuries since recording a Gwinnett record and league-high 110 points in 2006-07. He was hurt in training camp two years ago while with Providence and returned to the Gladiators in February of 2008. The play-making forward put up 38 points in 29 regular-season games and helped Gwinnett to the second round of the playoffs.
The Gladiators again signed Schell, who originally came to the team as a prospect of the Atlanta Thrashers in 2004, at the beginning of last season. The 25-year-old from Scott, Sask., played 27 games and had 27 points before suffering another back injury in January.
Schell spent the rest of the season helping Pyle on the bench and worked to regain his previous form over the summer.
"He asked me if I had room for him and I wasn't quite sure," said Pyle, who during the offseason orchestrated an affiliation with NHL Columbus in addition to the franchise's long-standing commitment to develop Thrashers' prospects.
Pyle was also not surprisingly concerned about the status of Schell's back. But he said the 6-foot, 190-pound center looked good in his first skate with the team Friday.
So Schell returns to the fold and the Gladiators' roster appears to be getting better and better with two weeks left before opening night.
Gwinnett's first game is Oct. 17 at home against the Wheeling Nailers.