NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. - The South Carolina Stingrays, proud ECHL affiliate of the NHL's Washington Capitals and AHL's Hershey Bears, have agreed to terms with forward Jackson Leppard and defenseman Chase Stewart. The two fan favorites return to the Stingrays for their second and third seasons with the team.
The Stingrays acquired Leppard in a trade with the Allen Americans in January 2023. The 6'2" 201-pound forward registered 19 points in 37 games with the Stingrays. He also dropped the gloves five times last season.
"Lepp was great for us last year. He's a big body, skates well, and he sticks up for his teammates," said Stingrays Head Coach Brenden Kotyk. "Towards the end of the season, he was playing with confidence. He's one of those tough guys to play against, and other teams don't enjoy coming to the North Charleston Coliseum and having to play against him."
Before joining the Stingrays, Leppard suited up in 106 games for the Americans over the past two years and tallied 20 goals in his first professional season. Before playing in the ECHL, Leppard spent six seasons in the Western Hockey League and scored 115 points in 252 games.
"We had an amazing group last year with so many great guys," Leppard said. "I had a really good experience transitioning to a new team, and all those guys made it pretty easy for me. I think this is the best place to play in the ECHL, and we have awesome fans. I'm really excited to be back again."
With the 6'3, 225-pound Stewart returning, the Stingrays bring back another big and physical player with 101 games of ECHL experience. Like Leppard, Stewart does not shy away from fighting to protect his teammates.
"Stewy is the same way [as Leppard]," Kotyk said. "He is a leader in the locker room. He understands what his role is, and he executes well. He makes a good first pass, is good on the penalty kill, and has been around with the organization for a couple of years."
In 2022-23, Stewart posted the best plus-minus of his ECHL career (+4). Stewart also fought five times in 2022-23, his highest ECHL single-season total.
"I'm happy to come back to South Carolina," Stewart said. "The two previous years that I've been here, it's been nothing but good experiences for me. Obviously, I love the Lowcountry. It's hard to pick a better spot than Charleston to play hockey at the ECHL level."
The Stingrays will open the 2023-24 season on October 21 at the North Charleston Coliseum against the Orlando Solar Bears at 6:05 p.m.