Goalie Billy Christopoulos returning to Toledo Walleye

The Toledo Walleye have suspended their season until January, but they are still picking up players, including the return of goalkeeper Billy Christopoulos.

Christopoulos returns to the pond after playing 29 games with the Fish during the 2019-20 season. The 26-year-old finished his first professional season with a League best .932 save percentage, while posting a 24-3-3 record.  He had a 2.29 goals against average last season which finished as the 6th best in the ECHL, while his 24 wins was third most.

“We are very fortunate and excited to have, in my opinion, the best young goalie in the ECHL back in Toledo,” said Coach Dan Watson.  “He was arguably the best goalie from Christmas time until the season ended.  He is an extremely hard worker during practice, which makes himself and our players better. He is a calming influence during the game and our players feel very confident when he is in goal. He has proven that he deserves the opportunity to be a starting goalie and number one goalie for our team.”

Twice during the 2019-20 season Christopoulos was honored by the League as goaltender of the week for February 17-23 when he went 2-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA and .977 SVP. The second came as Goaltender of the Month with a 5-1-1 over seven starts in February with a sparkling 1.82 goals against average and a .947 save percentage.

Before turning pro, the 6-foot-2, 193-pound, was recruited to play for the United States Air Force Academy posting a record of 42-35-11 in 93 career games over four seasons. He was named first-team all-Atlantic Hockey during his senior season, and finished his collegiate career tied for second all-time with a .915 save percentage and third with a 2.25 goals-against average.  The North Carolina native has been accepted into the World Class Athlete Program (WCAP), where he looks to earn a spot on the 2022 U.S.A. Olympic team. 

Forwards Marcus Vela and Nolan LaPorte have agreed to terms with the Toledo Walleye for the 2020-21 season.

Vela, 23, re-signs with Toledo after playing 49 games for the Fish during the 2019-20 season. Vela was assigned to Toledo by the Grand Rapid Griffins late last October after being acquired from the San Jose Barracuda in exchange for defenseman Marcus Crawford. 

Watson said, “Marcus was bright spot and somewhat of a surprise for us last season.  He is very versatile and can play in any situation.  He plays a responsible, 200-foot game and brings quality leadership attributes to the table.”

In his first professional season, the 6-foot-1, 205 pound forward scored 12 goals and 13 assists for 25 points with the Walleye.  He also skated in three games with the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears, recording one assist and six penalty minutes.

A seventh-round selection, 190th overall, by the San Jose Sharks in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Vela made his pro debut with the Barracuda at the end of the 2018-19 campaign and contributed two assists in six appearances.

Before turning pro, the Burnaby, British Columbia, native, had a four-year career at the University of New Hampshire where he amassed 58 points (24G, 34A) and 112 penalty minutes in 135 games from 2015-2019.

LaPorte, 28, spent last season overseas racking up a 39-points (16G, 23A) in 47 games for the Glasgow Clan in the Elite Hockey League.

“Nolan will bring a wealth of experience to our group,” said Watson.  “He is very versatile and can play in all situations for us.  I think the fans will enjoy his style of play, as he brings a relentless work ethic and high compete level each and every game.”

The Chicago native played his first professional season with Quad City in 2016, and also appeared in one game that season for the American Hockey League’s Iowa Wild.  After a year with the Florida Everblades, the 6-foot, 192 pound forward, signed with Atlanta (2018-19) where he set two career-highs- goals (19) and penalty minutes (107). 

A former captain for the NCAA’s Western Michigan University, LaPorte skated in 133 games tallying 33 goals and 37 assists for 70 points and 176 penalty minutes.  As a Bronco, he skated two seasons with Toledo’s Shane Berschbach (2012-2014). 

Defenseman Blake Hillman has agreed to terms with the Toledo Walleye for the 2020-21 season.

Hillman returns to the pond after splitting his time between Toledo, Grand Rapids, and Stockton during the 2019-20 season.  He played 35 games for the Fish where he racked up 13 points (1G, 12A) and 8 penalty minutes.  The 24-year-old added 12 games at the AHL level- five with the Griffins and seven with the Heat. 

Watson is excited to have Hillman return for his second season with the Walleye.  

“He has great patience with the puck, plays a smart and detailed game and has tremendous leadership skills. He will be counted on heavily to play against teams’ top lines and anchor our penalty kill unit again,” Watson said.

Hillman was drafted in the sixth round of the 2016 draft (No. 173 overall) by the Chicago Blackhawks out of the University of Denver. The Elk River, Minnesota native made his professional debut by skating in four games for the Blackhawks at the end of the 2017-18 season that saw him collect his first pro goal on April 4, 2018 at St. Louis. Hillman spent the 2018-19 with Rockford in the AHL appearing in 54 games with four points (1G, 3A) and 20 penalty minutes for the IceHogs.

In his three years at the University of Denver, he skated in 123 games with seven goals, 24 assists and 84 penalty minutes. In total he was a plus 24 for the Pioneers. Hillman’s best college year came in the 2017-18 season when in 41 games he posted 12 points (3G, 9A) with 52 penalty minutes while skating as a plus six. He helped lead the Pioneers to the 2017 Frozen Four Championship as a sophomore when Denver defeated Minnesota-Duluth 3-2 in the championship contest. Hillman collected the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA West Regional in 2016 when he picked up four points (2G, 2A) in two games that included a game-winning goal over Ferris State.









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