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The Hershey Bears Are Back in Session (Now With Bonus Caps!)
Things are kicking into gear up in Chocolate town, with training camp having started on Sunday and the first pre-season game scheduled for Wednesday night in Binghamton (in return, the Bears host the B!Sens two days later on Friday night). Four games later, and the season will start for real October 13th (on the road in Syracuse).
With the NHL lockout firmly underway, Hershey has turned into Washington!North in a hurry (and wow, is the coverage reflecting the change, providing great visibility for an already vibrant franchise). 21 players with Capitals ties were formally assigned to the AHL team in the mad pre-lockout scramble (many are expected to remain with the Bears, but a few will be shuffled down the line to Reading). Adam Oates, the Caps’ newly minted head coach, has magically entered into a timeshare with the already-established Mark French for the Head Coach’s position in Hershey for the foreseeable future (Hershey’s Training Camp Roster available here. Schedule available here).
Down the road in Reading, things are heating up as well, with training camp officially kicking off tonight (roster available here). Five former-Royals are currently testing the waters in Hershey, with another in British Columbia taking a shot at breaking the lineup for the Abbotsford Heat (affiliate of the Calgary Flames). The Royals are currently planning to hold two pre-season games, a home-and-home set with the Trenton Titans on Friday (Away) and Saturday (Home).
For an idea of just how strong the Capitals’ presence is in the minors this year, here’s a quick & dirty regarding the familiar faces currently haunting the halls in Hershey:
– All Five Goaltenders (four are under contract – 2012 playoff star Braden Holtby, Dany Sabourin (the Bears’ 2012 Iron Goalie), Philipp Grubauer (ECHL last year with the South Carolina Stingrays), and Brandon Anderson (OHL). The fifth, Sergey Kostenko, is a 2012 draft pick who is currently signed with the Bears).
– Eight of Fourteen Defensemen (Five are returning Bears/Caps – Tomas Kundratek, Kevin Marshall, Patrick McNeill, Dmitry Orlov, and Cameron Schilling. Two are former-Stingrays – Brett Flemming and Dustin Stevenson. The eighth, Garrett Stafford, was signed by the Caps this summer)
– Nine of Twenty-Four Forwards (Mike Carman, Garrett Mitchell, Ryan Potulny, and Mattias Sjogren all played at least one game with the Bears last year. Matt Clackson, Zach Hamill, and Ryan Stoa were acquired over the summer. Both Danick Paquette (ECHL last year, and perhaps best known for comparing his style of play to Matt Cooke) and Stanislav Galiev (QMJHL – St. John Sea Dogs) hold entry-level contracts with Washington, but neither has played an AHL/NHL game for a team within the organization).
It’s also worth noting that five of the forwards (Barry Almeida, David Civitarese, Captain Boyd Kane, Matt Pope, and T.J. Syner) and two of the defensemen (Julien Brouillette & Patrick Wellar) on the list played with the Bears last spring. Both Scott Wietecha (D) and David Vallorani (F) were attendees at the 2012 Capitals Development Camp, and signed with the Bears at the conclusion of the event.