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Broadcaster Blog: Summer So Far

Broadcaster Blog: Summer So Far

07/25/2017 - Greetings Bears fans! I hope you are enjoying your summer so far, and I know you're with me in counting the days until we drop the puck on the 2017-18 season. With the upcoming campaign being our historic 80th Anniversary Season, it promises to be an exciting year on and off the ice. 

While the summer is certainly a slower time of the year, the Bears, and our NHL affiliate, the Washington Capitals, have been busy. There have been some trades, some familiar faces signing new deals, and fresh blood added to the organization. With several key players moving on from Washington this summer, it's safe to say that there is a big opportunity for many players in the organization to make an impact and jump to the NHL level. Both the Capitals and Bears roster next season will feature many of the same stalwarts that make these teams contenders year in and year out, but there will be some changes.

For full information, visit our Player Tracker...but with so much going on in the summer, let's recap what's happened so far:

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Players From the 2016-17 Bears that are returning to the organization...Probable new prospect additions in ITALICS

Forwards, NHL Deals: Barber, Boyd, Gustafsson, McGauley, M. Mitchell, O'Brien, Sill, Stephenson, Vrana, Walker
Forwards, AHL Deals: C. Bourque, Gazley, G. Mitchell, Zajac

Defense, NHL Deals: Bindulis, Bowey, Djoos, Hobbs, Johansen, Lewington, Ness, Siegenthaler, Williams
Defense, AHL Deals: Labrie

Goalies, NHL Deals: Carlson, Copley, Vanecek
Goalies, AHL Deals: Milner
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Players From the 2016-17 Bears that have moved on:

Paul Carey-F: Signed one-year, two-way deal with the New York Rangers (NHL) 
Darren Dietz-D: Signed a one-year deal with Barys Astana (KHL) 
Domenic Monardo-F: Signed contract with HC Bolzano of the Austrian Hockey League (EBHL) 
Stanislav Galiev-F: Signed contract with Ak Bars (KHL)
Tom Gilbert-D: Signed contract with Nurnberg Ice Tigers (DEL)

Forwards Christian Thomas, Ryan Bourque, Dylan Margonari, John Parker and defensemen Coby Corbett and Joey Leach, as well as goaltender Adam Morrison remain free agents. Forwards Garrett Pilon and Beck Malenstyn will return to the WHL next season to finish their junior careers. 
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New players signed by Washington and Hershey: 

Tyler Graovac-F: Acquired by Washington from Minnesota on Jun. 14 for a 5th round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. On a one-way deal in 2017-18, so will fight for a spot in Washington. Would be a key player if assigned to Hershey as he scored 21 goals and 46 points with Iowa in 2014-15.

Mathias Bau Hansen-F: Signed to an AHL contract for 2017-18 on Jun. 21. The big man stands at 6-foot-7 and comes from Denmark. He is a bit of an unknown but impressed scouts. Could be a diamond in the rough.  

Anthony Peluso-F: Signed to a one-year, two-way deal by Washington on Jul. 1. He's spent most of his last few years in the NHL as a scrappy winger, but injuries limited him to just 22 games last year. It's believed he'll be an extra forward in Washington, but that could change. If he comes to Hershey, he'd qualify as a veteran player. 

Devante Smith-Pelly-F: Signed to a one-year, two-way deal by Washington on Jul. 2. It sounds like Smith-Pelly will have every shot to make the Capitals roster in the fall. He last played in the AHL with Norfolk in 2013-14, scoring 27 goals.

John Albert-F: Signed to a one-year, two-way deal by Washington on Jul. 2. Likely will play in Hershey. Counts as a veteran player and was previous captain of the Manitoba Moose. Former 28 goal scorer in the AHL. Brings a great deal of leadership and is an all-situations player. 

Wayne Simpson-F: Signed to a one-year, two-way deal by Washington on Jul. 11. Simpson will likely be one of the Bears top wingers. He had a breakout season in Providence, and burned Hershey in the playoffs. 

Paul Geiger-D: Signed a one-year, AHL deal with Hershey on Jul. 25. He'll fight for time on a crowed blue line after skating in 49 games with Rochester last year. 

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Other Summer News and Notes:

-The 2018 Outdoor Classic is the center of excitement for the upcoming 80th Anniversary Season. There is a lot of planning going on with our hard-working staff behind the scenes. Season Ticket Holders: Fear not! You'll have an exclusive presale for tickets to this thrilling event in early August. Keep an eye on your mail next week as ticket information and the exact date of your presale will be mailed directly to you. Tickets for the general public go on sale on Friday, Aug. 18. 

-Capitals GM Brian MacLellan announced that Scott Murray will become the team's NHL goaltending coach next season. Goalie guru Mitch Korn will oversee the organization’s goaltending coaches, allowing him to step back from day-to-day operations. Murray has played a giant role over the last several seasons in goaltender's development in Hershey. He has worked with young goalies such as Philipp Grubauer, Pheonix Copley, and Vitek Vanecek and spent the majority of his time in Chocolatetown giving the next great group of Washington goaltenders daily instruction. I've gotten to know Scott well over the last two years as he also works with the South Carolina Stingrays, our ECHL affiliate. He was my seatmate on the bus and is a good friend. I'm excited for his promotion and couldn't think of anyone more deserving. The Capitals will hire a new Assistant Goalie Coach to take Scott's position working with the Bears and Rays. 

-With the exception of Murray, Hershey's entire coaching and training/support staff is slated to return next season. The Bears and Capitals made big strides prior to last season, adding a Video Coach, a Strength and Conditioning Coach, and an ATC. Speaking of one of those additions, Mike Wagner, our Strength and Conditioning Coach, deserves a big congratulations on his wedding earlier this summer. 

-Former Bear Carter Camper, an Ohio native, signed a two-year deal with the Cleveland Monsters. Chris Brown is heading overseas for next year as he'll play with the Iserlohn Roosters of the DEL in Germany. Former Bear Patrick Weller is moving closer to home, taking an assistant coach job with the ECHL's Reading Royals. He served in the same position last season with the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL. 

-The Bears have been working on a multi-year radio partnership on our Radio Network. We're lucky to work with such great partners and are excited to announce this later this summer.

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Summer Mailbag

I want to hear from you! Tweet me--@zackfisch-- your questions on Twitter and I may answer them in a future blog. 

@Rbloss64: "Which defensemen have the best chances of being in DC opening night/October?"

Thanks for your question Richard. The is likely two openings on the blue line for younger players in Washington. There are many candidates, but I believe the two that will start the season in DC will be Christian Djoos and Aaron Ness. Djoos had the best offensive season by a Hershey defender in the 21st Century and really opened the eyes of the Capitals brass. He's not big, but he's slick with the puck, elusive, and creates offense. We saw him make guys look silly many times last season. He's going to get a good look and I think it's his spot to lose. With a younger team, Ness gets an upper hand as he has some NHL experience (39 games), is a solid puck-mover, and makes less ($612,500) than any other prospect. With the Capitals so close to the salary cap, every dollar counts. 

I think Madison Bowey is going to push in camp and make his NHL debut at some point this season. Tyler Lewington is also a sleeper pick after two solid seasons in Hershey. Jonas Siegenthaler will see time eventually, but I feel he will get time to adjust to the North American game more in Hershey. Darkhorses are rookies Lucas Johansen and Connor Hobbs. Both will likely start the season in Hershey and both come with impressive resumes. Johansen was the Capitals first round pick in 2016, while Hobbs scored 31 goals and 85 points last season with Regina of the WHL. These two will be fun to watch. 

@AMurrayState: "How will the Olympics affect the AHL season?"

Adam is asking about a great subject that is gaining a lot of attention. The NHL is not allowing its players to play in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea. However, it appears the AHL will allow players on AHL contracts to play in the Olympics. This means a player like Chris Bourque, who signed an AHL contract with the Bears for 2017-18, could be eligible to join Team USA. This is obviously a very exciting development, and would be great for a player like Chris, and for the AHL. While the NHL traditionally takes a two-week break for the Olympics, the AHL will not do that. Not enough players will be selected to do this, so teams will have to manage their rosters if they have players skating overseas representing their countries. Not all the information is known yet for this, and it's certainly something to keep an eye on. 

@GrowlieMom: "With players on roster now what would your lines look like both offense & defense?"

Hi Judith. It's a little early to project the actual lineup, and the uncertainty of who makes the Capitals provides only best guesses at this point. As it stands today, my best educated guess as to who starts the year in Washington is: Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Nathan Walker, Christian Djoos, Aaron Ness. I think good training camps for Madison Bowey, Travis Boyd, or Riley Barber could change that. The forward situation is very up in the air and could change.

The defense is a little more clear. Hershey's defense will include: Tyler Lewington, Colby Williams, Jonas Siegenthaler, Hubert Labrie, Connor Hobbs, Lucas Johansen, and at least one of Bowey/Ness/Djoos. Kris Bindulis and Paul Geiger will also be fighting for spots in Hershey. In goal, the Bears will have Pheonix Copley and Vitek Vanecek, one of the best tandems in the league.  

Of the new guys signed by Washington, I believe both Wayne Simpson and John Albert will be in Hershey and play large roles for the Bears next season. 

@brandon__alter:  "With all the talk of players going up to Washington, who, if anyone, do you think will come up from SC?"

Brandon-I think Kelly Zajac had a good shot of making an impact in training camp and maybe becoming more of a regular player with the Bears. He looked good in his stint in Hershey last season and has AHL experience. He was exceptional for South Carolina all season and had a great playoff run. Tim McGauley might need more seasoning after not making the playoff roster in South Carolina, but he will compete in camp. With Copley and Vanecek back, the Bears appear to be set in goal, but Parker Milner is back in the fold, and Capitals prospect Adam Carlson looks for a strong sophomore season to make a case if a call-up is needed. Other than that, South Carolina may have some players who get called up on PTO's like last season. 
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Thanks for reading Bears fans. I'll look to do a few more of these throughout the dog days of summer. Keep an eye on our social media for more information on the 2017-18 season. I'm off for a little time away from the rink next week, but I'm excited for 2017-18. See you at the Giant Center soon! 

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