All eyes were likely trained on the big name forwards at the beginning of the Hershey Bears 2022-23 season. Front and center was Hendrix Lapierre, the Capitals number one pick in the 2020 draft. Then Connor McMichael, the Capitals first round pick in 2019, returned to Hershey for an extended stay, which also garnered significant buzz.
While the two youngsters are doing well in their first extended stints in the AHL, it’s been an undrafted free-agent rookie that has stole the show so far this season for the Chocolate and White.
Forward Ethen Frank, a college free-agent signing by the Bears in the April of 2022, has been by far the most impressive young forward so far this season in Hershey. Frank has 20 goals and 15 assists for 35 points in 35 games. He leads all AHL rookies in goals and is tied for first in total points. He leads all Bears in goals and is second in total points.
— Capitals Prospects (@jon_m_sorensen) January 29, 2023
Frank has been thriving on a line with veterans Mike Sgarbossa and fellow All-Star Mike Vecchione. Frank said he’s been a “sponge” around the vets, gleaning all he can on how to play the professional game.
“I think kinda the standard we set for ourselves every game that we step on the ice. We know we are depended on to create offense and be strong, defensively,” Frank told Bears Radio earlier this week. “I think we keep ourselves accountable, and hold up to that standard when we come back from a bad shift. We’re kinda letting each other know that that’s not good enough and we need to be better, and fix it the next shift.”
Frank, who’s most notable hockey assets are his skating speed and cannon of a shot, has been on a tear in recent games. He’s recorded three two-goal games in the last seven games and became the first Bears rookie to reach the 20-goal mark since Riley Barber (26) and Travis Boyd (21) achieved the feat in the 2015-16 season.
“I feel like it’s been going well. I gotta give a lot of the credit to a lot of the veterans, and my linemates, for example. They’ve been helping me out a ton.”
As previously noted, Frank, along with linemate Mike Vecchione, were selected for this year’s AHL all star game, set for February 5-6 in Laval, Quebec. The rookie is honored by the selection.
“It means a lot. I’ve been putting in a lot of hard work, so it’s nice to get a little recognition,” said Frank.
Frank was another high-quality college free agent signing by Capitals’ Director of Player Recruitment, Danny Brooks, who has also successfully recruited and signed undrafted college free-agents Joe Snively, Bobby Nardella and Clay Stevenson, just to name a few.
Frank was the NCAA’s top goal scorer last season, totaling 26 goals in 38 games for Western Michigan University. He finished last season with a career-best 39 points in his fifth year with the Broncos and was named to the AHCA/CCM Hockey West All-American Second Team. He also earned Second Team All-NCHC honors and helped the Broncos to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The native of Papillon, Nebraska finished the season with 10 power play goals, tied for fourth in the NCAA, and six game-winning markers, tied for second in the NCAA. He scored four goals versus St. Cloud State on Nov. 19, 2021. In his NCAA career, Frank posted 118 points (70 goals, 48 assists) in 158 games over five seasons at Western Michigan.
Frank continues to work on his game, in hopes of taking the next step. “Like my coach at Western (Michigan) used to say, ‘happy but never content.’ I’m happy with where I’m at but not content with it,” said Frank. “I’m definetly focusing on a lot of stuff without the puck, a lot of stuff in the d zone.”
Frank and the Bears are back in action on Wednesday when they visit the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in Allentown, PA. Puck drop is set for 7:15PM.