Hershey Bears Sign Forwards Kevin O’Neil And Tyson Empey

Photo: Brian Stone/South Carolina Stingrays.

The Hershey Bears have announced that the club has signed forwards Kevin O’Neil and Tyson Empey to American Hockey League contracts for the 2023-24 season. Both players are very likely destined for South Carolina in the ECHL.


O’Neil, 25, played in two games with Hershey last season on a professional tryout. He made his AHL debut on Dec. 27 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and potted his first AHL goal on Dec. 31 versus Providence.

The Latham, New York native played 53 games for Hershey’s ECHL affiliate, the South Carolina Stingrays last season, posting 50 points (24g, 26a). He tied for the team lead in goals and ranked third in points during his rookie campaign. He earned ECHL Player of the Week honors for the week of March 27-April 2 after posting six points (5g, 1a) in three games.

The 5’11”, 180-pound forward also played three games last season with the AHL’s Colorado Eagles.

Empey, 28, produced three points (1g, 2a) in 16 AHL games with the Tucson Roadrunners during the 2022-23 season, and added nine points (4g, 5a) in 20 ECHL games with the Atlanta Gladiators.

The 6’2”, 205-pound forward has recorded 15 points (4g, 11a) and added 127 penalty minutes in 79 career AHL games with Tucson. He logged 100 penalty minutes in 63 games with Tucson in 2021-22, including 10 fighting majors.

He has also collected 27 points (10g, 17a) in 83 ECHL games with Atlanta and Rapid City.

Prior to turning pro, the native of Swift Current, Saskatchewan played collegiate hockey for the State University of New York – Geneseo, where he was part of three consecutive SUNYAC conference titles between his sophomore and senior seasons. As a sophomore and junior, he received SUNYAC Second Team All-Conference honors, and in his senior campaign, he was named SUNYAC Third Team All-Conference. In 92 career games with the Knights program, Empey generated 103 points (54g, 49a).

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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10 Responses to Hershey Bears Sign Forwards Kevin O’Neil And Tyson Empey

  1. Prevent Defense says:

    Attn John & Co.: We read much about the AHL Chicago Wolves deciding to “Go Affiliate-less” and leaving the Carolina Hurricanes franchise in a bind. We read this in Sports Business Journal: “The philosophy has changed from up top. We had a really successful year and won the Calder Cup last year and developed players, gave them a few players too that are in their lineup now at minimum salary. I believe Carolina’s philosophy has changed. It was all about development. And our philosophy, it’s in our affiliation, that says develop and win. We think by winning, we develop. That’s where we stand.” [April 23]

    Caps and Bears seem to be on good terms here. True? Thanks much

    • novafyre says:

      “In an e-mail that was obtained by The Hockey News Wolves GM Wendell Young reportedly let NHL teams know that Chicago would be open to receiving NHL players on loan. ”

      They are willing to take on loaners from any NHL or AHL team but I would think that they would also want a long term (most of season) commitment, that the loaner team wouldn’t be asking for the player back whenever they needed a sub. So if Bears or Caps had a player that they would normally send to the Stingrays for the year, the Wolves would be an option they could pursue. Of course, the Wolves would have to agree that the player is worth taking on. But they still have to meet the AHL development player minimum, so the loan could help.

      • Prevent Defense says:

        Thanks Novafyre! Great information. It all sounds REALLY complicated.
        Wild Times in pro hockey! Reminds me of the invective and wrangling between WHA and NHL in the 1970s

  2. hockeydruid says:

    Could O’Neal be this years Frank?

    • Eric Lord says:

      No. Frank was always going to play in Hershey last season. O’Neil is headed to South Carolina. He has 15 or 16 guys ahead of him on the depth chart.

  3. novafyre says:

    Clutchpoints ranks Nicky’s contract as the second worst in the NHL.

  4. novafyre says:

    The ECHL is expanding with a new team announced for Lake Tahoe. They expanded max teams to 32 to match the AHL and NHL.
    They matched the NHL’s helmet rule: Rule #9.6 – Helmets A player on the ice whose helmet comes off during play will be assessed a minor penalty unless he immediately (a) exits the playing surface or (b) puts the helmet back (the chin strap may be unfastened if helmet is on player’s head).
    They seem to be tightening up a bit on fighting with two rule changes.

  5. novafyre says:

    It’s hiring time for the ECHL. The South Carolina Stingrays, signed Patrick Harper, 24, who returns to the United States after having played 70 games in Europe over the past two seasons. In 2020-21, Harper tallied nine points in 5 games with the Everblades. Harper played 24 games in the AHL for the Chicago Wolves and Milwaukee Admirals.
    They also signed Jack Adams who spent the last two seasons with Notre Dame, tallying 29 points (13g-16a) in 70 games.
    The Rays re-signed forward Jackson Leppard and defenseman Chase Stewart.
    They lost dman Robbie Stucker and forward Chaz Reddekopp.

  6. novafyre says:

    The Stingrays gave qualifying offers to Tyler Wall, Matt Anderson, Connor Moore, Jarid Lukosevicius, Kevin O’Neil, Jonny Evans, Josh Wilkins, Anthony Del Gaizo (the max allowed by the ECHL). The qualifying offer must remain open for acceptance until July 22 at which time the qualifying offer becomes null and void and the team may sign the qualified player to any salary or may elect to take no further action. Teams that extend a valid qualifying offer to a non-veteran player shall retain the rights to that qualified player for one playing season. A team that extends a valid qualifying offer to a veteran player, or to a goaltender who has played more than 180 regular-season games, will retain the rights to that player until July 22. After July 22, if the veteran player or goaltender is not signed to a contract by the team, the player shall be deemed a restricted free agent and shall be entitled to seek and secure offers of employment from other ECHL teams. I cannot find any further information on these players.

  7. novafyre says:

    Spencer Carbery becomes the fifth former ECHL head coach as a current head coach in the NHL joining Sabres head coach Don Granato, Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar, Red Wings head coach Derek Lalonde and Golden Knights head coach Bruce Cassidy.
    As a player, Carbery skated in 181 career ECHL games from 2007-10 with Bakersfield, Stockton, Fresno and South Carolina, totaling 73 points (32g-41a) and capturing a Kelly Cup title in 2009 with the Stingrays.
    Following his retirement as a player, Carbery transitioned to the coaching ranks, serving as South Carolina’s assistant coach for one season before being named the club’s head coach in 2011-12. He compiled a 207-115-10 in five seasons as the Stingrays’ coach, leading the team to the Kelly Cup Finals in 2015 and the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016. He received the John Brophy Award as ECHL Coach of the Year in 2013-14 after leading South Carolina to a 43-23-6 record.

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