The defending Calder Cup Champion Hershey Bears released their opening night roster and it can be described in one word – large. The lineup of players includes 19 forwards, nine defenseman and three goalies. That’s 31 players.
The roster features a mixture of returnees, rookies and new arrivals. Obviously, a roster of that size is not maintainable long term and additional roster moves will likely be coming in the upcoming days and weeks.
Up front, the Bears return nine forwards from last season’s title winning club. The returnees are game seven hero Mike Vecchione, Mike Sgarbossa (entering his sixth season as a Bear), sniper Ethen Frank, playoff scoring leader Joe Snively, defensive stalwart Riley Sutter, second year pros Hendrix Lapierre, Henrik Rybinski and Julian Napravnik and veteran Matt Strome.
Additionally, Bogdan Trineyev suited up in a pair of games for the chocolate and white late last season. Trineyev is one of four rookie forwards on the roster. He is joined by center Ryan Hofer and wingers Alex Suzdalev and Ivan Miroshnichenko. The newcomers include Penn State product Alex Limoges, second year pro Pierrick Dube, veterans Garrett Roe and Nic Aube-Kubel, as well as Jimmy Huntington and Dmitry Osipov. There is no way to get all of these forwards ice time. At some point, players will need to be sent to South Carolina to create a more manageable roster.
Moving to the blue line, Hershey has five defenseman back from the championship team. Captain Dylan McIlrath leads this group that also includes veteran Aaron Ness, playoff hero Logan Day, rising prospect Vincent Iorio and Jake Massie. One of the final cuts from Washington Capitals camp, rookie Hardy Haman Aktell tops the band of new arrivals on the back end. The Swede will be counted upon to replace the departed Gabriel Carlsson. One time Capitals draft pick Chase Priskie was the big free agent signing on defense and will likely step into a top four role. Rounding out the defensive corps are former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguin Colin Swoyer and rookie Nicky Leivermann who captained the Notre Dame Fighting Irish last season.
The goaltending position is anchored by Hunter Shepard. The Minnesota-Duluth alum was the regular season MVP for the Bears last season and then followed that up by winning the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the most valuable player of the Calder Cup playoffs. With Zach Fucale departing for the KHL, the number two goalie spot will fall upon Clay Stevenson. The Dartmouth College product delivered a solid rookie campaign with South Carolina in the ECHL and was strong in three appearances with the Bears. He backed up Charlie Lindgren in Washington’s home opener, but will return to Chocolate Town when Darcy Kuemper returns to the Capitals after the birth of his child. In the meantime, Garin Bjorklund remains on the Hershey roster as an additional netminder. Bjorklund played in just a single game last season after undergoing back surgery. He needs to play and will be sent down to South Carolina to team with Mitchell Gibson.
This is the roster the Bears will begin their title defense with as they kick off the season tonight against old friend Garrett Pilon and the Belleville Senators.
By Eric Lord