After a bunch of activity within the past few days the Bears are well positioned to make another run at a cup.
So lets look at what the team could look like after the recent signings and where there needs to be added improvement/depth yet this summer.
Daren Machesney, Simeon Varlamov, and Michal Neuvirth
Simeon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth are both in Washington this week participating in the Capitals development camp with coach Bruce Boudreau. One or both of them will be in Hershey this season. The smart money is on Varlamov to start in Hershey and Neuvirth in South Carolina. But I would expect to see Neuvirth get his chances early and often.
There was a thought hovering out there that both could start in Hershey and the organization would loan out Daren Machesney. I really hope that doesn't happen. Neither of these guys is ready to be the number 1 in a pro league day in and day out. But there is that chance.
Patrick McNeill, Josh Godfrey, Sami Lepisto, Tyler Sloan, Grant McNeill, Dean Arsene, Sean Collins, Sasha Pokuluk, and Karl Alzner.
That is the list of current players expected to either play part time or full time in Hershey. It isn't a bad group but it could stand to have another player added to the mix. Dean Arsene is the only "by games" veteran on the defense, which could open the door for a return by Josef Boumedienne, but there has been no word or rumor of that yet.
Grant McNeill is a tough hockey player that will stand up for anyone. But do we want two of our most aggressive players on defense every game? If McNeill gets tossed then we are down a d-man for the remainder of the game, same goes for Arsene.
I expect Alzner to end up in Washington, if not right away than at some point down the road. Lepisto will also see time in Washington this season. So all of these guys will play in Hershey at some point.
Another couple of names to keep in mind would be Viktor Dovgan and Keith Seabrook. There has been no word from or about either of these two. Dovgan was signed by Washington and is currently in Russia while Seabrook was Alzner's teammate last year. Just a couple names to keep in mind.
Chris Bourque, Alexandre Giroux, Kyle Wilson, Jay Beagle, Andrew Gordon, Andrew Joudrey, Steve Pinnizzotto, Francois Bouchard, Mathieu Perrault, Maxime Lacroix, Graham Mink, Keith Aucoin, Oskar Osals, Travis Morin, Quintin Laing, and Eric Fehr.
If the Capitals resign Boyd Gordon, Brooks Laich, Eric Fehr, and Sergei Federov (all of which are likely) than they would have 16 forwards counting them and Laing. That is too many. The roster is limited to 23 players and only 18 skaters and 2 goalies can dress. That would probably mean they would only keep 14 forwards all the time, along with 2 goalies and 7 defensemen.
Which would open the door for a return to Hershey for Fehr and Laing which would give Hershey 15 forwards (not counting Travis Morin). With the AHL going to the same roster size as the NHL that would be plenty to carry all the time with Morin headed back to South Carolina to start the season. Pinnizzotto could also find himself down there, as could Lacroix. I expect Bouchard and Perrault to both easily make the roster.
Also having Laing back would make 4 "games" veterans at forward, Laing, Giroux, Mink, and Aucoin. This is not a problem right now because of only 1 d-man being a vet. Depending on if there are any other signings it could become a problem.
I think this team might be more talented at forward than the Calder Cup team in 05-06. If it isn't than it is very close. These young kids can really play. Gordon is becoming a star, Beagle is a solid two way player, and Morin is showing some potential in the ECHL. Word out of development camp is that Gordon is the fastest player down there. And Osala is not disappointing either with his big size. Hopefully he likes to play in front of the net.
Obviously there are injuries and what not during the season but right now it looks like even with injuries the Bears can have great production and depth at the forward position.
Overall I think the team is going to be really good. The goaltending situation worries me IF they don't keep Machesney in Hershey. On defense I think we need another veteran or two. We still have one veteran spot open for a regular player. And I think the team could add another one after that considering there will be enough depth to sit one or two some games. I would like to see either Boumedienne (I don't think he has signed anywhere yet) or Jonathan Paiment (signed anywhere?) back this season. I thought both we excellent players who helped (attempted) to stabilize the blue line last season.
All in all I see good things this season. A very talented group, it is looking like a fun season.
Next up we will take a look at what kind of line combinations may come this season, just think about it Bourque, Aucoin, and Giroux on the first line!! Incredible!