Hershey Bears season preview

By Courtney Wagner






In 1938

A fixture in the American
Hockey League for 61 seasons, the Hershey Bears are entering a new affiliation with the Washington Capitals — they were previously affiliated with
the Colorado Avalanche. After finishing a disappointing fifth in the East
Division in 2004-05, the Bears will be looking to improve on that and make an
appearance in the postseason.

Offense

Although the team will be without
their top two scorers from last season in Colin Forbes and Jason Ulmer, they
will have some added talent that could produce even bigger numbers. Eric Fehr
joins Hershey this year, coming from the WHL where he was the leading scorer
with 111 points and his 59 goals also led the league. For his efforts he was
named to the East first all-star team and was the recipient of the Four Broncos
Memorial Trophy for WHL MVP. Fehr brings tremendous offensive upside, combined
with toughness, to the Bears.

Another addition that could give an offensive
boost to the team is Chris Bourque, son of NHL Hall of Famer Ray Bourque.
The younger Bourque had an impressive freshman season with the Boston University
Terriers, but will don a Bears jersey this season.

Miroslav Zalesak joins the
team this season after playing in Europe during the lockout. This former AHL
all-star had 17 goals and 37 points while playing for Litvinov in the Czech
league and Skalica in the Slovak league last season. Returning to the fold will be Graham
Mink and Brooks Laich, who were tied for third in scoring with the Pirates last
season.

Defense

On defense the Bears have skill and
experience. Lawrence Nycholat, a 2005 all-star with the Hartford Wolf Pack, had
43 points in 79 games last season. Mike Green, a first round pick in 2004, joins
the team after scoring 14 goals and assisting on 52 while with the Saskatoon
Blades of the WHL in 2004-05. Those numbers were best of any defenseman in the
league and 19th best for any player and his +36 rating was fourth best in the WHL.


The Bears
will also have Jakub Cutta, Mark Wotton and Dwayne Zinger in the mix, all of
whom bring AHL experience.

Goaltending

Frederic Cassivi
joins the Bears, coming off the best season of his
career with Cincinnati where he had a league leading 10 shutouts, a 2.07 goals
against average, a .924
save percentage, and 25 wins. The Bears will also have Kirk Daubenspeck, who split time between South Carolina and Portland
last year, between the pipes. He had six shutouts and 26 wins in 2004-05.

Maxime Daigneault will begin the season with
the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL, where he spent most of last season, recording 21 wins and one shutout.

Outlook

After a
disappointing season last year with no playoff appearance, the Hershey Bears
have a good mix of youthful talent and seasoned veterans. The have some new
players that have the ability to put the puck in the net on a regular basis and
have experienced and skilled defenseman that can chip in when needed. With a
solid tender in net, coming off a strong season, they have all of the pieces to
make a run at the playoffs.

Coming
off a perfect preseason with three wins in three tries, the Bears open the
2005-06 regular season on the road this Saturday at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Their
home opener is on Saturday against the Penguins.




Copyright
2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without
permission of the editorial staff.