Jesse Liebman is the director of communications and broadcasting for the Orlando Solar Bears and enters his fifth season behind the microphone as the team’s play-by-play voice for the 2019-20 season. Shoot him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions, comments or blog ideas.
Aside from “Who’s Next” being the title of my favorite album by The Who, it’s also an appropriate question to ask when considering who will be the next Solar Bears player to reach the NHL.
Not everyone’s path to the NHL is the same. While some players may be highly-touted prospects who make the jump straight from the draft to “The Show,” there are dozens who spend years climbing the rungs of the minor league hockey ladder before making it to the NHL.
It’s part of the beauty of the ECHL. Players such as Braden Holtby, Jonathan Quick, David Desharnais, Dan Girardi, Yanni Gourde and spent part of the early years of their career forging ahead and developing, attempting to force open the door that could eventually lead to a shot at the big-time.
In the seven years that the Orlando Solar Bears have played in the ECHL, the organization has produced five individuals who have been able to advance to the sport’s highest level.
There’s a good chance that number increases to at least six this year.
The former Solar Bears player most likely break through into the NHL during the 2019-20 season is probably Mason Marchment, who is entering the final year of a two-year deal he signed in March of 2018 with the Toronto Maple Leafs after originally joining the organization on an American Hockey League contract with the Toronto Marlies. During the 2016-17 season, Marchment was assigned to Orlando, and during his time in the Sunshine State, the then-21-year-old buried 14 goals in 35 games.
Since then, he’s made tremendous strides, playing exclusively in the AHL for the past two seasons and serving as an impact player in Toronto’s Calder Cup title in 2018. And while his numbers may not be as eye-popping as some more heralded prospects and he’s encountered some bumps and bruises along the way, he’s developed a reputation as a “menacing” player on the ice, possessing a sought-after combination of size, skill and sandpaper.
It's impossible for us to predict what will happen to Marchment’s dreams of making the NHL in the coming season, but as Hailey Salvian writes in The Athletic, “he likely won’t be ready to be a full-time Leaf just yet, but with a little more hard work he could be the guy the Leafs love to have on their side.”
There’s also the possibility that we could also see two goalies make their NHL debuts this coming season.
As I discussed in the last edition of the blog, Toronto’s decision to trade Garret Sparks to the Vegas Golden Knights removes a potential barrier for Kasimir Kaskisuo toward making his NHL debut. Last season he received an NHL call-up in early January when Frederik Andersen and Sparks were both out due to injury. Kaskisuo, however, did not make his official debut, as he merely backed up Michael Hutchinson before eventually being sent back to the Toronto Marlies.
Connor Ingram, now a member of the Nashville Predators organization, could also potentially be in the mix to make his NHL debut sometime this season. Like Kaskisuo, he received a call-up to the NHL last season, but served as Louis Domingue’s backup while Andrei Vasilevskiy was hurt, and spent his time in the majors on the bench. Already with an AHL All-Star selection under his belt, an injury to the tandem of Pekka Rinne and/or Juuse Saros could pave the way for Ingram to make his debut with the Predators.
Projecting further down the line, Tampa Bay Lightning prospects Oleg Sosunov and Otto Somppi appeared to have taken a positive step in their careers in June – whether they can make the jump from the AHL to the NHL remains to be seen, but one has to imagine they’ll get a fair shake to at least make the AHL full time in training camp this year.
And let’s not forget Alexey Lipanov, whom the Lightning assigned to Orlando late in the season after his major junior team was knocked out of the playoffs – the teenaged Russian put up four points in four games with the Solar Bears, including his first career goal in his pro debut. He’ll likely return to his junior club for another year, but the future appears bright for the young playmaker.
Berehowsky on Hockey Now!
Coach Berehowsky hopped on the phone yesterday for a radio interview with the crew of FM 96.9 The Game’s Hockey Now! to give his thoughts on the offseason so far; in particular he was able to comment on last week’s addition of new assistant coach Jared Staal to the hockey operations staff, and how the team has managed to retain so many players from last year’s roster.
New Jerseys Coming
The team announced on social media last week that it will be unveiling its new jerseys at World of Beer downtown on Monday, Aug. 26. Since then, I’ve seen some people speculate on the internet that the new design could look like Atlanta’s new threads. Let me state, unequivocally, for the record: that’s not happening.
Once more, for the people in the back:
Magic Schedule Out, Solar Bears Revisions Coming Soon
With the NBA/Orlando Magic schedule coming out on Monday, we’re close to clearing another hurdle in the Solar Bears’ offseason calendar. If you’re not already familiar, this is an annual occurrence that our front office prepares for every summer, leaving our staff to work with the Amway Center, ECHL and all scheduled opponents to find alternative dates that make logistical sense.
Here’s the current Solar Bears games that have conflicts with Magic games and concerts (per the Amway Center event calendar) and will need to be moved:
Friday, Nov. 1 vs. South CarolinaSaturday, Nov. 2 vs. South CarolinaSunday, Nov. 10 vs. JacksonvilleFriday, Nov. 29 vs. South CarolinaTuesday, Dec. 17 vs. Kansas CityFriday, Dec. 27 vs. JacksonvilleFriday, Jan. 3 vs. AtlantaSaturday, Jan. 4 vs. BramptonThursday, Feb. 6 vs. GreenvilleSaturday, Feb. 8 vs. South CarolinaSaturday, March 21 vs. AtlantaFriday, March 27 vs. Florida
For comparison’s sake, last summer we announced 13 home date changes, and had several other changes that occurred once the season started. And once again, unlike last season, we’ve already gone on sale with Opening Night on Oct. 12. If you haven’t already done so, get your tickets now!
Lightning Crease Gets a Bit More Crowded
It seemed like only yesterday the Tampa Bay Lightning were in desperate need of a goalie, and now it appears as if they are flush with puck-stoppers. The Bolts acquired journeyman goalie Mike Condon from the Ottawa Senators a few weeks back, and Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois indicated to TSN that the team is attempting to deal Louis Domingue before the season starts.
At present, Tampa Bay has the following pro-level goalies under contract for the 2019-20 season:
- Andrei Vasilevskiy
- Curtis McElhinney
- Louis Domingue
- Mike Condon
- Spencer Martin
- Scott Wedgewood
- Zach Fucale (AHL contract)
This will be an interesting development over the next several weeks, to say the least.
Sunshine State Girls Hockeyfest Tomorrow
Don't forget: the Sunshine State Girls Hockeyfest is Saturday, Aug. 17 at the RDV Sportsplex Ice Den. In addition to learn-to-play clinics, skills competition, games and BBQ cookout, there is also a girls-only Try Hockey for Free session in the morning, which is a fantastic way for parents to introduce their daughters to the sport.
Dani Rylan, the commissioner of the National Women’s Hockey League and U.S. Olympic silver medalist Julie Chu are both slated to be on hand for the event along with other NWHL players.
For more information, click here.
Elsewhere around the ECHL & hockey world:
- A few ECHL clubs have announced NHL affiliations for the coming season, as the Tulsa Oilers have inked a one-year extension with the defending Stanley Cup champs, the St. Louis Blues, and the Fort Wayne Komets have re-upped with the Vegas Golden Knights. Meanwhile, the Rapid City Rush have brought back a previous affiliate in the form of the Arizona Coyotes.
- Could the ECHL be going French? There’s a possibility that the league may make a foray into the province of Quebec by placing a team in the city of Trois-Rivières (Three Rivers), where a new arena is being built, and at least one party is doing some homework into the logistics of making it work. League commissioner Ryan Crelin recently discussed the subject with Montreal Canadiens blogger Andrew Zadarnowski, but the key takeaway from this piece is that there is currently no ownership or investors in place to establish a team. Only time will tell if the league’s 27th team is placed in “La belle province.”
- I’ve written about Oviedo product and NHLer Ryan Carpenter before on the blog, and how the IHL Solar Bears forged his love of the sport as a child. The Chicago Sun-Times has another good look at the Florida native after he signed with the Blackhawks earlier this summer.
- Former IHL Solar Bears general manager Don Waddell is staying put with the Carolina Hurricanes after signing a new contract. Waddell had interviewed for the vacant GM position with the Minnesota Wild before he committed to a three-year pact to remain in Raleigh.
- There was another ownership change this summer, as the Florida Everblades and Hertz Arena have been sold to the Hoffman family. I’m personally looking forward to seeing the modernized scoreboard that is slated to be installed in the arena; it’ll make it easier to see all of those Solar Bears goals on instant replay in high definition clarity.