The changes continued for the Solar Bears at practice earlier this week, as the training camp roster has continued to swell with the additions of nearly a dozen players arriving from American Hockey League training camps. While the Tampa Bay Lightning assigned former third-round defensive pick Dmitry Semykin to Orlando to begin the year with the Solar Bears, and Aaron Luchuk and Kevin Lohan have returned from their invites to Syracuse, the Solar Bears received a huge injection from another source.
In addition to their affiliation with the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Solar Bears have also developed a beneficial relationship with the San Jose Sharks and their AHL affiliate, the San Jose Barracuda, first collaborating together during the 2018-19 season.
During last year’s campaign, the Solar Bears received several players midway through the season from San Jose, including Joseph Garreffa, who eventually went on to be named to the ECHL’s All-Rookie Team by season’s end, becoming the first Solar Bears player to do so.
Garreffa was among the contingent assigned to Orlando earlier this week, that included fellow forwards Kyle Topping, Kryštof Hrabík, Steenn Pasnichuk and Jake McGrew, defensemen Montana Onyebuchi and Cole Moberg and goaltender Zachary Émond.
Before a long day of travel across multiple time zones to Orlando, the development staff in San Jose outlined the expectations for the second-year pro.
“One big thing for me is to get to the net - I’m a guy who can play on the perimeter and make plays like that, but definitely getting to the inside ice and getting to the dirty areas where you score goals - you see a guy like Luchuk; he’s always at the net.”
Garreffa, along with Topping and Hrabík, is no stranger to the Solar Bears organization, and likes what the incoming group of San Jose players bring to the table. He doesn’t see their addition creating friction, but rather allowing the group to establish cohesion quicker.
“I think with more guys coming from San Jose, they’re already familiar with each other, so it makes the transition a little more seamless,” Garreffa said. “With the guys here, they’re great guys too, so I think we’ll jell and we’ll use each other’s attributes on the ice.”
Garreffa’s sentiment was echoed by Moberg, a 6-foot-3, right-shot defenseman.
“Coming down with seven other guys, it makes it easier to come into the room and meet new guys when you obviously know a few, but once we got on the ice, it was really good,” Moberg said. “Everyone’s been welcoming since we got here.”
For Moberg, a former Chicago Blackhawks draft pick in 2019 who played last season in the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs and will maintain his rookie status this year after only playing in 22 games, the blueliner is looking to take the next step in his development.
“I want to be a lock-down defenseman with a little bit of an offensive side to it. Last year I didn’t put up the points I would have liked, but obviously in your first year of pro it takes time to adjust to everything, but this year I look forward to bringing more offensive ability here in Orlando.”