When training camp for the Orlando Solar Bears opened this weekend, the roster contained six players under ECHL contract who will qualify as rookies for the 2021-22 season, meaning they have less than 25 games of professional experience in qualifying leagues prior to the start of the campaign.
For three Solar Bears rookies, those conditions allow them to maintain their freshman status for what will hopefully be their first full season of ECHL competition with Orlando, despite already getting into some professional action last season.
In the case of Zach Remers, a full year of playing for Kalmar in Sweden’s HockeyEttan in 2020-21 did not even count towards the 25-game benchmark. But that does not mean the competition was not fierce, and Remers is confident that the larger European ice surface will aid him in his quest to lock down a spot on the roster.
“Everything is about possession, kind of like three-on-three overtime in the NHL,” Remers said. “It was a good experience, and a good first year.”
Remers did not have to travel as far as Sweden to join his current team. After growing up in Colorado and Buffalo, New York in his youth, the 25-year-old has called Tampa home for the last several years. Should Remers succeed in his attempt, he likely will see some familiar faces in the stands at Amway Center when he takes the ice.
“I’ve got some friends who go to UCF, so they always talk about the Solar Bears, and it’s kind of a dream to come and play here, and have the opportunity, it’s definitely special for me and my family.”
Keane looking to forge his own path
The name Keane carries some weight in hockey circles, as Jackson Keane’s father Mike played over 1,000 games in the NHL and won three Stanley Cups. But the younger Keane is carving out his own pro career.
“Obviously hockey was a big part of our gamily growing up, I didn’t really know anything different, but that’s kind of the way I like it. He had a great career, and I think it’s time for me to build my own way, and build my game and get my career going here.”
Instead of playing major junior in the Western Hockey League like his father, Jackson opted instead to go the collegiate route, where he played three seasons at the University of North Dakota before turning pro in a nine-game stint with the Wheeling Nailers at the tail-end of the 2020-21 season.
Former Solar Bears forward Trevor Olson, himself a U.N.D. alumnus, helped connect Keane with the coaching staff this summer, and Keane credits his initial taste of pro hockey with preparing him for his first professional training camp.
“Getting to see the league and getting my feet wet in Wheeling was nice to see what it’s all about, and see where I fit,” Keane said. “For me, I think just building on that experience, trying to be better everyday and help this team win.”
So what’s his focus now?
“Get noticed, be consistent, be somebody that [the coaches] can rely on. Just playing my game, and try to do something different to stand out and find my role here.”
Landrigan hoping to land in Orlando
Like Keane, Conor Landrigan got his first taste of ECHL action last spring after his college career ended. The former Division III star for the Utica College Pioneers joined the Tulsa Oilers and scored a power-play goal in his first pro game.
“I’m just really trying to make an impact every time I’m out there, be aggressive and be offensive and try to make something happen while I’m on the ice.”
The forward is using these first few days of camp to reinforce the routines that he feels will lead to success.
“As of right now, it’s really just trying to get the compete up, I think. Coming out of the offseason you’re not doing a lot of physical stuff like that, so it’s really getting back those habits of competing hard, being physical and doing the right things.”