The Washington Capitals have placed an emphasis on defense, signing both Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik. The Hershey Bears have done the same. Not just because the Capitals and Bears will be working in tandem with each other, but also because they will have quite a bit of depth on their blue line. Head coach Troy Mann could have a difficult time finding playing time for everybody.
If the season started today, the Bears would have the following defensemen to choose from:
This does not include Nate Schmidt, who will probably be joining the Washington Capitals to replace Dmitry Orlov while he recovers from a broken wrist. Nor does it include Michal Cajkovsky, who excelled with the Reading Royals last season and could push for a roster spot with the Hershey Bears this season. It also currently does not include Cameron Schilling, who is currently an RFA, but the Capitals are expected to work something out to keep him. If Schmidt returns to the Hershey Bears once Orlov is healthy, the Bears blue-line could become quite crowded.
So how can Troy Mann solve this? Well, first of all, he will probably consult with Barry Trotz about how much playing time each player should get. My guess would be Trotz would like for Carrick and possibly Wey to be members of one of the top two pairings so that they can get playing time and further develop their game. I think that Wey and Djoos would be a good second or third pairing. I could see Moore or Landry and Carrick being paired together. Carrick is rather inexperienced, so I think he would definitely benefit from having an experienced partner like Moore or Landry. Once Schmidt comes back, Carrick and Schmidt might be a pairing.
I think that Kundratek will probably see quite a bit of playing time because the Capitals and Hershey Bears would both benefit from seeing what they have in him. He missed almost all of last season with a torn ACL and he is an RFA after next season, so the organization has to make a decision about Kundratek sooner rather than later. Haar/Moore/Landry/Schilling and Kundratek would make sense as a pairing.
If Cajkovsky is going to struggle to find playing time with the Hershey Bears, I’d rather see him get more playing time with the South Carolina Stingrays. The Stingrays would definitely benefit from having a veteran like Cajkovsky, and throwing him into the already crowded Hershey Bears blue-line would further complicate things.
Troy Mann’s job is going to be tough trying to get so many players playing time. I certainly don’t envy him. I look forward to seeing how he manages the surprising blue-line depth of the Hershey Bears.