The Hershey Bears showed once again why they contend every year. Bears’ General Manager, Doug Yingst loaded up on AHL talent, signing five key players for the 2012-2013 season. Hershey signed forwards Jeff Taffe, Jon DiSalvatore, Alex Berry and Mathieu Beaudoin. In addition to the four new Bears’ forwards, Hershey signed defenseman Steve Oleksy. All players signed one year contracts for the 2012-2013 campaign.
Jeff Taffe joins Hershey to continue his illustrious AHL career. He has totaled 429 points in 533 career AHL games with Springfield, Utah, Hartford, San Antonio, Wilkes-Barre Scranton, Rochester, Rockford and Houston. The 31 year old center also has NHL experience, compiling 46 points in 180 games with numerous teams including the Phoenix Coyotes, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Florida Panthers, Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild.
Taffe played last season with the Houston Aeros, posting 18 goals and 35 assists in 70 games. Taffe could earn a role on the second line next year in Hershey, including time on the power play.
Jon DiSalvatore joins Hershey following three years with the Houston Aeros alongside new Bears’ teammate, Jeff Taffe. The 31 year old forward posted 61 point seasons while in Houston the last two years. DiSalvatore will bring great leadership to Hershey alongside Bears’ captain Boyd Kane, following three years as the Aeros’ captain in Houston. DiSalvatore could earn time on Hershey’s first line alongside Ryan Potulny at center and Boyd Kane positioned at left wing.
Alex Berry joins the Bears’ following a season ending injury during training camp with Portland. He played for the Norfolk Admirals during the 2010-2011 season, registering 14 goals and 20 assists in 75 games. Berry could earn a spot on the second line with the Bears’ this upcoming season, but is more likely to begin the 2012-2013 campaign on the third line following his return to hockey following injury.
Following the signings of these three forwards, Hershey was not done. Doug Yingst inked forward, Mathieu Beaudoin to an AHL contract for the 2012-2013 season. Beaudoin returns to Hershey following time outside the organization with Rochester, Iowa, San Antonio, Milwaukee, Houston, Texas and Portland. The 28 year old forward played for the Bears’ during the 2007-2008 season while on a tryout agreement.
Beaudoin is one of the shorter forwards listed at 5-11 and 190 pounds, but has proven his ability at the AHL level. In 237 American Hockey League games, Beaudoin has compiled 56 goals and 81 assists. Beaudoin projects as a player who will earn some time on the Hershey power play, along with playing on the second line.
The Bears’ also picked up another right handed shot to go along with prospect, Tomas Kundratek signing 26 year old defenseman Steve Olesky. He figures to earn time on the third defensive pairing possibly with Julien Brouillette. Olesky posted 15 points in 50 games for the New York Islanders AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
Hershey has a few remaining free agents left that could return, but there are few roster spots available. Sean Collins, Graham Mink and Joel Rechlicz are among the potential returnees. Capitals’ center, Zach Hamill is currently a restricted free agent and by all accounts will play the 2012-2013 season in Hershey.