The Washington Capitals and Hershey Bears have been busy recently getting Hershey’s roster together for the 2021-22 season which will start on Saturday, October 16 when the Charlotte Checkers visit Giant Center for a 7 p.m. faceoff.
The most recent list of signed returnees totals six players with another five wearing Chocolate and White for the first time.
Heading the return list is Matt Moulson, followed by Kale Kessy, Mason Morelli, Hunter Shepard, Eddie Wittchow, and Lucas Johansen. The newcomers include Cody Franson, Dylan McIlrath, Matt Irwin, Jordan Subban, and Ryan Bednard.
The 37-year old Moulson, veteran of over 1,000 pro games, returns for his third season. He was named the 44th captain in franchise history prior to the 2020-21 campaign, after serving as an alternate captain the previous year.
Moulson appeared in all 33 games for Hershey last season, finishing second on the team in goals (12) and points (24). His six power-play goals tied for the team lead, and he appeared in his 400th AHL game on May 16.
Moulson led the Bears to an AHL North Division title, and Hershey won the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy as the AHL’s regular season champion. In total, he has played in 400 AHL games for Manchester, Ontario, and Hershey, scoring 333 points (154g, 179a).
In the National Hockey League, Moulson has played 650 games with Los Angeles, the New York Islanders, Buffalo, and Minnesota. Moulson scored 30 or more goals in three consecutive seasons with the Islanders (2009-12), and in his NHL career, collected 369 points (173g, 193a). He was a finalist for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy in 2013 and served as an alternate captain for the Buffalo Sabres during the 2014-15 season.
Kale Kessy, 28, played in 21 games with Hershey during the 2020-21 season, registering six points (2g, 4a) and accumulating 115 penalty minutes, the most of any player in the AHL. He served as Hershey’s alternate captain at times and skated in his 200th AHL game in the club’s season opener on Feb. 6 versus Lehigh Valley.
The 6-3, 212-pound winger enters his third season with the Bears. He skated in 24 games with the club in 2019-20, registering 102 penalty minutes and was named Hershey’s IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year for his outstanding contributions to the Hershey community.
Kessy has played in 220 career AHL games with Bakersfield, Cleveland, Colorado, Oklahoma City, Manitoba, and Hershey, tallying 35 points (15g, 20a) and 603 penalty minutes. He was a fourth-round selection of the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2011 NHL Draft.
The 25-year old Mason Morelli skated in 15 games with Hershey during the 2020-21 campaign. He has appeared in 55 career AHL games with Hershey and Stockton, scoring 17 points (7g, 10a) over parts of the past three seasons.
Prior to turning pro, Morelli played four seasons at the University of Nebraska-Omaha where he was captain of the Mavericks his senior year, scoring 34 points (19 goals, 15 assists) in just 36 games and earned National Collegiate Hockey Conference Second Team honors. In 120 career NCAA games, Morelli notched 77 points (37 goals, 40 assists) to go along with 111 penalty minutes.
Hunter Shepard signed his first NHL contract this year. He appeared in three games for Hershey last season, finishing with a 3-0-0 record, a 1.00 goals-against average and a .969 save percentage. He recorded a shutout in his first AHL start, making 28 saves in a 2-0 victory over Lehigh Valley on May 2.
He also played in 21 games with the South Carolina Stingrays, compiling a 12-6-2 record with one shutout, a 2.55 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage. He helped South Carolina advance to the Kelly Cup Finals, registering a 7-6 record in the postseason.
Eddie Wittchow was selected by the Florida Panthers in the sixth round of the 2011 NHL Draft and appeared in 19 games with Hershey during the 2020-21 campaign, registering four points (1g, 3a) and collecting 62 penalty minutes. He joined the Bears ahead of the 2019-20 campaign, appearing in 22 games for the Chocolate and White that season, registering nine points (5g, 4a).
The 6-4, 225-pound defenseman has skated in 138 career AHL games with Hershey and Springfield, notching 32 points (13g, 19a), a plus/minus of +2, and 229 penalty minutes.
Lucas Johansen was limited to just five games with Hershey last season due to injury, collecting a pair of assists. The 6-2, 181-pound blue liner has played in 133 career games with Hershey over the past four seasons, registering 45 points (9g, 36a). He was Hershey’s Rookie of the Year in 2017-18, notching a career-best 27 points (6g, 21a) in 74 games.
Thirty-three year old Cody Franson is a veteran of nearly 900 pro games. He spent the 2020-21 campaign with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs, serving as an alternate captain. Franson has played 221 AHL games with Milwaukee and Rockford.
He has played in 550 National Hockey League games with the Nashville Predators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, and Chicago Blackhawks.
Dylan McIlrath has played 426 AHL games with Connecticut/Hartford, Springfield and Grand Rapids. In 2020-21, with Grand Rapids for the third straight season, he helped lead Grand Rapids to a 2017 Calder Cup title and has played in 66 NHL games with the New York Rangers, Florida Panthers and Detroit Red Wings.
Matt Irwin, 33, appeared in 24 games last season with the Buffalo Sabres. He’s a veteran of 383 NHL games with San Jose, Boston, Nashville, Anaheim, and Buffalo.
Irwin also appeared in 47 NHL playoff games, skating in all 22 of Nashville’s postseason games in 2017, helping the Predators to the Stanley Cup Final.
His 249 AHL games have been with Worcester, Providence, and Milwaukee and he also played in the 2012 AHL All-Star Classic.
Jordan Subban, 26, has played in 232 AHL games with the Utica Comets, Ontario Reign, and Toronto Marlies, scoring 103 points (34g, 69a). He was selected to the 2017 AHL All-Star Classic when he ranked third in the AHL among defensemen in goals (16) and power play goals (10).
He was traded by the Vancouver Canucks to the Los Angeles Kings for current Washington Capitals forward Nic Dowd on Dec. 7, 2017, and then skated alongside Matt Moulson with the Ontario Reign that season. After signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2018, he played 48 games with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies during the 2018-19 season.
Subban was selected in the fourth round of the 2013 NHL Draft by Vancouver. He is the younger brother of Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Malcom Subban, and New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban.
Goaltender Ryan Bednard, 24, appeared in 35 games with the ECHL’s Greenville Swamp Rabbits in the 2020-21 season. Bednard led all ECHL goaltenders in shutouts (4) and earned ECHL Goaltender of the Week honors three times, finishing with a 20-6-8 record, 2.43 goals-against average, and .915 save percentage.
Bednard debuted in the AHL with Springfield on Jan. 17, 2020, with a 4-1 win at Syracuse. Two weeks later, he earned his first AHL shutout on Feb. 1, 2020, versus the Hartford Wolf Pack. In 10 career AHL games with Springfield and Syracuse, he has collected a 5-4-0 record with a 3.13 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage.