Bears' Depth Put to the Test

With Claude Giroux and Brandon Dubinsky on the LTIR, Acadia's much-hyped depth will be on display for the next two months.
by Marcel Cormier | February 9, 2016, 5:21 PM ET

"People have said that we have the most depth in the SICHL, I guess we'll find out if they're right or not."

That was Acadia Golden Bears head coach Dave Hakstol at this morning's media availability, a night after his team defeated the Brandon Wheat Kings but lost forward Brandon Dubinsky to a a wrist injury. That blow to the team came on the heels of the loss of Claude Giroux three games prior against Las Vegas.

Both injuries were sustained on fluke plays; Giroux bumped by Bryan Little while Dubinsky was rubbed out by Marc-Edouard Vlasic - players not known for their physical prowess.

The Bears have made two moves to address the holes in the roster, the first was to recall forward Scott Laughton from the Villains. The team's 18th overall pick in 2012, Laughton collected a pair of assists in his first two SICHL contests. With Dubinsky going down Acadia recalled Adam Lowry who has appeared in 33 SICHL games already this year recording 10 points mostly playing fourth line duty.

"You know what? 'Laughts' has come in and played really well for us," said Hakstol, "You wonder if he can keep it up for two months or how much of that is adrenaline. Adam coming back in was a no-brainer since he'd been up with us for most of the season already and we know what to expect from him."

The question is whether the Bears, currently in 1st place, can stay there with two of their three top scorers out long term.

"It's a fair question but the cliché is true; injuries are a part of the game and it's an opportunity for someone else to step up and take hold of their chance in the spotlight," said GM Guy Flaming. "I still look at the guys in the room and I know they can weather the storm."

Ryan O'Reilly moved up to center the top line, Sean Couturier slid up to fill that void on the second line while Laughton drew in between Dustin Byfuglien and Troy Brouwer on the third unit. Winger Reilly Smith will move up to take Dubinsky's spot and Lowry gets back into the line up on the 4th line with Craig Adams and Jay McClement.

Acadia squares off against Montréal tonight then has a couple of days off to catch their breath after completing a 3-in-3 stretch.

Crowded Blueline

It's easy to forecast that Acadia will have an overcrowded blueline next year as several of the club's prospects are expected to force their way onto the SICHL roster out of camp. Of the current group, only Bryce Salvador is guaranteed to not be retuning as the veteran has already informed the Bears of his impending retirement.  Brooks Orpik, Jeff Petry and Jacob Trouba are already signed for 2016-17, Jared Spurgeon and Justin Braun certainly deserve new contracts and everyone believes that Dustin Byfuglien will be retained as the team's Franchise Player. That's already a championship caliber top-6 defensive corps as it is.

Pushing the issue next fall will be Rasmus Ristolainen (1st round in 2011), Brayden McNabb (3rd round in 2009),  Mark Pysyk (1st round in 2010), Joel Edmundson (2nd round in 2011), Colton Parayko (3rd round 2012), Shayne Gostisbehere (3rd round in 2012) and Joe Morrow (1st round 2011).

That's as many as 13 SICHL level players for 7 spots. It's a good problem to have but it is a problem. Bears GM Guy Flaming knows he can deal with it in a couple of different ways. 

"Our vets will be pushed by our rookies, no question about it and some of the older guys could lose their spots," said Flaming. "We don't have to deal with it until next season and even then we know that there will be trade options available to us or, in a worst case scenario, many of those players will still be on entry level deals so we have the luxury of being able to send them back down for more development. It's not my preference because I think we can all reasonably expect a guy like Ristolainen to be in our top 4 if not on our top pairing next year."

The Bears have given the rest of the league a shortlist of names that they would be willing to deal this year but aren't feeling pressured to make a trae just for the sake of making one.

"Any trade we make will be a hockey trade and in the best interest of our team," said Flaming, "Just becuase we have depth at a position doesn't mean the value of players suddenly drops, that would be ludicrous for anyone to expect that it would."

Bear Tracks

  • Acadia currently has 6 of the top 20 rookies in AHL scoring. Mikko Rantanen (1st), Brandon Montour (5th), Riley Barber (6th), Michael McCarron (9th), Devin Shore (17th), Vince Hinostroza (19th). 
  • Former Edmonton Oil Kings Goalie Tristan Jarry has 15 games under his belt and holds a 2.04 GAA and .928 sv%.
  • Other goalies of note include Anthony Stolarz and Eric Comrie, both of whom played in the AHL All-Star game last month.
  • 2013 6th round pick Tyler Motte is having a career season with the Michigan Wolverines. The forward is currently 5th in college scoring with a NCAA high 25 goals and 39 points in 25 games.
  • Freshman Brock Boeser, 28th overall in the 2015 SICHL draft, is still shooting out the lights for North Dakota. 18-13-31 points in just 26 games for the Fighting Hawks.
  • Forward Giorgio Estephan, a 4th round pick in 2015, has been sidelined for 6-8 weeks with an ankle injury. He's currently 11th in WHL scoring with 27-36-63 in 51 games.
  • Defenceman Ethan Bear is 4th in WHL scoring among blueliners. The Seattle Thunderbird has 48 points in 53 contests.




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