HERSHEY, Pa. – One of the biggest crimes of the 2019-20 AHL season being cancelled as abruptly and unceremoniously as it was is that the contributions of Brian Pinho for the Hershey Bears didn’t get as much recognition as they likely would have. Assuming the summer of 2020 proceeds by and large like a normal offseason would, Pinho will become a restricted free agent and need a new contract. Much like Shane Gersich, Pinho is coming off of a one-year deal signed last summer after the completion of his entry-level deal.
Pinho had a very remarkable season in 2019-20, perhaps one of the best year-to-year improvements in recent memory by a Hershey player from his rookie season to his sophomore campaign. Prior to the league pausing play, Pinho had just tallied his 20th goal of the season and had nine points (six goals, three assists) in his last nine games. finishing with 37 points (20 goals, 17 assists) in 62 games played. He also did not miss a single game for the Bears this year. In contrast, his rookie season saw him tally just four goals and eight assists in 73 games played, more than tripling his output with 11 games left on the calendar.
Pinho finishes the season fourth among Hershey skaters in points and second only to Matt Moulson in goals for the Bears. Three of Pinho’s goals in 2019-20 came shorthanded, and four of his tallies were game winners. Pinho had a very important goal last spring when his overtime goal earned the Bears a decisive Game Five win over Bridgeport in the first round of the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs. He then rolled the momentum over to an impressive training camp with Washington prior to this season. Pinho easily would have been a candidate for some of Hershey’s team awards had the season ended as it was intended.
Watch this highlight reel move from Brian Pinho shorthanded to tie him for the team lead in goals with 13, and gives the Bears their first lead of the night! pic.twitter.com/ER8DCDXpoZ
— Bears Hockey Nation (@HBHNationBlog) January 25, 2020
Truly, extending Pinho seems like a no-brainer at this point. The big question for 2020-21 will be if the forward can repeat his performance in his junior AHL season. 17 of Pinho’s goals came at even strength, and that kind of scoring was such a huge part of Hershey’s success in 2019-20.
Pinho’s improvement in scoring comes in addition to what was already solid two-way play he established in his rookie season, being trusted with the penalty kill and a plus-16 rating with just 14 penalty minutes over that time. The numbers definitely agree that it’s hard to find a downside to Pinho’s game in 2019-20.
Although Pinho has not yet suited up for a regular season game with Washington, it’s becoming increasingly harder to deny that he’s making perhaps the strongest case for time in the NHL when the opportunity arises. Not too many Hershey skaters got the chance to skate with Washington, as a packed roster combined with relatively few injuries did not necessitate a lot of call-ups this season. But, should Pinho extend his services next season, it should not be surprising for him to be high on the list for that opportunity.
It’s hard to argue that there is a player as integral to Hershey’s success as Pinho was in 2019-20, and the Caps would do well to sign him swiftly for 2020-21.
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