ORLANDO, Fla. – With September approaching, the Orlando Solar Bears continue to tease offseason signings and have announced their assistant coach. This week, the Solar Bears announced the signing of Austin McEneny (whom they acquired in a trade with the Brampton Beast on August 19). In addition to this, Jackson Playfair and Mathieu Foget will be returning to Orlando this season, alongside Chris LeBlanc, Tayler Thompson, and Alex Schoenborn.
McEneny brings a defensive core to the Solar Bears. With 43 games, 14 points (3G+11A), and 21 penalty minutes, he has proven his worth on both sides of the puck. When questioned on his thoughts of the 22-year-old defenseman’s signing, Head Coach Drake Berehowsky stated on the team’s website:
“(Austin) is a smart, puck-moving defenseman who has the potential to take a major step forward in his development. we’re excited to have acquired him.”
Returning from last season, Playfair came to Orlando on February 15 from Dalhousie University (USports). His impact on the team was instantaneous, recording 10 points (5G+5A) and eight penalty minutes, helping the Solar Bears to a 9-3-2-0 record with his presence on the ice. Berehowsky noticed the young forward’s potential as an asset to his team, and thus made the decision to re-sign him for another season.
With the announcement that Foget is once again donning a Solar Bears jersey, the team begins to fill one of the final holes for Orlando. Stocking up on defensemen and adept physical two-way forwards, the team has needed to look to some nimble offensive puck-handlers. Foget brings that. Last year as a rookie, he amassed 48 points, and was on fire while turning the tables on the penalty kill, tallying a club record four shorthanded goals.
Thompson and LeBlanc come back back to Orlando for a third straight season. Last season, Thompson tallied 20 points (7G+13A) and gained 80 penalty minutes. When questioned on how he felt returning to the Solar Bears lineup for a third year, Thompson stated:
“I’m very excited to be coming back (to Orlando)…I can’t wait for training camp to start.”
UPDATE: On August 25, Thompson signed with Pirati Chomutov of the Czech2 league, playing there until “at least the end of October.” With that said, Thompson should still be playing in Orlando for the 2019-20 season.
LeBlanc has also shown to be a very valuable asset to the Solar Bears’ lineup. With 39 points (10G+29A) and 32 penalty minutes, LeBlanc is leader on the ice, and will continue to climb the Solar Bears all-time record table of most games played (sitting currently at seventh) as he sets foot into the 2019-20 season.
Another returning player, Schoenborn gave light to Orlando’s offensive line last season, and hopefully will continue to do so in the 2019-20 season. Schoenborn came to Orlando from the NHL’s San Jose Sharks, acquiring 26 points (10G+16A) and 85 penalty minutes in 47 games played with the Solar Bears last season. When questioned on his thoughts of returning to Orlando, Schoenborn stated:
“I had a great experience playing (for Orlando) last season…I can’t wait for the season to start and help the organization on its path to its first Kelly Cup.”
STAAL BROTHER JOINS ORLANDO COACHING STAFF
Some other huge Solar Bears news is the announcement of NHL/AHL veteran Jared Staal as their new assistant coach. Staal has two games experience with the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, as well as 232 AHL games with the Charlotte Checkers and Providence Bruins. He also played 97 ECHL games with the Florida Everblades and South Carolina Stingrays, two of Orlando’s biggest division rivals. Staal presented a great amount of enthusiasm for acquiring the role, stating:
“I am looking forward to working with (Berehowsky) and can’t wait for the season to begin.”
Follow Chad on Twitter (@SinBinSolarBear) for all your latest Orlando Solar Bears news and analysis. Don’t forget to follow every ECHL team’s offseason roster movements on our ECHL Transactions page, as well!