HERSHEY, PA – Defenseman Cameron Schilling is returning to where his professional career began this season after signing a one-year, two-way contract with the Washington Capitals.
Likely ticketed to Hershey, Schilling will return after five seasons with three different clubs and bring a steady, veteran presence on the blue line in a big role with the Chocolate and White. Schilling is a much different defender than when he departed Hershey following the 2014-15 season, and his signing is huge for the Bears.
The blue liner increased his point production to at least 20 per season since his departure from Hershey, including a career-high 32 points (six goals, 26 assists) and a plus-25 rating during the 2017-18 season. That season, Schilling was teamed up with current Hershey forward Mike Sgarbossa along with several other key performances to push the Moose to a third-place finish in the competitive Central Division. Manitoba was swept in the second round of the playoffs by the Rockford IceHogs, but Schilling had four points (two goals, two assists) in nine playoff games, including a game-winning goal.
A little familiarity in the organization goes a long way, as Schilling will look to be a key contributor for points among a Hershey defensive group that already boasts talent in that regard. The Bears saw the offensively gifted blue liner Aaron Ness depart after the 2018-19 season, and even after losing Christian Djoos this past season at the trade deadline, the Chocolate and White boast Bobby Nardella, who was one goal shy of matching Djoos in terms of production for the season at 31 points (four goals, 27 assists).
Nardella is joined by Alex Alexeyev (21 points) and Martin Fehervary (14 points) as well as Eddie Wittchow (nine points, including five goals), all of whom found significant contributions from the blue line. Schilling has scored at least one power play goal in each of the past five seasons and instantly gives the team another key player for that unit. Having a defender like Schilling who can really excel offensively with a good team like the Bears are projected to be this season makes his addition all the more impressive.
Schilling will return as a veteran leader of the team’s blue line, too. He wore the alternate captain’s letter on his jersey for the past two seasons in Manitoba and was a consistent presence on a team that had a varying degree of experience. Hershey has plenty of leaders on its roster (including Matt Moulson and Sgarbossa), but it shouldn’t be a shock to Bears fans if Schilling wears a letter this season.
Although Hershey has a number of skilled defenders, experience is at a bit of a premium coming off of a year where the Bears had three rookies as key components of the defensive corps. Schilling’s experience and leadership quickly fills a void in that regard, and it’s an excellent fit for Hershey’s group. He brings a combination of size and speed that’s an excellent fit for the group as well, as the Bears boast a number of sizeable and smaller skill players on that blue line, which will be exciting to watch.
Random side note: Schilling skated in his 500th career AHL game back on November 3, 2019.
Signing Schilling is a move that carries so much weight and is a deceptively good acquisition. Although seasoned Bears fans are no doubt familiar with him after three years in Chocolatetown early on in his career, it’s fair to say that the player joining the team is very different and much more experienced after five seasons away. The Bears always welcome home a familiar face, and there’s no question Schilling is back where he belongs in Hershey this season.
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