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Solar Bears Den: Almost Preseason!

Orlando brings back 2 key members of last year’s squad, and there’s a preseason schedule too!

Fernando Medina/Orlando Solar Bears

Welcome to October!

And welcome to the first edition of the Solar Bears Den! (Yes, I finally came up with a catchy name instead of the usual Weekly Recap bit.)

With about a week to go until training camp officially opens for Orlando, the team has stayed busy, adding four more skaters and a returning goaltender to the roster:

-Forward Conor Landrigan was signed to a standard contract and will be starting his first full pro season next month. The Pennsylvania native made his pro debut last spring in Tulsa, appearing in ten games with a goal and two assists for the Oilers. Before turning pro, he spent four seasons with NCAA Division III Utica College, where he had 24 points (9 goals, 15 assists) in just 10 games in his senior campaign, good for fourth in the nation. While with Utica, he was named the UCHC’s Player of the Year twice, was named First Team All-Conference twice, and won Rookie of the Year honors in the 2017-18 season, leading the Pioneers to the UCHC postseason title.

Most importantly, he has a very good boy.

-Orlando added a veteran presence to the mix in signing forward Nick Bligh. The Boston native will be returning to the ice after sitting out the 2020-21 season. He last skated in 2019-20 for Atlanta, appearing in 30 games with 8 goals and 7 assists for the Gladiators. He also has ECHL experience with South Carolina, Adirondack, Indy, Wichita, Quad City, and Worcester. Bligh also has one AHL game on his resume—an appearance with Syracuse late in the 2018-19 season where he went scoreless with 2 penalty minutes. Before turning pro, he played collegiately at Dartmouth.

-Another former Solar Bear has returned to the fold, as the team signed defenseman Michael Brodzinski. The Minnesota native spent last season overseas in Slovakia, appearing in 21 games for Bratislava Slovan with 3 goals and 6 assists. A 5th round draft pick by San Jose in 2013, he played two full seasons for Orlando in 2018-19 and 2019-20 and had been slated to return to the team last season before going to Europe. He also has 61 games of AHL experience, all with the San Jose Barracuda.

-Finally, two key members of last season’s Solar Bears squad have returned:

Goaltender Clint Windsor was signed to an ECHL contract after playing the last two seasons under an AHL deal with Syracuse. He appeared in 45 games for Orlando in 2020-21, posting a 23-17-3 record with a 2.78 GAA and .914 save percentage. The 27-year-old lead the ECHL in games played, saves, and tied for the league lead in wins while winning the league’s Goaltender of the Week honors four times. Windsor’s 42 career Orlando wins are first in franchise history.

The team has also brought back the reigning ECHL scoring champion, re-signing forward Aaron Luchuk to a standard contract. The Ontario native joined the Solar Bears before the start of the 2020-21 season and proceeded to lead all ECHL skaters in scoring with 28 goals and 46 assists while appearing in all 72 games for Orlando. His 46 assists and 74 points set Orlando single-season franchise records. He finished fourth in ECHL MVP voting and earned a spot on the all-ECHL First Team, and also won the league’s Sportsmanship Award.

Luchuk, along with defenseman Kevin Lohan, were invited to Syracuse’s training camp, which kicked off this week.

Orlando now has a total of 16 players—10 forwards, 5 defensemen, and 1 goaltender—under contract.

ECHL Releases Preseason Schedule

Back on September 21st, the ECHL released the full 2021-22 preseason schedule. Included in that slate is a pair of games for the Solar Bears: the team will play a two-game road set against Florida. They will head south to Estero on Friday, October 15th, and Saturday, October 16th.