Orlando Solar Bears fans woke up to a pleasant surprise on Monday morning for the first day of training camp. The Syracuse Crunch of the AHL assigned four players to the ECHL in time for the start of camp. This mix includes two faces that are very familiar to Solar Bears fans.
The first of those familiar faces belongs to Clint Windsor, a 27-year-old goaltender. In 38 appearances with the Solar Bears over the course of the past two seasons, Windsor is 19-14-3 with a .926 save percentage and a GAA of 2.46. The backstop previously played in the OUA with the Brock Badgers men’s hockey team. He also played major junior with a number of teams in the Ontario Hockey League.
This includes the Mississauga Steelheads, Ottawa 67’s, Saginaw Spirit and Barrie Colts. On March 26th, Windsor signed a two-year contract in the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch. That started at the end of last season and is set to take him through 2020-21. There is no doubt that fans of the Solar Bears are thrilled to see Windsor back between the pipes for Orlando.
Also returning to hockey club is 22-year-old forward Peter Abbandonato. Abbandonato spent some time last between the Syracuse Crunch and Orlando Solar Bears. Between the two, he tallied nine goals along with 16 assists which made for 25 points. While also compiling 10 penalty minutes, he did so in 42 games.
Prior to making the jump pro, Abbandonato played junior hockey with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the QMJHL. Between 2016 and 2019, the centreman won two President’s Cups while also securing the Memorial Cup. The left-handed shooter’s best season was as an overage player in 2018-19.
It was then the Laval, QC native posted 111 points to lead the league in scoring. As well, he received the Frank J. Selke Trophy, having been acknowledged as the league’s most sportsmanlike player. The Solar Bears will gladly add Abbandonato’s scoring touch that looks set to exceed the struggling offence of the season prior.
Nikita Pavlychev signs on with the Solar Bears after spending four years with the Penn State Nittany Lions. In 137 collegiate games, Pavlychev scored 36 goals along with 34 assists which made for 70 points. He also added 183 penalty minutes. Pavlychev gives Zdeno Chara a run for his money, standing at an imposing 6’7 and 225 pounds.
He’s a native of Yaroslavl, Russia, and was originally selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins. He was chosen in the seventh round (197th overall) back in 2015. Pavlychev should provide the team with a huge net front presence, especially on the power play, an area in which Orlando lacked in 2019-20.
Finally, defensemen Devante Stephens will begin his fourth season of professional hockey with the Orlando Solar Bears. Last season, the lefty split time between the Syracuse Crunch and the Cincinnati Cyclones. This happened when he was traded from the Buffalo Sabres to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
In the AHL, he’s played 45 games between the Syracuse Crunch and the Rochester Americans. He’s also played 105 games in the ECHL which he did with the Cyclones. In the AHL, he’s tallied eight assists while also adding on 24 penalty minutes. In the ECHL, he’s racked up eight goals along with 26 assists while adding 94 penalty minutes.
Prior to making the jump pro, Stephens played three years of major junior with the Kelowna Rockets in the WHL. In 2014-15, he was apart of their championship season. With the loss of Michael Brodzinski, the Solar Bears fill a vacant void by adding the White Rock, B.C. native to the fold.
Things are certainly getting exciting for the Solar Bears, as they look to start off quickly in 2020-21. Bringing back familiar faces along with rookies like Pavlychev and Devante Stephens should give the Orlando faithful plenty of reason for excitement as camps kick off ahead of puck drop.