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Hershey Bears

Bears’ Frank Making Waves Across AHL

#AHL | There are many reasons for the strong start to the season for @TheHersheyBears, and rookie Ethen Frank is among them. @FPHBears tells us why.

Ethen Frank doing Ethen Frank things. Photo Credit: Carl Minieri, Field Pass Hockey

Bears’ Frank Making Waves Across AHL

HERSHEY, Pa. – The Hershey Bears have an interesting mixture of veteran experience and youth in their lineup, a blend that’s contributed in a major way towards the team’s success in 2022-23, with every player pulling on the rope. Although it’s been a total team effort, one player who has been attracting attention is rookie sniper Ethen Frank, whose scoring prowess has become an integral part of the team and is starting to get attention across the American Hockey League and hopefully beyond. Frank is the latest highly decorated NCAA player to thrive with the Bears as Hershey’s management, led by former Calder Cup winner Bryan Helmer has done an excellent job finding the AHL’s next stars.

Frank joined the Bears at the end of the 2021-22 season after completing his collegiate career with Western Michigan University as the NCAA’s leading scorer with 26 goals and 13 assists for 39 points in 38 games played. He had a near-immediate impact upon signing with the Chocolate and White, striking for a power play goal in his second game, but injury kept him out of the lineup for Hershey’s short stint in the postseason. Now, fully healthy and playing regular minutes, Frank has seized the opportunity to elevate his game and become an elite scorer at this level. He’s been on fire of late, tallying seven points in his last five games with five goals in that span for a Bears team that tends to rely on strong defense to win games.

“He’s a good skater, he’s got a great shot,” Bears head coach Todd Nelson said of Frank after Hershey’s last game. “He’s a fast skater. I think the biggest thing with him is that he’s gifted offensively, he has the speed to get back if the puck gets turned over, but I think the biggest thing with Ethen is like a lot of players in the American Hockey League is that they have to develop consistency night-in and night-out. If you want to play in the next level, you have to be playing at a high standard of play every game, and that’s why guys are here in the American Hockey League to learn that process and to make themselves better.”

Nelson is a coach who is always seeking to improve his club, but it’s hard to argue with the results that Frank has produced so far. His two-goal game on December 31 saw him score a couple of atypical goals compared to recent time, but when a player is hot, the puck seems to find him, and he has the instincts to take advantage when that happens. Frank’s first goal was Hershey’s fastest of the season as he was able to find a loose puck under the Providence goaltender, and the second was a similar case as Mike Sgarbossa’s pass was deflected and seemingly floated right to Frank’s tape on the back door for an important goal to cut Hershey’s deficit to one.

By far, Frank’s forte has been on the power play in the Alex Ovechkin role on Hershey’s power play, where he has blasted away for five goals on the man advantage including a game-winner back before the holiday break. His speed on the rush has been one of his other most noticeable traits, as he’s been able to win races to the puck and establish possession in the offensive zone. As Nelson mentioned, his speed has been an asset on both sides of the puck in terms of coming back and playing defense. There’s even more growth to be had, which is why development in the AHL is so essential, and for Frank, it’s proving that he can handle the rigors of a much longer season at the professional level compared to college. So far, he’s handled it well, as even though the plus/minus stat is not a perfect one, in this case it reflects well on his play with a plus-17 mark, which ties him for the team lead. In the absence of several key players up front, Frank has become a mainstay on the top line for the Bears and his production is starting to garner league recognition. His 13 goals rank only behind Thomas Bordeleau among rookie goal scorers as 2023 gets underway.

Frank is hoping for more after signing an AHL contract to play his first full professional season in 2022-23, following in the footsteps of teammate Hunter Shepard, who started on a similar contract before garnering the attention of the National Hockey League’s Washington Capitals. Caps management signed him to a two-year NHL contract and has been steadily developing within the organization ever since, and Frank would like to be the latest to earn such a look from one of the NHL’s top teams. Frank has been learning a lot and improving the consistency in his game under Nelson’s guidance, and it’s safe to say he will continue to be a key contributor as the Bears look to pursue their latest Calder Cup banner.

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