HERSHEY, Pa. – The Hershey Bears announced they have signed defensemen Rob O’Gara and Reece Willcox to professional tryout agreements (PTOs) ahead of the club’s start of training camp. The move comes a little over a week ahead of Hershey’s first preseason game on January 29 against the Binghamton Devils in Newark, New Jersey.
O’Gara, 27, was a draft selection of the Boston Bruins in the fifth round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. The 6-foot-4 blueliner brings 182 total AHL games of experience and 33 NHL games under his belt, most recently skating with the San Antonio Rampage before the season shutdown and before that with the Springfield Thunderbirds, Hartford Wolf Pack, and Providence Bruins. O’Gara has scored 39 points (13 goals, 26 assists) over five seasons and posted a plus-21.
Willcox, who will turn 27 in March, is a name Bears fans are familiar with from his years patrolling the Lehigh Valley Phantoms’ blue line. A fifth-round selection of the Philadelphia Flyers in 2012, the 6-foot-4 defender spent five seasons and 245 total AHL games with Hershey’s rival, collecting 59 points (12 goals, 47 assists) during that span. Willcox has skated in five games so far this season with the Florida Everblades in the ECHL before signing with the Bears.
The move comes as Hershey has called all hands on deck ahead of the formal start of training camp, recalling their AHL signings from South Carolina over the weekend, including Stingrays netminder Alex Dubeau. Adding Willcox and O’Gara adds incredibly valuable size and AHL experience. It addresses an area of need for the club as it misses defenders Bobby Nardella and Alexander Alexeyev, who have been unable to depart their current club assignments overseas to join the Bears until their season concludes.
On a PTO, a player can skate for 25 games before they must be signed to a contract, and it could be used as a stopgap until those two players return, but only time will tell. The Bears’ roster continues to come together ahead of AHL action beginning on February 5, as well as preseason action on January 29 and 31.
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