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Hershey Bears

Borgstrom Heating Up For Bears

Photo courtesy: Carl Minieri

Borgstrom Heating Up For Bears

HERSHEY, Pa. – Way back at the 2016 National Hockey League Entry Draft, current Hershey Bears players Henrik Borgstrom and Lucas Johansen were selected five picks apart, with the former selected at 23 and the latter at 28. The Washington Capitals were initially slated to select 26th overall. They fell back two spots in a pick swap with the St. Louis Blues to receive an additional pick in the third round, 87th overall, where they selected Garrett Pilon. Gabriel Carlsson was picked up at 29th overall a year prior in 2015, and factoring in Hendrix Lapierre and Connor McMichael, the Bears have five players selected in the first round in their lineup at this point in the season. Borgstrom, in particular, is trying to get back into the NHL after spending all of the 2021-22 season with the Chicago Blackhawks and leave a mark on the Bears in the process, with his most recent stretch a hopeful indicator for what’s to come.

Borgstrom has had a turbulent start to his professional career, only suiting up for 58 total games across three seasons for the Florida Panthers. He spent most of his time with their then-American Hockey League affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds, before spending the entirety of the pandemic-affected 2020-21 season in his native Finland. He became a free agent this past summer after spending all of the 2021-22 season with the Chicago Blackhawks, where the Capitals signed him to a one-year contract, looking to load up in a summer of uncertainty with several of their key players out for undefined periods due to significant injuries.

Borgstrom was one of the last players placed on waivers to join the Bears. Despite not making a big splash numbers-wise during the NHL preseason, Borgstrom had a solid set of games and a lot to build on, tallying three points in five games to open the season with Hershey, including the team’s first goal during the season opener against Utica. Borgstrom has been heating up of late after only two assists in eight games, tallying five points in four games, including a first-star performance against Hartford on November 19 with the game-winning goal on a wicked wrist shot. His goal on Friday night moved him into a tie for the team lead in goals with five in 17 games played.

Borgstrom’s success is Hershey’s success. It’s no secret that the Bears have found a winning formula early this season by playing responsible defense and denting the twine sufficiently enough to win hockey games. It’s a bit surprising that the Bears have not scored more goals, given the strong resumes of several players in their lineup. Still, Borgstrom is a major player in that regard, as he was a near-point-per-game player in the 2018-19 season and hit double-digit goals a year later in the shortened 2019-20 season. Borgstrom figures to help the Bears in situations like shootouts, which the team has not encountered yet this season, where he is a lifetime four-for-four at the AHL level, and on the power play, where he has struck twice. Special teams are an area the Bears need to improve upon to further their success, and it’s hard to imagine that the power play will stay cold with players like Borgstrom with McMichael, Lapierre, and plenty of other top-end talents to don the Chocolate and White.

This season is an important springboard for Borgstrom to increase his stock among NHL teams, only a year removed from being a full-time player at the top rank. With the Capitals seemingly seeing a rotating door of players getting injured and leaving opportunities for players like Sonny Milano, Joe Snively, or Aliaksei Protas to take, it’s only a matter of time until Borgstrom gets to audition his skill at this pace. This season, his success must be the Bears’ success as the team pursues their 12th championship in 2022-23.

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