HERSHEY, Pa – Colby Williams debuted for the Hershey Bears in the 2016-17 season, playing four years of professional hockey with the Chocolate and White. Had the rest of the season played out as intended, Hershey’s March 20 game in Lehigh Valley would have likely been Williams’ 200th regular-season game as a Bear, but with 196 regular-season games and six playoff appearances, the veteran of four seasons becomes an unrestricted free agent. Depending on how the summer plays out, Williams could very well join a different organization for the 2020-21 season.
It’ll be the first time that Williams will be an unrestricted free agent, as he signed deals to keep him with the organization for three seasons since his debut year. Williams made his mark on the organization as a physical two-way defender who could fill in at any role and would stand up for his team in key moments while being a positive contributor where it mattered most. One of Williams’ biggest moments as a Bear is his first playoff goal, which stood up as the series-winning tally in a decisive Game 5 win over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Nathan Walker came up with a brilliant feed from the goal line to make the play happen.
Williams has proven his versatility in a number of different ways for the Bears in his tenure, but one of the most interesting ways was as a forward in 2019-20. With Hershey boasting one of its best and most stocked blue lines in recent years, Williams dressed as a seventh defenseman playing minutes on both the fourth line as well as in his usual defensive role often between shifts. This happened while the team was dealing with a few injuries to key forwards such as Mike Sgarbossa and Joe Snively, who each missed significant time with injury, but Williams did not miss a beat in any role he was playing at that time.
One of the most interesting statistics about Williams is that it’s been a long time between goals for the blueliner. Since tallying on January 6, 2018, in a 5-1 win over the Charlotte Checkers, Williams has gone 100 regular-season games and three playoff contests without scoring, with the streak extending over two calendar years. It’s certainly not from lack of trying for Williams, who was snakebitten in 2019-20 for the Bears with numerous posts and other close calls which kept him from finding the back of the net. Williams chipped in six assists this season in 31 games after missing about two months due to injury from late November to mid-January.
It will be interesting to see how the Capitals go about handling their unrestricted free agents this summer. Much like Tyler Lewington, Williams has spent his professional career with the Bears and has not gotten the chance to play for the Capitals, who drafted him in the sixth round, 173rd overall, in 2015. With the Bears still having a fair amount of free spots on their blue line for 2020-21 at this point, the Caps could elect to look from within to try and fill their roster for the coming season. Williams would be an excellent choice to be a mainstay on the blue line for Hershey, but as an unrestricted free agent, he has the option to pursue better minutes and a shot at the NHL with other organizations. It will be interesting to see if the current situation in the world has an impact on signings and players pursuing new destinations, and any team would certainly benefit from adding Williams to their ranks.
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