As usual, the Hershey Bears are storming through the American Hockey League season, taking no prisoners. The Bears are currently in first atop the Eastern Conference and second overall in the 30 team league behind only the Oklahoma City Barons. Helping out on the blue line are two grads of the Ontario Hockey League. These are the only two representatives of the OHL on the Hershey roster, a surprise when you consider there is only one non-North American born player on the club.
Danny Richmond was coaxed out of the NCAA by Dale Hunter to play one season with the London Knights in 2003-04. Richmond came to London already a draft pick of the Carolina Hurricanes. The Canes took Danny in the second round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, 31st overall. He had an exceptional season with the Knights and also won gold at the World Juniors as a member of Team U.S.A.
To date, Richmond has played in 49 NHL regular season games with Carolina and the Chicago Blackhawks. Of course, as a member of the Hershey Bears, he is now property of the Washington Capitals – a team stocked with former Knights and now coached by Dale Hunter. In eight years of professional hockey, Richmond has spent the majority of his time in the AHL. He has played for nearly 25% of the league’s 30 team, seven teams in eight years.
Where Danny Richmond was an American playing junior in Canada, Patrick McNeill was a Canadian playing junior in the United States. McNeill was a member of the Saginaw Spirit for four seasons from 2003-04 to 2006-07. Where Richmond is a bit of a hockey vagabond, McNeill was drafted by the Washington Capitals and has only played with their minor league affiliates since turning pro.
Patrick was a D-man with a nose for the opposing team’s net while in the OHL. In each of his final two seasons in Saginaw, he surpassed the 20 goal plateau. His 77 points in 2005-06 led all the Ontario Hockey League’s defensemen. It should be noted that McNeill was the first overall pick by the Spirit at the 2003 OHL Priority Selection.
McNeill was a fourth round pick of the Capitals at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, 118th overall. Other than 19 games with the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays in his first pro season, he has been a mainstay with the Hershey Bears. For two consecutive years, 2008-09 and 2009-10, he helped the Bears win the Calder Cup as AHL playoff champs. The team is certainly headed in the same direction this season.