By Dave Sottile
HERSHEY, Pa. – Dean Arsene never gave it a second thought.
Hershey Bears coach Paul Fixter told Arsene early last month that the club needed help. Arsene was more than happy to oblige.
Even though he was a defenseman, and had been one since learning how to skate, Arsene wasn’t about to turn down a chance at regular ice time, even if it was at forward.
“I’m not picky as far as where I play,” Arsene said. “I just want to be in Hershey and have the opportunity to be in the lineup every night.
“If I can help the team up front, great. If it’s on the back end, that’s awesome, too. I feel more comfortable on defense, obviously, having played there my whole life, but a lot of the veteran guys have helped me when it comes to playing forward.”
When Arsene didn’t look out of place up front, Fixter knew he was onto something.
In the mold of former Colorado Avalanche defensemen-turned-forwards Jon Klemm and Eric Messier, Arsene finds himself cast in a new role as Hershey’s utility player.
“Putting Dean up front was a total experiment and I didn’t realize how effective he would be as a forward,” Fixter said. “He’s very effective up there. He crashes and bangs, creating opportunities for himself and his linemates. He seems to relish the role.
“Dean is a guy I can put anywhere. He even played right wing on the top line, so that’s a comforting thought for a coach, knowing you have someone on the roster who can fill those rolls capably.”
Considering Arsene bounced back and forth between the Bears and the ECHL’s Reading Royals last season, he’s thankful for whatever opportunity Fixter throws his way on a daily basis.