1. The Lehigh Valley Phantoms Are in the AHL Playoffs!
The Phantoms are coming off a season in which they weren’t awful! It’s been 7 years since the Flyers’ affiliate has competed for the Calder Cup. Lehigh Valley have been rebuilding for the last 2 years, and the Adirondack Phantoms were an outright failure missing the playoffs in all 5 seasons of their existence. I’m sorry Adirondack, you were the victim of a thin prospect pool and a management team not concentrating on success at the minor league level.
Travis Sanheim via Lehigh Valley Phantoms Hockey (JustSports Photography)
Seeing this team rise above past failures after the thought (and money) that Ron Hextall and the Flyers have put into it is a breath of fresh air. They acquired veteran AHL help; guys like Jordan Weal (even though he’s now risen to surprise NHLer), Andy Miele, Greg Carey, Will O’Neill, T.J. Brennan, Chris Connor, Mark Zengerle, and Colin McDonald. This was necessary to shield the younger developing players from the really high pressure situations, and to teach them how to be professionals.
They drafted well and developed; Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier, Travis Sanheim, Sam Morin, Robert Hagg, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Radel Fazleev, Alex Lyon, Anthony Stolarz, and the list goes on. This group of prospects is by far the most exciting the Flyers have had in the stable for a long, LONG time. The teams of the pre-Salary Cap age (and beyond) sold off assets for veterans to push for the Cup every year. Since Hextall took control the team’s mantra has changed to ‘Develop From Within’.
2. The Phantoms Have A Legit Chance..
What’s more, the Phantoms didn’t just slide into the playoffs, they had the 2nd most points in the entire AHL (behind Divison rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton). Technically they had the 4th best Winning Percentage because San Diego/San Francisco had the weird 68-game schedule out West. The 48-23-5 record for 101 points is the best finish by the Flyers affiliate team since the 2004-05 Championship team.
Going back to that 2005 Championship team and perusing the roster is a walk back in time! It was right before the Flyers of 10 years ago turned the corner and became a very exciting team to watch. They were led by 22-year-old R.J. Umberger, future NHL stars like Patrick Sharp, Joni Pitkanen, and Dennis Seidenberg. They also signed key rookie players Jeff Carter and Mike Richards to Try-Out Contracts for the Playoff run.
Phillipe Myers To Play For Phantoms in Playoff Run (photo via Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
Much like that team from 10 years ago this team has signed exciting prospects to Try-Out deals; Carter Hart, Phillipe Myers, and Mark Friedman. They may not play key roles like Carter and Richards did way back when, but they’ll certainly get to play and experience professional hockey for the first time.
If there was ever a time to be hyped about the Future Flyers, it’s now! Playoffs start tonight (Friday the 21st)! PPL Center in Allentown, 7:05 pm!
AHL Playoff streaming packages start at $10 per game, or $45 for the First 2 Rounds of Phantoms games. That $45 could end up being 3 games for $15/game (if Lehigh Valley are swept.. and that just isn’t happening), or at the most 12 games for $3.75/game (best of 5, and best of 7).
I e-mailed AHL support and apparently the 3rd and 4th Rounds will be a different package. Unsure about details. It’s not the best deal in terms or streaming, but it’s not terrible if you’re jonesing for some Flyers hockey!
3. The World Championships
Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Sean Couturier, and Travis Konecny were all named to the IIHF Canadian Men’s World Championship team. This is a tough pill to swallow for NHLers because the only time they get to play in the tournament is when their NHL club is eliminated from the playoffs. However bittersweet, it’s still a great experience to get to play for your country, and a lot of the time guys playing here will get looks for future Olympic teams (if the NHL eventually says yes to player participation).
Claude Giroux To Play For Canada (Laszlo Balogh/Reuters)
Team Canada’s 1st game is May 5th against the Czech Republic.
Team USA’s 1st game is also May 5th against Germany.
Speaking of the Czechs it’s a good bet that Jakub Voracek and Radko Gudas make that team as well! Others you may see at the Worlds include Michal Neuvirth, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Ivan Provorov. We won’t know until their countries announce rosters though. Stay tuned!
4. The NHL Playoffs
I mean.. the Flyers didn’t make it.. but the NHL Playoffs are in full swing! There were 11 Overtime finishes in the first 24 games! The record for an entire post-season is just 17 Overtime games! It’s been an incredible start, and you should be watching.
If you’re interested you can purchase NHL’s streaming service right now for something like $75.. kind of a crazy price to be honest. Just look up Rogers Gamecentre Live.
5. Baseball and Soccer
Photo: Frank Fimmano
Hockey’s not the only game in town! Get out there and support the other great teams in your area. Or better yet, play on a team yourself! It’s getting warm out, 22 degrees Celsius (sorry Canadian) at my house the other day! Time to get outside!