While professional players only had a few days off college and junior players haven’t been particularly active because of the Christmas break. Waiting the extra week to release this report has given some of those teams a chance to get into some game action (and also given me a chance to laze around my house for a while longer heh heh heh). While many Flyers prospects came back sluggish from family dinners a small group of them have come out guns ablaze. For 3 select Flyers’ picks it’s also been an exciting month at the World Junior Tournament. 2 defense prospects were expected to play big roles (1 didn’t), but it was the forward prospect in attendance that certainly raised some eyebrows.
Forwards in the Professional Ranks
Scott Laughton (2012 – 1st Round)
Up to 5 points (2 goals) in his 22 NHL games so far this season, Laughton hasn’t really impressed at the highest level, but he certainly hasn’t been a disappointment. Scott isn’t going to be a player that scores dazzling goals he’s pretty much a North-South player. Playing with a defense mindset on a flailing Flyers team isn’t helping, but he should be getting more and more ice time and offensive opportunities as the season wears on. It’s quite obvious that Craig Berube has been pushing Scott to be more physical as he’s thrown an average of 2.2 hits per game since the last update when he was averaging closer to 1.5. While he may be stepping up his physical game it’s worrisome that he hasn’t been able to hang in the face off circle. Winning just 42% of his draws against centers that aren’t the best face off men (Giroux is handling those guys) is never a good sign. Hopefully Claude can teach him a thing or two and he can bring that number closer to 50/50 by season’s end.
Nick Cousins (2011 – 3rd Round)
Finally getting back on the scoresheet more frequently, Cousins has 5 points in 8 Phantoms games. He went scoreless for 2 weeks leading up to the last report before scoring a shootout winner and that seemed to get him back on track. He scored 2 in the very next game against Binghamton in which he fired 6 shots on goal. That’s the type of performance you would generally expect from him night-in-night-out, but that simply hasn’t been the case all season. Just 18 points in 33 total games is not enough. He’ll need to contribute more offense than that to get an NHL look in the future.
Taylor Leier (2012 – 4th Round)
Missing 3 games with an upper body injury may have been a boon to Taylor Leier. I’m not sure if he’s been fatigued lately or not, but he hasn’t been playing up to the level he’s capable of. He had just 1 assist and a handful of shots in the five games leading up to the injury in Lehigh Valley. Registering 15 points in 30 contests means he’s clipping along at basically the same rate as Cousins, a point every other game. At 20-years-old and in his first professional season he still has a lot of room to grow as a two way player so a 40-point season would certainly be acceptable. Taylor’s been quite a streaky player this year so perhaps he’s due to go on a tear now that he’s rested coming off an injury.
Jason Akeson (Free Agent)
Akeson is riding an absolutely torrid pace scoring 9 points in the last 8 AHL contests. That includes 6 goals, 3 assists and 25 shots on goal. We all knew Jason was a scorer at the AHL level, but I was definitely unsure about how he would react to being sent down from the big club. Pretty nice to see that he hasn’t missed a beat and wants to get back the NHL asap. His 14 points are tied for 5th on the team in scoring (4 points behind Cousins who leads the forwards) and he’s played half the games (just 16). It’s a tough life for a player in Jason’s position. He’s clearly too skilled to trudge through an AHL career, but the coaches at the NHL level hate his lack of size and physicality. If he was utilized in a more offensive role I think Akeson could be an NHL player, but if he continues to be brought up as a replacement guy in a grinders role he’ll never be far away from Lehigh Valley.
Petr Straka (Free Agent)
Straka scored what may have been the quickest goal of his career against Binghamton on December 17th. The Phantoms actually scored 3 goals in 21 seconds and chased Andrew Hammond, Senators goalie, 36 seconds into a game! Petr then put on his turkey eating sweat pants and went on a 6-game scoreless streak over the Holidays. He was finally able to buck that slump with a goal in Saturday’s win over Norfolk. Despite getting out of the slump 2 goals on 15 shots over 8 games isn’t spectacular. 13 points in 31 games isn’t enough from the 22-year-old even if 8 of those happen to be goals. I had hoped to see some growth this year from Straka, but he’s basically on the same pace as last year.
Oskar Lindblom (2014 – 5th Round)
As a Canadian I’ve been watching entirely too much hockey lately with the World Juniors ongoing and TSN parading their massive amount of coverage in my face. I’m not entirely sure how the tournament is viewed in other countries, but I imagine in other hockey-mad nations it’s a pretty huge deal. Sweden is one of the 4 or 5 teams that have a legitimate chance to win the tournament each and every year, and for a player to get top-6 minutes on any of the powerhouse teams means that particular player is good. Really good. In my last report I stated that if Lindblom happened to land himself a spot on Team Sweden’s top 2 lines in the World Juniors he would really have a chance to increase his stock in the Flyers’ system. Thankfully that situation came to fruition and Oskar found himself riding shotgun with William Nylander (Toronto) who almost made the Maple Leafs out of training camp and was widely viewed as one of the best offensive players in the entire tournament.
Here Oskar’s back is itchy and teammate Holmstrom rushes to his aid (via hockeyswedes.tunblr.com)
The pair didn’t disappoint as the top unit and Sweden rolled into the Semis with a 5-0 record; Nylander with 7 assists (10 points) and Lindblom with 4 goals (9 points). Oskar buried 3 against the Swiss; the first a beautiful shot, the second banging in a rebound and the third a nice tip on a point shot (if you don’t speak Swedish try to ignore the commentary and just enjoy the goals). The Semi-finals didn’t go exactly as planned as the Swedes were rather unceremoniously dumped by the Russians who put on a fantastic defensive display Sunday night in a 4-1 game. It wasn’t a good game for any Swedish player and Lindblom was no exception registering just a single shot and never really being a threat in the offensive zone. A line that was electric through the first 5 games, Nylander – 16 shots, Lindblom – 15 shots, Holmstrom (Detroit) – 14 shots, were simply shut down by a tight Russian defense that gave them no room to make magical passing plays. Sweden went on to play Slovakia in the Bronze medal game Monday night and were sleep-walking through most of it. The Slovaks were clearly amped up to win their 2nd medal ever and rolled to victory.
The tournament wasn’t a total loss for Lindblom like it was for Sweden. A player who was selected with a 138th overall pick in the 5th Round, Oskar appears to have the potential to be an NHL calibre player. He may go on to become quite a steal.
Kevin Goumas (Free Agent)
Kevin had been a staple in the Phantoms line-up this season up until the past few weeks. He seemed to be entrenched as the checking line center despite his total lack of offensive production. He still has just 3 points in 29 games, but he’s been in and out of the line-up over the last 8 games as the coaching staff tries to kickstart the team in Lehigh Valley. He has registered 8 shots in the 4 games he’s played of late which is basically all you could hope for from a player getting extremely limited minutes.
Brandon Alderson (Free Agent)
He was doing quite well during his stint in Reading (6 points in 8 games) before deciding to just plain old tank (1 point in 6 games). That tanking spirit seemed to get the attention of the Phantoms management as he was recalled in the New Year and has suited up for 2 games with Lehigh Valley. In my last report I stated he should have been called up because he was on a relatively hot streak with the Royals, but he didn’t deserve a promotion for a single point in 6 games. Surely there was a more deserving option here. Either way, Alderson has used the opportunity to his advantage scoring a goal on 8 shots. That initial impression should give him a bit of a longer leash, especially with many players struggling to score.
Forwards in College or Junior
Michael Parks (2010 – 5th Round)
No games for Parks in the New Year yet as students are returning from Holidays. 20 points in 19 games.
Radel Fazleev (2014 – 6th Round)
Perhaps the worst stretch of hockey Fazleev has played this year led up to the end of 2014 and has now boiled over into 2015. He’s had just 1 assist in 6 games since coming back from Holidays. The Hitmen haven’t been very good in general during these past few weeks (they’ve gone 2-4) after going into the Christmas break hot with a 7-3 streak. Plus-minus doesn’t usually hold much appeal to me because it more about being unlucky than anything, but when Radel is a minus in 6 straight games for a total of -7 there’s definitely some questions to be asked about how he’s playing the game.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel (2014 – 2nd Round)
What a month December was for Nicolas, and he’s carried his strong offensive numbers into 2015. He’s had 20 points in his last 12 games, including 5 goals and 6 assists (6 games) since the previous update in mid-December. The Val-d’Or Foreurs have been scoring a ton of goals lately and Aube-Kubel has been a big part of the offense. He’s been suiting up with Anthony Beauregard a tiny (5’7″) undrafted center and the hulking 16-year-old Julien Gauthier (2016 draft eligible). The trio have made up a pretty effective line as of late, pouring in goals and keeping the puck out of their own net. Aube-Kubel had previously been with Anthony Richard, whom he also excelled with but it appears the Foreurs have shaken their lines up again. Doesn’t really matter he’s scoring a ton!
Tyrell Goulbourne (2013 – 3rd Round)
16 PIMs and just 1 goal in 5 WHL games for Tyrell makes it seem like he’s back to his old tricks. I thought he was starting to get away from fights, but it appears as though he was dragged into 2 of them in the last couple of games. Kelowna are 4 and 1 in those contests and the team as a whole is still scoring 4 or 5 goals a night. With that in mind it’s hard to imagine Goulbourne not netting a few more points. With 23 points in 32 games his offense has all but dried up which is likely the reason he’s gone back to the fisticuffs. He’s well on his way to surpassing his 17 goal career high (he’s scored 14 already) so despite the lull in offense there are huge positives to take away from his half season. The Rockets are 31-6-3 this season and are attempting to march their way towards a WHL title; Goulbourne will be counted on to take on some tough assignments come playoff time.
Defensemen in the Professional Ranks
Shayne Gostisbehere (2012 – 3rd Round)
Nothing to report here, we’re likely a month to 2 months away from seeing him back on the ice at all.
Robert Hagg (2013 – 2nd Round)
Much like teammate Oskar Lindblom, I’m sure Robert’s head is hanging a little low after Sweden’s losses to Russia and Slovakia at the World Juniors. Unlike Lindblom however, Hagg didn’t have quite so much to gain by attending this tournament. He was already playing in Lehigh Valley where we’ve been able to marvel in the developing play of a blossoming young defenseman whereas Lindblom was a relatively unknown talent. What many had hoped to see from Hagg at this tournament was a dominating performance, but anyone who has watched Robert at the AHL level knows he isn’t an electrifying player. Hagg was the defensive conscience on a unit boasting Gustav Forsling (Vancouver) who had 8 points and Sebastian Aho (2015 draft eligible) who had 4.
For the most part Hagg wasn’t noticeable in the offensive play (2 assists in the tournament) as he was the last man back on just about every rush, making sure that no turnovers ended up behind Swedish goalie Linus Soderstrom (NY Islanders). Where you will generally notice a player like Hagg is when he makes a bad play in his own end that results in the opposition getting a scoring chance. The good news is I personally didn’t notice many of these blunders. There was one in particular play in Sweden’s opener against the Czechs that made me cringe. An absolutely terrible turnover right around the 1-minute mark of the highlight video. In all honesty however, that was the only truly terrible play I saw him make. He was named one of Sweden’s top 3 players of the tournament despite only registering 2 points so that tells you his defensive contributions were quite impressive. I’m sure it was an interesting if not stressful break for Hagg from the daily grind at the AHL level, but it’s a shame Sweden has the result they did.
Mark Alt (Free Agent)
1 assist and 7 shots in 5 games is almost the same thing I had to write about Alt in the last update. He had 1 assist in 6 games that time after returning from injury. Well.. he’s injured again. A broken hand suffered last week will have Alt miss at least a month. For the time being that means we’ll see a lot more Brett Flemming. To be honest that’s not such a bad thing as Flemming has 3 assists in 8 games and has been saddled with slightly more responsible minutes lately. With Alt having trouble staying in the line-up he might be played out of a job soon.
Jesper Pettersson (2014 – 7th Round)
4 shots, +1, 4 PIMs, 5 games. That’s quite a stat line for Pettersson. No seriously.. he wasn’t a minus. Much like Alt, Jesper might soon find himself played out of a job. It’s clear that he’s not AHL material at this stage. Maybe this is him adjusting to the North American game, or maybe he just can’t hack it. I don’t think anyone knows just yet. He’s on a standard entry level deal so he’ll have 2 and a half more years to develop into a useful piece for the Flyers. Thus far it hasn’t been a good audition.
Valeri Vasiliev (2012 – 7th Round)
My suspicions were confirmed as Vasiliev was dealt from Omsk Avangard to Nizhny Novgorod Torpedo. Since the trade he’s played just a single game and didn’t register anything on the sheet. Tough to say what prompted the trade, but Vasiliev wasn’t getting much time with division leading Omsk so I assume he’ll be getting a better shake with Novgorod who are a mid-tier team this year led by former NHLer Wojtek Wolski.
Defensemen in Junior or College
Travis Sanheim (2014 – 1st Round)
The let down of not making the Team Canada roster appears to have had an affect on Sanheim. Just like Fazleev he’s seen the worst of times lately with only a single assist in 6 games. That brings his total to 32 points in 36 games. That’s nothing to turn your nose up at, but I had hoped Travis would gain ground on Hicketts (Detroit) 38pts and Bowey (Washington) 33pts who were both away at the World Juniors. He was 4th in scoring among WHL defensemen, but he’s now fallen to 9th overall and if he doesn’t get out of this funk he and the Hitmen could fall further.
Sam Morin (2013 – 1st Round)
I hoped I was wrong but in news I could have predicted, Morin played an extremely limited role for the Canadians at the World Juniors. Sam was brought along to provide a hulking physical presence should Canada run into any trouble containing a larger opposing forward. Basically, he was taken to the tournament to be the muscle (he had no points at the tournament). He saw a large chunk of his ice time on the penalty kill which is definitely nice to see, but he wasn’t the guy they were putting on the ice in pressure situations. At 6’7″ Morin’s reach is basically half of the entire defensive zone so you can see how that would be beneficial with the opposition trying to set up on a Powerplay.
My critique of Sam ends at this; he’s prone to making bad turnovers and sometimes he can be beat because he’s not moving his feet. He took a penalty late in the 2nd period of the Championship game because of just that; he wasn’t moving his feet. He was beaten wide and forced to trip a Russian player driving to the net. This eventually resulted in a powerplay goal for the Russians that brought them within 1 goal (5-4). That’s how the game ended, but Morin’s mistake was a costly one, he didn’t see the ice in the 3rd. I’m sure that scouts had the same faults noted when they were looking at Zdeno Chara. It took Chara 4 seasons of bad to mediocre results with the Islanders before he was scooped up by Senators and developed into an all-star. Morin may have a similar learning curve as he tries to transition from a level where he was way too strong, to a level where the forwards are way too quick. It could be 4 or 5 years until his hands catch up with the rest of his body in terms of ability.
Mark Friedman (2014 – 3rd Round)
Bowling Green had a back-to-back with Robert Morris this Saturday and Sunday at Winterfest. The 2 game set between the 2 schools was played outdoors at Fifth Third Field the home of the Toledo Mudhens a triple-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. Friedman was credited with an assist, 3 shots, 1 block and 6 PIMs in the 2-2 draw and Saturday. He followed that up with a goal and an assist, 2 shots, 3 blocks and 2 PIMs on Sunday. This was quite the weekend for Friedman who has struggled to put much on the scoresheet this season. He had 5 points coming into the weekend, but leaves with 8 in 18 games. With a better second half Mark could really turn some heads this year as a Freshman.
Anthony Stolarz (2012)
Some major ups and downs for Stolarz in the past couple of weeks as he dealt with the after effects of a concussion. He had a shutout back on the 19th in a game where the Phantoms were outshot 32 to 17, definitely stole that one away. But he’s also been chased from the net twice, once in a less than spectacular game against Binghamton that ended up a 6-2 Phantoms loss. As Lehigh Valley continue to give up a ton of shots it’s hard to say if Anthony’s .924 save percentage is a product of him playing extremely well or the product of the Phantoms simply giving up way too many shots.
Merrick Madsen (2013 – 6th Round)
Still nothing, buried behind veteran Michalek. He has to get a start for Harvard sometime right?
On the Fringes
Brandon Manning (Free Agent)
Still leading the team in points with 23 in 31 games, Manning has provided a strong veteran presence on the Lehigh Valley back end. The Phantoms were a very young team this year save for a few forwards who are close to 30-years-old. Only goalie Rob Zepp tips the 30 mark, so Manning playing beyond his years was definitely great for the team. It’s no coincidence that Manning’s 6 assists in the last 8 games have led to some positive results for Lehigh Valley. When Brandon registers an assist the team is 5-0; when he doesn’t 0-3. Pretty safe to say there’s a pattern here.
Oliver Lauridsen (2009 – 7th Round)
1 assist on 6 shots and an unbelievable +6 rating through the last 8 games, Lauridsen hasn’t been a liability lately. In fact, he hasn’t had a minus game in terms of goal differential during that span. He’s played all 33 games and had 61 PIMs, with 2 assists. If he can keep goals out of the Phantom net and continue punching faces he’s useful, if not there are better options coming through the pipeline.
Marcel Noebels (2011 – 4th Round
Finally hitting a bit of a streak Noebels is up to 13 points in 27 DEL games for Berlin. 8 points in 8 games is definitely a step in the right direction for a player who was struggling in Europe after struggling in North America. If he can somehow find his game and come back to our side of the Atlantic he might be a useful checking line forward. It’s going to be a long road if he still hopes to play in the NHL though.
Nick Luukko (2010 – 6th Round)
The University of Vermont Catamounts have played 3 games recently and not much to talk about in regard to Luukko. He tallied an assist on the 4th goal of the game against Air Force which was an empty-netter which is basically a nothing assist, but it’s important that he was trusted to be on the ice in the final minutes of a tight game. The only other thing he registered on the scoresheet was a 2 minute penalty for checking from behind.
Reece Willcox (2012 – 5th Round)
Willcox added another assist in Cornell’s game against Lake Superior State which is nice to see. He’s picked up a handful of points this year and he may well surpass his 7 point career high set last year. Tall at 6’4″, Willcox will have to be strong defensively to make an impact at the pro level; he and Luukko will probably both play professionally, but at what level remains to be seen.
Terrance Amorosa (2013 – 5th Round)
The Golden Knights returned to action December 30th, but Freshman Amorosa didn’t do much other than take a minor penalty. 1 assist in 7 games for Terrance, would love to see him get some more ice but it looks like he’ll be a long term project at this point. All we can do is look to next year and wait for him to develop.
David Drake (2013 – 7th Round)
UConn have won 2 of 3 and David Drake is getting a lot of ice time. He’s suited up with Senior Jacob Poe in a shut down role and happened to pick up an assist (4 points in 15 games) in the loss to UMass Lowell. He’s still a Freshman just like Amorosa, but due to the Huskies being a dud this year he’s seeing top-4 minutes lately. Definitely a good thing for David to see the ice as opposed to the situation Amorosa is in sitting in the stands.
Maxim Lamarche (Free Agent)
Lamarche’s profile on hockeydb says he’s no longer on the Phantoms or Royals active rosters.. wait what? Seems Maxim was recently recalled by Lehigh Valley (along with Alderson) but hasn’t been inserted into the line up yet. Best way to develop a young defenseman.. have him travel between Lehigh Valley and Reading endlessly without every playing. Great for stamina.