Lehigh Valley Phantoms: 2016-17 Advanced Stats Review

Flyers and Phantoms General Manager Ron Hextall recently wrapped up deals for goalies Alex Lyon, Anthony Stolarz, and depth forward Cole Bardreau. With those contracts in place the Phantoms are basically set for the upcoming season. The roster is full of returnees which is fantastic because the team finished in the top-5 and boasted the leagues best offense.

Defensemen

In terms of points per 60 mins played the Phantoms iced 6 defensemen who scored at a 1st pair rate. The only scary part about this for Lehigh Valley fans is that the Phantoms will lose 1 or quite possibly 2 of these guys to the Flyers this season. The good news is another 2 fantastic young defensemen are on the way as Philippe Myers, and Mark Friedman turn pro.

G/60 = Goals per 60 mins at 5v5, A1/60 = 1st Assists per 60 mins at 5v5, A2/60 = 2nd Assists per 60 mins at 5v5, Pts/60 = Points per 60 mins at 5v5, GF%Rel = Goals For Ratio Relative to Team, GF% = Goals For Ratio at 5v5, PPPts/GP = Powerplay Points per Game Played, Shots/GP = Shots per Game Played

G/60 = Goals per 60 mins at 5v5, A1/60 = 1st Assists per 60 mins at 5v5, A2/60 = 2nd Assists per 60 mins at 5v5, Pts/60 = Points per 60 mins at 5v5, GF%Rel = Goals For Ratio Relative to Team, GF% = Goals For Ratio at 5v5, PPPts/GP = Powerplay Points per Game Played, Shots/GP = Shots per Game Played. Data via @Prospect_Stats

Unbelievably Maxim Lamarche underwent some divine metamorphosis when called up to the Phantoms this past season. The 25-year-old ECHL veteran and Reading Royals Captain will never be better than he is right now. But is he good enough to reel off a full season of elite point production? Or was his 13 point (10 at 5v5) 26 game sample a complete outlier? A lot of questions, but he’s matured into a good option should the Flyers poach some younger D-men from this roster. Also, no word on a contract renewal yet.

TJ Brennan, image via JustSports Photography - Phantoms Facebook

TJ Brennan, image via JustSports Photography – Phantoms Facebook

Among the top-10 AHL defensemen in goal scoring rate, powerplay production and shots on goal, T.J. Brennan is elite. He led a high-powered (albeit spread out) offense in Lehigh Valley with 60 points, and also scored the most goals of any AHL defenseman (21). This is as good as an offensive defenseman can get without moving up to the NHL. His defensive play (which is the reason he isn’t an NHLer) holds him back, but that can be overlooked when he’s leading the team in scoring.

Will O’Neill didn’t score an even strength goal for the Phantoms yet, but his primary assist rate was the best in the entire league. On top of that his Goals For % may indicate he’s a bit steadier defensively than the more dangerous, but riskier Brennan. O’Neill is sometimes overlooked amongst this group, but by the numbers he’s every bit a 1st pairing AHL defender.

Travis Sanheim, image via JustSports Photography - Phantoms Facebook

Travis Sanheim, image via JustSports Photography – Phantoms Facebook

Rookie Travis Sanheim could be a 1-season-and-done AHL player. He was extremely effective at even strength netting goals, shots, and primary assists at a 1st pair rate. He also outperformed the team in terms of Goals For % Relative, and contributed as a secondary powerplay quarterback. He’s 21, and he’s only getting better. Should the Flyers want more offensive pop from the back-end he’ll be the answer.

It seems like Mark Alt has been around forever. He’s now spent 4 full seasons with the Flyers affiliate, and his future with the organization was shaky not long ago. It’s reasonable to assume his poor performance over the previous 2 seasons was partially due to him being over-used. In 40 games this year he was great, culminating in him producing primary assists at a top-10 rate. His reluctance to shoot probably cost him ranking among the AHL’s elite as he was the most positive influence (GF%) among the Phantoms defensemen while on the ice.

Much like Alt, Robert Hagg has had ups and downs with the Phantoms organization. A lot of people have been calling for his head already which is ridiculous considering he’s 22! His 7 even strength goals almost bumped him into the elite goal scoring defenders category. Taking stock of Hagg’s usage is important to understanding his relatively low point totals as he was rarely used offensively. He performed well given tough minutes, and many predict Hagg will be in the Flyers starting 6 this season instead of other flashier options.

Sam Morin, image via JustSports Photography - Phantoms Facebook

Sam Morin, image via JustSports Photography – Phantoms Facebook

Of Sanheim, Hagg, and Sam Morin, Slammin’ Sammy is obviously the fan favourite. At 6’8″ or so on skates, with 15 fights and 247 PIMs over a 2 year AHL career it’s easy to understand why. Beyond his physical play the developmental coaches have been concerned with improving his 2-way play and grooming him as a penalty kill specialist. He was deployed as such this year, using his enormous reach to disrupt opponents in the defensive zone. Generating offense at a 2nd pair AHL rate is just fine if you’re a defensive specialist.

Speaking of defensive defensemen, Reece Willcox struggled offensively as an AHL rookie. After 29 points in 120 NCAA games that was expected. He played very little (about 14-15 mins a night) and was used on the penalty kill so there’s certainly room for growth. Despite being a rookie last year he’s 23 so he’s actually older than a lot of the guys above him on the depth chart. A tough climb ahead of him if he doesn’t want to be an afterthought.

Potential Top-6 Forwards

The top-end of this forward group is foolish. There are 6 guys here who were all bona fide 1st line AHL forwards. The fact that some of these guys might be on line 2 or even 3 means the Phantoms will be great again this year.

G/60 = Goals per 60 mins at 5v5, A1/60 = 1st Assists per 60 mins at 5v5, A2/60 = 2nd Assists per 60 mins at 5v5, Pts/60 = Points per 60 mins at 5v5, GF%Rel = Goals For Ratio Relative to Team, GF% = Goals For Ratio at 5v5, PPPts/GP = Powerplay Points per Game Played, Shots/GP = Shots per Game Played

G/60 = Goals per 60 mins at 5v5, A1/60 = 1st Assists per 60 mins at 5v5, A2/60 = 2nd Assists per 60 mins at 5v5, Pts/60 = Points per 60 mins at 5v5, GF%Rel = Goals For Ratio Relative to Team, GF% = Goals For Ratio at 5v5, PPPts/GP = Powerplay Points per Game Played, Shots/GP = Shots per Game Played. Data via @Prospect_Stats

Jordan Weal was absolutely electric, and carried that momentum right into the NHL. His 23 game sample with the Flyers was just as impressive. He’d really have to bomb training camp with Philadelphia to end up back in Lehigh Valley. It’ll be a big loss as he had top-10 AHL marks in secondary assists, Goals For % and powerplay points per game The 1 knock against Weal here is that his Primary Assists total was very low. I think that can be overlooked due to the dominance of the rest of this sample.

Danick Martel, image via JustSports Photography - Phantoms Facebook

Danick Martel, image via JustSports Photography – Phantoms Facebook

A bit of a surprise this high on the list is Danick Martel. An undrafted free agent signing, the diminutive Martel has become a fantastic scorer at even strength. He led the Phantoms in goals per minute played, and also outperformed his own team by the highest margin in Goals For % Relative. The Phantoms were dominant offensively, but when Martel was on the ice at 5v5 they were even better. His 20 goals and 20 assists are especially impressive considering he barely played on the Powerplay, and had low secondary (fluff) assist totals.

The Phantoms smartly re-signed vet Chris Conner to a 2 year AHL deal meaning he’s officially off the Flyers’ books. His low goals per 60 and even lower shots per game might be a bit scary, but Conner is a pass-first type of player. At 33-years-old his foot-speed may deteriorate but his playmaking abilities haven’t diminished. He had the highest primary assists per 60 rate on the team and contributed at a 1st line rate on the Powerplay.

Scott Laughton, image via JustSports Photography - Phantoms Facebook

Scott Laughton, image via JustSports Photography – Phantoms Facebook

Scott Laughton takes a lot of heat from Flyers fans for how high he was drafted. At the NHL level he may never be much more than a depth forward, but he’s been excellent in the AHL. He’s been tasked with tough assignments and continues to score at a 1st line AHL rate despite that. He also scored 4 shorthanded goals, and got very minimal Powerplay time. In fact, just 1 of his 39 points was on the Powerplay.

Laughton’s right-hand-man, Taylor Leier is nearly a 1st line AHLer across the board. Similarly to Laughton, Leier has taken pretty tough assignments. Unlike Laughton, he’s been given some PP time and has made the most of it. In a farm system with less depth it’s likely both Laughton and Leier would be getting more opportunities to crack an NHL team’s bottom 6. In my mind there’s no reason Chris Vandevelde should’ve dressed for 79 games with these two guys chomping at the bit.

Colin McDonald, image via JustSports Photography - Phantoms Facebook

Colin McDonald, image via JustSports Photography – Phantoms Facebook

Captain Colin McDonald is a straight-ahead kind of forward. You’re not going to get much in the way of toe-drags. What you will get is a guy who has consistently produced at an AHL 2nd line rate. He knows to go to the net, plays a heavy but clean game, and as a result has carved out a nice top-6 role.

Middle-6 Forwards

Beyond the very good core in the first group are a few more guys who could easily be top-6 forwards. The first group I would describe as individually good players, the second group below are more complimentary. Mix the 2 groups into 3 lines and you have an AHL top-9 to die for plus enough depth to replace call-ups or injuries without worry.

G/60 = Goals per 60 mins at 5v5, A1/60 = 1st Assists per 60 mins at 5v5, A2/60 = 2nd Assists per 60 mins at 5v5, Pts/60 = Points per 60 mins at 5v5, GF%Rel = Goals For Ratio Relative to Team, GF% = Goals For Ratio at 5v5, PPPts/GP = Powerplay Points per Game Played, Shots/GP = Shots per Game Played

G/60 = Goals per 60 mins at 5v5, A1/60 = 1st Assists per 60 mins at 5v5, A2/60 = 2nd Assists per 60 mins at 5v5, Pts/60 = Points per 60 mins at 5v5, GF%Rel = Goals For Ratio Relative to Team, GF% = Goals For Ratio at 5v5, PPPts/GP = Powerplay Points per Game Played, Shots/GP = Shots per Game Played. Data via @Prospect_Stats

Corban Knight ended up playing on an AHL deal last season which was a great find for the Phantoms. So great that the Flyers had to step in an give him a 2 year 2 way NHL deal. Looking at his stats, he’s a similar but lesser version of Chris Conner. Another pass-first type who racks up assists, but likely won’t surpass 15 goals.

Brought in to replace a couple of free agent losses, Phil Varone is in his prime. I made a mistake on the Excel sheet here, Varone’s PP Points should read 0.15; meaning he was in the top 50% of AHL forwards with the man advantage. That’s just gravy as he was a clear 2nd line AHLer playing for a bad team in Binghamton. His Goals For % Relative to team is a good indicator that he was outperforming the bad team he was playing with.

Andy Miele, image via JustSports Photography - Phantoms Facebook

Andy Miele, image via JustSports Photography – Phantoms Facebook

Andy Miele and Mark Zengerle are both on their way to Sweden this Summer. They’ve cashed in on their North American experience to try their hands at being stars in European hockey. Miele was a setup/quarterback type on the powerplay which is hard to replace, but other than that these two looked a bit sluggish. Both had very low Goals For % Relative to the team which hints that they lagged behind Lehigh Valley’s even strength offense a bit. Or perhaps they were defensive liabilities.

An interesting addition on an AHL deal is Derek Hulak. After back-to-back 40 point seasons with the Texas Stars, Hulak moved on to the Utica Comets last year. In an injury-plagued season he appeared in only 17 games collecting 4 goals and 1 assist. Because he played sparingly (around 9 mins per game) his 4 goals were actually quite impressive, and amount to an elite scoring rate. Small sample, but a good depth addition.

Late-bloomer Greg Carey was brought on last season as an AHL sniper. He delivered 28 goals and was among the AHL elite in shots per game. He’s a prototypical high volume shooter. Individually he looks more like a 3rd line guy, but given that he’s a triggerman you can overlook some statistical deficiencies. He won’t push the play himself, but set him up in the slot and he’s fantastic. The results speak for themselves.

Cole Bardreau, image via JustSports Photography - Phantoms Facebook

Cole Bardreau, image via JustSports Photography – Phantoms Facebook

Cole Bardreau is the ‘team first’ guy with the Phantoms. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare would be a familiar comparison for Flyers fans. He took tough assignments, had some trouble pushing the play back up the ice, and took a few too many penalties because of that. 85 pims is too many if you want to keep a depth AHL job even if you’re a good team guy.

A guy that might be able to surprise this year is Nicolas Aube-Kubel. He was underwhelming in his rookie season, but still managed to sport a good Goals For % and performed well relative to the team in that regard. He was pushing the play in the right direction, but didn’t get many offensive opportunities, and had some bad luck. Nowhere for him to go but up.

Spare Forwards

It’ll be tough for guys down this low to get much of an opportunity. They might be better off in Reading with the ECHL Royals to get regular shifts.

I say this because on top of all the guys listed above the Phantoms will also likely have one (or both) of Mikhail Vorobyev, and Oscar Lindblom joining the roster come October. Plus there’s German Rubtsov who’s kind of a wildcard in that he could play junior or pro this year! Add all those guys up, and you’re somewhere in the 12 or 13 forward range before looking at the guys below.

G/60 = Goals per 60 mins at 5v5, A1/60 = 1st Assists per 60 mins at 5v5, A2/60 = 2nd Assists per 60 mins at 5v5, Pts/60 = Points per 60 mins at 5v5, GF%Rel = Goals For Ratio Relative to Team, GF% = Goals For Ratio at 5v5, PPPts/GP = Powerplay Points per Game Played, Shots/GP = Shots per Game Played

G/60 = Goals per 60 mins at 5v5, A1/60 = 1st Assists per 60 mins at 5v5, A2/60 = 2nd Assists per 60 mins at 5v5, Pts/60 = Points per 60 mins at 5v5, GF%Rel = Goals For Ratio Relative to Team, GF% = Goals For Ratio at 5v5, PPPts/GP = Powerplay Points per Game Played, Shots/GP = Shots per Game Played. Data via @Prospect_Stats

Radel Fazleev has actually turned out okay given he was a 6th Round pick. He was Sanheim’s teammate in the WHL, and now he’s a friendly face for fellow Russian prospects coming through the system. He played in the bottom of the line-up for almost all of his 65 games, and potted 16 points. You can’t ask for much more from a rookie checking forward. He’s probably a bit better than his numbers suggest given that he had poor linemates all year.

In the last year of his Entry Level Contract, Tyrell Goulbourne will need to do something drastic to get a renewal. He played well in Reading scoring 19 points in 35 games, but with the Phantoms his 8 goals and 10 assists over 97 career games isn’t anything to be excited about.

AHL/ECHL go-betweens Chris McCarthy and Steven Swavely weren’t difference makers when called up. Both were point-per-game producers with the ECHL’s Royals, but couldn’t seem to hack it in Lehigh Valley. You can also add Matt Willows to this group of ECHL stars, as he was signed to an AHL deal by the Phantoms recently. He’ll likely yield similar results in their stead.

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