In the aftermath of the Flyers losing a crucial game to Boston on Saturday (and a nail-biter at that), and then getting smacked by the Devils 5-2 it’s tough to be very optimistic about the organization as a whole. Their playoff hopes were dashed with this weekend’s results, and that may be for the best. Hopefully Hextall is now frank with Berube, and they agree to give younger guys a chance in expanded roles down the stretch. An example of this is the injury to Michael Del Zotto (a blocked shot vs Bruins). Never good to see a guy go down, but there is a silver lining. It presents a wonderful opportunity for Phantoms’ Captain Brandon Manning to step up to the big leagues and try to make a good impression.
Manning has been the most important Phantom by far because of his solid two way play and most importantly the offense he’s provided. This is especially evident when you look at the offense created by defensemen on the roster. Manning’s 42 points look even more inflated when compared to Hagg’s 18 and Delisle’s 13 who are 2nd and 3rd among the team’s defenders. Brandon drew into the line-up against the Devils on Sunday and didn’t look out of place in 15:36. He played the least of all Flyers’ defensemen, and that’s likely due to his one gaffe. A 2 minute holding penalty drawn by Stephen Gionta late in the 2nd period which resulted in an Eric Gelinas PP marker. It gave the Devils a 3-1 lead heading into the 3rd and was a momentum-sapping goal which will probably put Manning on Hextall’s naughty list.
That’s a tough break for Manning, but with Grossmann and Del Zotto both listed as day-to-day hopefully he dresses for at least the game against Dallas on Tuesday before being shuttled back to Lehigh Valley.
Win (2-1) March 6th vs. Bridgeport
For a match-up of the 2 most penalized teams in the entire AHL this game was relatively tame; no fights. Control of play early fell in Lehigh Valley’s favour because of 4 Bridgeport minors, but that was somewhat evened out because of a Cousins’ minor for embellishment, and a Darroll Powe elbowing call. Still, with 3 PP opportunities to Bridgeport’s 1, the Phantoms managed an 8-4 lead in shots through the first. It wasn’t until the 2nd period though that the Phantoms would score. Brett Hextall (who’s been looking like a somewhat useful player recently) was able to pot his 5th of the season early in the 2nd to give them a 1-0 lead (assists Rosehill/Delisle). It was a strangely Gretzky-like feed from Rosehill.. that sentence is just.. I can’t.. even.
The Phantoms were guilty of sitting back a little bit too much for the rest of the period as the Tigers outshot them 13-6. Robb Zepp was strong though and kept the 1-0 lead intact heading into the 3rd. Long time WBS Penguin Dustin Jeffrey who was recently dealt to the Isles from Vancouver’s affiliate Utica would tie the game at 1-1 midway through the final period. It would stay tied and head to overtime where the Phantoms had an opening PP thanks to a Kevin Czuczman high-stick with just 30 seconds left in the 3rd.
It’s only fitting that a game between these 2 most penalized squads would end with an overtime PP goal by Jason Akeson (assists Manning/Cousins). It sure is nice to see Jason just walk the high-slot like he does here and rip one past a Stortini-screened Poulin. Once again I have to commend Stortini on his net-front work, he’s hard to move.
Akeson scores the OT winner through a Stortini screen (via Fimmano Photography)
Loss (5-4) March 7th vs. Portland
With the Manning call-up the defensive pairings were a bit all over the place for this one, and Terry Murray stated that the gap-control was just awful. As a result of the defenders playing with some unfamiliar partners Portland were allowed a lot of A-calbre chances in this game and they capitalized. It started off pretty poorly as Portland grabbed an early 2-1 lead before adding another late in the 2nd. The lone Phantom’s marker was scored by Gordon (assists Goumas/Fyten). Thanks to the Manning call-up, Adam Comrie was dressed (why he was scratched in favour of Pettersson is beyond comprehension) and was able to find the back of the net with just a couple minutes remaining in the 2nd to make the score 3-2 (assists Powe/Fyten).
Goumas continues to impress with increased ice-time (via Fimmano Photography)
It looked like Lehigh Valley were sunk after an early Henrik Samuelsson goal in the 3rd, but Andrew Gordon popped his second of the night on the PP just a minute later to give the Phantoms life (assists Comrie/Akeson). With the game standing at 4-3 late in the 3rd Lehigh Valley pulled Zepp and Portland promptly scored to end the comeback. Scott Laughton was able to bang in his first since returning to the Phantoms to make it 5-4, but there were just 9 seconds remaining so it was basically a nothing goal (assists Goumas/Leier). It certainly mattered to Laughton personally though as he’s been snake-bitten as of late.
Flyers Prospects in the Professional Ranks
Scott Laughton (2012 – 1st Round)
Laughton missed the first game of the weekend with the flu, and as mentioned he scored late in the 3rd vs. Portland. He had defensive assignments in the NHL and it was clear he wasn’t ready for that level of responsibility as the Corsi percentages just didn’t fall in his favour. At the AHL level I don’t think his 14 points in 20 games is anything to be ashamed of, but I had hoped he would have controlled the play a bit more. He’s not an AHL all-star just yet, but I assume he’s going to come back a lot stronger next year.
Jason Akeson (Free Agent)
1 goal and 1 assist this weekend; 18 goals and 19 assists for 37 points in 39 games. If Akeson played the entire year in the AHL this could have very well been his best offensive season as a professional. No question he has the offensive chops to make it, but in his limited NHL time thus far he’s been getting offensive zone starts and coming up negative in shot differential. Not a good combination for a guy trying to worm his way into a fringe role. If the Flyers were to say.. get a new coach.. he might have the opportunity to make it as an everyday NHL guy.
Nick Cousins (2011 – 3rd Round)
Rough night for Cousins as he was on the ice for 2 even strength Pirates goals on Saturday, but he did have an assist Friday giving him 49 points now. He’s obviously improved since last season and really leading the attack as a 2nd-year pro. Like Akeson he has the offensive game down, he probably has the vision to be a mid-tier NHL center, but it’ll be up to Cousins to round out his defensive game. -3 on Sunday might be guffawed about by the advanced stats crowd, but 2 of those were without the goalie pulled and coming up negative in goal differential should still hold some weight.
Robert Hagg (2013 – 2nd Round)
I was actually rather hoping Hagg would be the one getting the call-up after the Del Zotto injury, but maybe it’s for the best he stays in the AHL for this season. He’s had a tough time generating much since Christmas, and it’s obvious the Swedish World Junior disappointment weighed heavily on him. 5 shots this weekend in what can only be described as average play from the 20-year-old, but I can’t blame him since he’s carrying around an inept partner in Jesper Pettersson lately. If Manning ends up as an extended call-up for Philly he might see some more time as a PP-quarterback and that would probably go a long way in turning his offensive game around.
Petr Straka (Free Agent)
Somehow didn’t get results playing with Akeson and Cousins for most of the weekend. Straka has been getting opportunities (re: he was even called up to the NHL) all year that I’m not sure he deserves. Perhaps it’s time to slide Goumas into his role in the top-6 and give Straka some time with the Darroll Powes and Jay Rosehills because he certainly hasn’t been really impressive with 21 points in 52 games.
Taylor Leier (2013 – Round 4)
He’s had trouble generating points, but I would find it hard to believe he’s been a negative in shot differential this year. It seems to me that Leier is an excellent defensive winger and he probably just needs a little time for his offense to develop. Picked up an assist on Laughton’s meaningless goal versus Portland, but looked dangerous in the Bridgeport game registering 3 shots.
Mark Alt (Free Agent)
Seemingly healthy again (about time) Alt registered 3 shots this weekend and had a somewhat expanded role with Manning called up. A lot of that expanded role looked like it was spent with Oliver Lauridsen though and as a result he didn’t look great. Playing just half the schedule this season it’s tough to judge where Mark is at in his development. This, his 2nd pro season, seems to have been a step back from where he was last year.
Oskar Lindblom (2014 – 5th Round)
Lindblom tallied 2 assists in Brynas’ final game of the season to give him 15 points in 37 games. He followed that up with an assist on Adam Brodecki’s OT winner in the first leg of their playoff against Farjestad. It’s been quite a week for the young Swede; a strong playoff could put him front and centre for the Phantoms top-6 or possibly even a role with the Flyers next year.
Looking forward to more of this but in a Phantoms/Flyers jersey (via svt.se)
Valeri Vasiliev (2012 – 7th Round)
Torpedo were eliminated in 5 games by a heavily favoured SKA St. Petersburg team while Vasiliev did not play because of an injury. Shame because his role was definitely increased with Torpedo during the 9 games at the end of the season after his trade from Omsk.
Marcel Noebels (2011 – 4th Round)
After a somewhat disappointing 20 points in 35 DEL games, Noebels had 1 goal and 1 assist for the 9th ranked Eisbaren Berlin team against an 8th ranked Nurnberg team in 3 playoff games. Berlin were eliminated 2 games to 1 and Noebels’ entry level deal will expire. Hard to believe the Flyers will want him back in the North American system after he flunked out, but you never know.
Other Flyers Prospects in College or Junior
Michael Parks (2010 – 5th Round)
Pointless in 4 straight now as Parks and North Dakota have continued to chug along without the Senior’s offensive contributions. UND had their 8-game unbeaten streak snapped by Miami this past weekend. 31 points in 33 games.
Radel Fazleev (2014 – 6th Round)
1 goal and 1 assists in 3 games last week as Radel bounces back a bit. 45 points in 65 games for the defensive winger. The Hitmen lost 2 of 3 on the road last week, but finally return to home ice on the 15th after an 11-game trip.
Travis Sanheim (2014 – 1st Round)
Had a rare pointless week last time around, but scored and added 3 helpers in 3 road games this time. 59 points in 61 games has Sanheim tied with Wings prospect Joe Hicketts for top-scoring defender in the WHL. 6 games left for him to seal the deal!
Nicolas Aube-Kubel (2014 – 2nd Round)
Another 4 points in 3 nights week for Aube-Kubel who just keeps piling up points like a madman. 5 games left for him to improve on his 74 point total.
Tyrell Goulbourne (2013 – 3rd Round)
5 points in 3 games for Tyrell after signing his entry-level deal with the Flyers last week. The Rockets had lost a rare 2-in-a-row, but came back strong and won both weekend contests. Goulbourne had a hattrick on Friday night as well as adding a helper as he skated with draft eligible Nick Merkley and spent time on the PP with Draisaitl (Edmonton). 1 was actually a rather nice breakaway where he showed he at least has the speed to pull away at the Junior level. It’s at about the 2-minute mark of that highlight pack.
Tyrell Goulbourne had a hattrick on Friday night as Kelowna gear up for a Memorial Cup run (via kelownarockets.com)
Sam Morin (2013 – 1st Round)
Just 1 points in 3 games as Sam cools a bit towards the end of the season. 26 points in 32 games.
Mark Friedman (2014 – 3rd Round)
2 points in 2 nights for Friedman who now has 19 points as a Freshman in 36 games for BGSU. He’s definitely picked up steam after being drafted out of the USHL by Philly 2 years ago.
Merrick Madsen (2013 – 6th Round)
Nope. It’s Harvard so I don’t expect Madsen will just drop out. Looks like he’ll inherit a starting job eventually as Michalek and Traber are both in their Junior year. With Stolarz at Lehigh Valley the Flyers are already grooming an A prospect, no need to rush.
Adam Comrie (AHL/ECHL Contract)
He’s shown he has the innate offensive instincts to be a threat as an offensive defenseman. He distributes the puck well and doesn’t get caught chasing the play nearly as much as Lauridsen or Delisle, both of whom I would rank below him in terms of potential. The Phantoms have been in dire need of an offensive D-man who isn’t named Manning, and Comrie has definitely contributed with 11 points in 25 games. I think it’s safe to say he’d be 2nd on the team in scoring among defensemen if he had been with the club all year.
Brandon Manning (Free Agent)
Assist on the Akeson OT winner, but it was the kind of play anyone could make. Took a bad penalty at a bad time, which led to a Devil’s powerplay marker. 2 Flyers D-men listed as day-to-day so Manning might get another shot Tuesday. Manning can be too aggressive in his offensive endeavors, but with the success he’s enjoyed at the AHL level it would be worth the Flyers’ time to see if he’s actually taken the next step or if he’s simply an elite AHLer.
Kevin Goumas (Free Agent)
Continues to impress me with an expanding role as he’s great at disappearing and finding open space; took 7 shots and tallied 2 assists in play this weekend. He’s getting opportunities to play with better players and proving his success at the college level was no joke. 14 shots in 4 games, 1 goal, 2 assists. He was set to center the 2nd line of Leier and Stortini with Laughton almost being a scratch Saturday night, and actually ended up with Laughton and Leier later in the game. Great feed on an Andrew Gordon goal versus Portland.
Nick Luukko (2010 – 6th Round)
2 more points for Luukko as he now has 14 points in 37 games for his best offensive season with UVM. Not a surprise seeing as he’s a Senior, but certainly nice to see a bit of an offensive improvement despite getting tougher and tougher assignments.
Reece Willcox (2012 – 5th Round)
Hasn’t been in Cornell’s line-up for a month and a bit. 4 points in 21 games.
Terrance Amorosa (2013 – 5th Round)
2 points in 3 games as Clarkson finally give Amorosa to be a regular. 5 points total in 18 games as he’s been a healthy scratch on and off all year.
David Drake (2013 – 7th Round)
32 games and just 5 points as UConn have been under siege all year. Drake’s just a Freshman so he’s not really to blame for what’s been a disaster of a season. With so many great young defenders in the system Drake will probably get to take a full ride at UConn; he’s a long term project.