Despite wasting a great year of individual performances by Flyers’ stars Giroux, Voracek, Simmonds and Mason, there is hope that the team of the future can be a contender. Can this team be a contender before those stars are over the hill? That’s a really tough question to answer. Only time will tell, but the least Hextall can do is be prepared by drafting and signing the next core of talented young players.
Very exciting times in terms of those talented young players as Ron Hextall has been busy while he watches the remnants of Paul Holmgren’s legacy burn. Hamstrung with a few horrible contracts Hextall couldn’t do much to immediately improve the Flyers during the last off-season, and he won’t have much more flexibility in the forseeable future. He has however taken a patient approach to building the Flyers from the ground up. By all accounts he did a pretty great job at the draft in 2014, and he’s stashed away 2 First Round picks for 2015. He hasn’t panicked and made a horrible deal yet; except Hartnell-Umberger which.. whatever.. I’m assuming he did this to handicap the Flyers and make them worse. Finally he’s been active recently signing a few undrafted free agents; Danick Martel and Cole Bardreau.
Danick Martel (Free Agent)
PHOTO BERNARD BRAULT, ARCHIVES LA PRESSE
The Flyers did something that’s quite foreign to them here, and scooped up a very undersized QMJHL star in Martel. Martel was just a few points off the lead in scoring in the Q, but he’s sat out the past 2 games (assuming due to injury) and is now 23 points behind because in the Quebec league games are nuts and points barely matter. Blainville are probably just being careful here as they don’t want to lose their leading scorer for the playoffs. 48 goals and 102 points in 64 games for the 20-year-old Martel . I would imagine there’s a good chance we’ll see Danick suit up for a short audition with Lehigh Valley at the end of the season. The Armada are gearing up for a deep playoff run so it may or may not happen.
Cole Bardreau (Free Agent)
Photo via Rich Barnes/Icon SMI
A checking forward by trade, Bardreau is sure to be a Greg Berube favourite. Cornell were straight up spanked by Union in the first round of the ECAC playoffs 4-2 and 7-0, as the Big Red exited rather quietly. Bardreau contributed 1 assist in those losses, but it was pretty obvious going in that this series would be lopsided. For Cole the season was a success as his 22 points led Cornell; it’s not a lot, but it’s a feather he’ll gladly carry in his cap as a defensive forward. Without any hockey to play Bardreau will probably be joining the Phantoms sooner than any other prospect in the system. It would be nice if teammate Reece Willcox joined him for a few games in the pros before the Flyers decide if Willcox may be worth an ELC or not. 53 points in 103 total games in his college career.
Win (4-3) March 11th @ Toronto
I’ve been singing Nick Cousins’ praises since I took over the AHL report earlier this season and this game against the Marlies is easily one of his most memorable performances. Toronto’s Byron Froese gave the Marlies the lead early in the 1st, but after that it was the Nick Cousins’ show. The young center’s 18th goal of the season was scored at 12:08 (assists Comrie/Gordon) and for his second act he scored his 19th with 10 seconds remaining in the period on the powerplay (assists Gordon/Comrie).
Despite Lehigh Valley getting the better of play in the 2nd (shots 13-8) it was a late powerplay marker by Frattin that tied the game at 2-2. It seems Nick needed some time to rest his back after carrying the team for the 1st period, but he came out strong in the 3rd. He assisted on a powerplay goal, Akeson’s 19th of the year (assists Cousins/Gordon); then scored his 20th, and on a penalty shot no less! Highly-touted Leaf prospect William Nylander had a goal to make it 4-3, but it was simply too late as Cousins’ performance had wrapped this game up neatly for the Phantoms.
Win (2-1) March 13th @ Providence
Adam Comrie scored the only Phantoms goal with 2 seconds left in the 1st (assists Akeson/Gordon) and that was about it in an extremely uneventful game for the Phantoms. They took 18 shots in 3 periods and added 4 more in OT while Providence registered 34. Perhaps most surprising was the lack of penalties. Just 6 minors given out, 3 per side..
It ended a 2-1 victory for Lehigh Valley as Scott Laughton sealed the deal in the shootout.
Win (2-1) March 14th @ Bridgeport
It’s time once again for the Cousins and Comrie show! After a pair of first period Bridgeport goals by Alan Quine, Lehigh Valley found themselves in an early hole. The 2nd period wasn’t looking much better as the Tigers led 25-17 in shots after 2, but usual hero and good-point-scorer Cousins was on the case. His 21st of the season (assist Gordon) was enough to get the Phantoms within 1 despite being outplayed and giving up 4 powerplay opportunities to their opposition.
With said penalties killed the Phantoms played the 3rd more cautiously and mounted a successful comeback which started with a goal from Comrie (assists Akeson/Alt) early in the 3rd. Scant few minutes later Cousins set up Akeson’s 20th of the year to spot Lehigh Valley a 3-2 lead. From here on out the Phantoms battened down the hatches and held on for dear life as the final shot total would be 40-25 in the Tigers’ favour. A man down thanks to a Cousins’ Delay-of-Game penalty with under a minute to play, Oliver Lauridsen made sure Cousins’ heroic efforts were rewarded as he scored into an empty net (assist Powe).
Flyers Prospects in the Professional Ranks
Scott Laughton (2012 – 1st Round)
The defensively minded center has had trouble readjusting to a more central role with the Phantoms since being a bit player for the Flyers. He’s been taking on the tougher defensive assignments and that’s been both hard for he and his line mates while making nights easier for the rest of the Lehigh Valley forwards. He was pointless in 3 games last week which gives him 14 points in 23 games. He’s always going to be a player you can depend on for solid checking, but everyone’s hoping he’s Mike Richards 2.0… hopefully without the horrible downturn after hitting his late 20s.
Jason Akeson (Free Agent)
Jason has been nearly as hot as Cousins has been in the new year and that’s largely because the two have been playing together a lot. Obviously the more gifted finisher of the pair, Akeson added 2 more goals this week giving him an even 20 in 42 games (he also has 21 assists). He’s in his prime years as a mid-20s forward and it seems quite a waste for the Flyers to have sent him to languish in the minors. No doubt in anyone’s mind he would have been a more useful player than guys like Rinaldo and Umberger, but it comes down to Berube’s opinion and I don’t think it’s very high.
Nick Cousins (2011 – 3rd Round)
Last week was a down week for Nick; A rarity in 2015. He looked bad defensively, but it’s safe to say that’s going to be a knock on him for years to come. It’s the offense he brings that could get him to the NHL and boy did he bring it this past week. He was named the AHL player of the week after a hat trick on Wednesday, an assist, another goal and another assist on Saturday. 6 points in 3 nights and a bus ticket to Philly! After the Phantoms’ win Saturday night he was called up because of an RJ Umberger injury (shut down for the season thanks to nagging injuries). I thought we were going to see Cousins dress on Sunday, but that would have been 3 games in 3 nights so I suppose Berube’s actually did him a favour. I think a lot of people will be quite keen to see what he can do at the NHL level.
Robert Hagg (2013 – 2nd Round)
Continues to cart around boat anchor and generally bad hockey player Jesper Pettersson as his partner. I guess because they’re both Swedish Terry Murray figures they go together. No idea why Robert has been sentenced to such a cruel fate, but I suppose it’s because the other pairings of Comrie-Alt and Lauridsen-Lamarche appear to be working lately. Healthy scratch Steven Delisle would be a huge improvement over Pettersson who appears in games only to board players and incite fisticuffs.
Petr Straka (Free Agent)
Hasn’t played since injuring his hand last weekend after a blocked shot. Still sits at an unimpressive 21 points in 52 games. I’m actually kind of glad because it gave guys like Kevin Goumas a larger chunk of playing time for once.
Taylor Leier (2013 – Round 4)
Riding shotgun with golden boy Scott Laughton would appear to be a choice assignment but these guys have really had tough luck lately. Stagnating at 27 points in 57 games, Leier started hot just like Laughton, but has had a disastrous time of it lately. Laughton and Leier are the Couturier and Read of Lehigh Valley though so it wouldn’t surprise me if their zone starts are laughably tilted to the defensive end. Tough to generate scoring chances when you’re starting your shifts in your own end 60% of the time.
Mark Alt (Free Agent)
A horribly disappointing season thanks to injuries has found new life since the Brandon Manning call-up last weekend. Without a real option to go to as a true #1 calibre defenseman at this level the Phantoms’ coaches went with Alt. It’s hard to argue with 3 straight wins and Alt along with partner Comrie have done the heavy lifting offensively while soaking up a big piece of the pie in terms of minutes. While the offense may not be on the scoresheet for Mark it’s definitely showing up for Comrie, so I’m of the belief that Alt is definitely pushing the play up ice if nothing else.
Anthony Stolarz (2012 – 2nd Round)
He’s had trouble gaining back the confidence he had early in the season. It’s very possible the Phantoms pushed him too hard in the first half and wore the first year pro down. He’s been relegated to a back up role at this point as Rob Zepp really did come through as a legitimate AHL starter. The Phantoms were bad early and that certainly inflated Anthony’s save percentage, but I feel comfortable with his .910 as a rookie despite his 3+ goals against. He had a great start against Bridgeport making 38 of 40 saves in a game Lehigh Valley probably shouldn’t have won.
Oskar Lindblom (2014 – 5th Round)
Lindblom’s ice time has dwindled to about 7 or 8 minutes as he’s been relegated to 4th line duty in Brynas’ playoff games versus Skelleftea. Maybe they should have given the young winger some more ice since they’re down 3-0 in the 2nd round and facing elimination on Wednesday.
Other Flyers Prospects in College or Junior
Michael Parks (2010 – 5th Round)
Parks had an assist and 6 shots in UND’s 1st round series against Colorado College. #1 ranked North Dakota rolled to an easy victory with a 5-1 win, but needed a late goal from Connor Gaarder to eliminate Colorado. Up next will be a match-up versus St. Cloud State on Friday. 32 points in 37 games for Parks this season.
Radel Fazleev (2014 – 6th Round)
47 total points in 68 games for Radel. 2 assists this weekend and Fazleev will hope he has a return to last year’s playoff form where he had 7 points in 6 games and impressed the Flyers enough to spend a late round pick to acquire him.
Travis Sanheim (2014 – 1st Round)
1 goal and 2 assists in 3 games gives Sanheim 62 points in 64 games. Calgary won 2 of 3 including their first game at home in a month. Currently tied with Joe Hicketts for the lead among defensemen in scoring in the WHL with a couple games remaining. It’s going to be tight.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel (2014 – 2nd Round)
3 road games and 3 goals for Nicolas. The Foreurs should be a tough team to beat heading into the playoffs as well, but they aren’t the favourite like they were when their roster housed Anthony Mantha (Detroit). 36 goals and 77 points in 56 games means Aube-Kubel will have to be a big part of Val d’Or playoff push. That’s especially true because of the team’s young roster, a lot of 17 and some 16-year-olds.
Tyrell Goulbourne (2013 – 3rd Round)
Missed 2 games with a minor injury and returned to go scoreless on Saturday. After signing his ELC with the Flyers it would be likely we would see Tyrell for a few Phantoms games near the end of the season. However Kelowna are probably going on a deep run. They’re heavily favoured to win the WHL title and it’s hard to imagine them not advancing into at least the finals. They’re stacked. Very possible his season runs longer than Lehigh Valley’s.
Sam Morin (2013 – 1st Round)
A couple of assists in 3 games for Morin gives him gives him 28 points in 35 games. Ideally I’d like to see Rimouski bow out of the playoffs in the first round and have Morin sign an Amateur-Try-Out contract with Lehigh Valley until the end of the season. He’s one of the big question marks in my mind. Sure he’s huge, but will he have the necessary puck skills to be more than say.. Luke Schenn, at the professional level?
Mark Friedman (2014 – 3rd Round)
No points in 2 nights for Friedman who now has 19 points as a Freshman in 38 games for Bowling Green. BGSU eliminated Northern Michigan 3-2 and 4-1; they’ll have a test Friday as they play #4 ranked Michigan Tech.
Merrick Madsen (2013 – 6th Round)
Harvard (#18) beat Yale (#12) in double overtime to advance and face #7 ranked Quinnipiac. Madsen did not play, as is tradition.
Adam Comrie (AHL/ECHL Contract)
Along with Mark Alt, Comrie has played the best hockey we’ve seen out of him all year (possibly the best of his career). He was a wildcard when he was brought up and it looked as though he was going to be a run-and-gun type somewhat like we see out of Manning from time to time. However, Adam has settled in nicely and with the additional minutes up for grabs he’s shown he can probably fill a top-4 role at the AHL level. There may be defensive lapses, but it’s easy to overlook when he has goals in back-to-back wins and 4 points in 3 games.
Brandon Manning (Free Agent)
Appears to be enjoying his time in the press box for the Flyers. Eating lots of cheesesteaks, etc. For Manning’s bank accounts sake he’s at least bringing in the big bucks while he does so.
Kevin Goumas (Free Agent)
Had been really impressive in briefly showing off his offensive chops as a member of the top-6 before being thrown to the wolves. The wolves being frequent winger Derek Mathers. Okay wolf, actually a wolf would probably be a better winger. Scarier for certain, better at hockey? Probably. Goumas failed to generate much of anything after a very successful weekend with 7 shots and 2 assists last week. Kind of boggles the mind why Murray wouldn’t try plugging in a recently solid Goumas on a line with an offensively struggling Laughton-Leier combination.
Nick Luukko (2010 – 6th Round)
No points in 3 playoff games for Luukko as he now has 14 points in 40 games for his best offensive season. The Catamounts (#17) advanced with a 4-2 loss, 3-1 win and a dramatic 1-0 victory over a favoured #9 Boston College.