The Phantoms wrapped up their season rather unimpressively last week and they’re gearing down for the off-season while a handful of prospects are gearing up for their runs towards junior championships. First let’s attend to the car-crash of a finish to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms’ inaugural season.
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms inaugural season summed up in a single photo (via Fimmano Photography)
Win (4-1) April 14th vs. Hershey
Started off poorly as Stortini did some dumb stuff and got a 2 min charging penalty 40 seconds in. Despite giving up the majority of the chances Lehigh Valley found themselves in a tie game headed into the 3rd period. Laughton had tied the game in the first minute of the 2nd period. Scott made it look easy as he floated through the slot with no defenders near him and roofed a Mark Alt pass. Great work finding an empty seam and good vision by Alt to find him.
In the 3rd the Phantoms finally started to push back getting edged out in shots 13-12 and putting 2 goals on the board. The first of those was a great job of holding on to the puck by Kevin Goumas who circled and found Petr Straka headed towards the net and Straka buried his 14th of the year. The second was a great drop pass from Taylor Leier who put the puck on a tee for Jason Akeson’s 23rd of the year. Lehigh Valley hung on in this game until Oliver Lauridsen flipped a backhand to the redline that looked like it would be intercepted by Hershey defender Schmidt, but he missed. He then entered a foot race with rookie Danick Martel who beat him and slid in his first pro goal; an empty netter.
Outshot 40-29 and outshot in every period!
Loss (4-2) April 17th @ Norfolk
The Phantoms started off with a laughable goal in Norfolk last Friday night as Jesper Pettersson totally whiffed on a shot. The puck slid slowly over to Cousins in the slot who promptly spun it past an out of position Ryan Faragher and into the net. The first Admiral’s goal was a decent enough passing play by Loney and Laganiere. They had Mark Alt turned around on a bit of a pinch and Lauridsen is well.. Lauridsen.. but he didn’t do anything wrong here. He kept Loney in front of him but it was a nice shot using his legs as a screen and Zepp couldn’t handle it.
In the second the Phantoms gave up 2 on the PP; the first was a rebound goal banged in that Zepp had no chance at stopping. Jesper Pettersson didn’t do a fantastic job of tying up his men (yes there were 2 so he gets a pass for grabbing Steckel who didn’t score) and Hagg was floating a bit too high, but he was trying to protect against the shot (which did get taken). All in all it was a PP goal that gets scored sometimes when you’re down a man and can’t cover everyone, no big deal. The second PP goal is all Lauridsen. I’m thinking that a lot of AHL teams that see Lehigh Valley a lot are picking on Lauridsen’s side of the ice because they know he’ll just lay down on the ice like a walrus. On this play he went down on a fake shot, the Admirals then moved the puck, shot around him, and he was still down on one knee trying to block the original fake.
Scott Laughton readies one of many wristers he’s taken breaking off the half-wall on the PP (via Fimmano Photography)
There were fisticuffs as Mathers and Kurtz renewed acquaintances.. again.. they’re nothing if not persistent. Before the 2nd had ended Laughton brought LV to within 1 goal with a nice PP marker where he slid in off the half-wall again. He faked a shot and deked towards the low slot to throw a wrister through the wickets of Faragher. Love seeing Scott drive the lane like that, he’s been good on the PP.
The eventual insurance goal was tallied on a bad play by Mark Alt, he was beaten wide here and it wasn’t pretty. Lauridsen tried to take away the pass (wrong idea as Friberg just drove and shot from a bad angle resulting in a rebound and a goal), but this one wasn’t Ollie’s fault.
Outshot 44-25 and outshot in every period!
Loss (5-1) April 18th @ Hershey
Hershey started off with an early goal by Landry, good rushing play by rookie Vrana (who now has 5 assist in his first 3 AHL games – 3 in this game). He stopped up causing the the Phantoms’ defense to float out of position and spotted Landry still in motion as he lost his man Hextall and drove to the net. The second Bears’ goal was a nice dangle by Kundratek who made Lauridsen look more awful than usual. Bad few games for Ollie.. bad season for Ollie.. bad.. career for Ollie.. he’s not good.
Brett Hextall scored an absolute muffin of a goal on Phoenix Copley in the second period. A wrist shot from the face off dot coming down the wing that found its way in short side. Woof. Hershey’s 3rd came from Stephenson who (along with Broda) were left in front for some reason by Mark Alt. Mark was sleeping, watching the play over in the corner and looked pretty bad on this one.
Moving into the final period the Phantoms gave up 2 more PP goals, the first of which was Hershey victimizing Lauridsen again. They dumped it into his corner and sent 2 forecheckers at him; a battle which they won of course. They took it behind the net and crossed back over to where Oliver was still getting into position. A beautiful behind the back pass from Vrana through Lauridsen’s legs (kid has great vision) to Cornet for a wide open net. The last Bears’ goal came from Travis Boyd (1st career goal; he’s played just 2 games) and it was again Lauridsen providing the screen of Stolarz by dropping to one knee for a block.
Outshot 44-22 and in every period!
Loss (5-1) April 19th vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
2 goals against in the first 5 minutes as Dea scored on the PP, hard to blame Lauridsen or Manning since they’re outmanned 3 to 2 in front. Second goal came on the next shift as Laughton and Manning are waiving at Kunhackl as he drives to the slot for a shot. Worth mentioning that Lauridsen was in the corner and Manning overcommitted on Kunhackl here; probably should have been a bit more conservative in pressuring him. The only LV highlight from the first period worth talking about it Rosehill putting a Penguin in the bench and then trying to fight about 5 guys at once, LOLJAYURSILLY.
Another WBS goal was scored just 3 minutes into the 2nd as Alt was beaten from a stand-still by Farnham out of the corner. Farnham displayed a nice little forehand-backhand deke to roof one on Zepp. About midway through the period Oliver Lauridsen scored. It was (I can’t believe I’m going to say this) a decent looking goal. He rushed the puck and went wide, used his reach effectively to get around Syvret and found a gap in Zatkoff to score Lehigh Valley’s only goal. Impressive, maybe he wouldn’t make a bad Zack Stortini-like winger? It’s not unfathomable.
WBS planted another goal in the column early in the 3rd as they scored all of their goals (save the last PP marker at about 10 minutes into the 3rd) in the first 5 minutes of each period. Slow starts for Lehigh Valley in this particular game. Megna scored the final PP goal, and it was a difficult play for Hagg who was left alone in front as Luukko/Laughton were caught in the corner. Megna found the puck in that puck battle, rotated out to the front and found Hagg backed in too far on Zepp. Too much room and he scored his 26th.
Outshot 35-33 and in every period.. except the 3rd!!!!! This is a big deal everybody.. they didn’t get outshot in the 3rd when the Pens were up 4-1 early in said period and basically mailing it in.
Flyers Prospects in the Professional Ranks
Scott Laughton (2012 – 1st Round)
2 goals and an assist in the final 4 contests, he had 1 goal and 1 assist in the only win against Hershey last Tuesday. The goal was a beauty sliding through the low slot as Leier drove the net and gave him a ton of room to bury the Mark Alt feed. His assist was of the secondary variety so it wasn’t all that important. His other goal was another pretty play as he drove the low slot and shook a defender to slide the puck through. He’s been one of the only Phantoms producing anything as of late.
Jason Akeson (Free Agent)
Absolutely hammered home the Taylor Leier drop pass he received against Hershey last Tuesday. Made some creative plays at the offensive blueline that I noticed as well, dancing around a few skaters, and added an assist. Was held pointless for the final 3 games of the season.. something that I don’t think has happen often (maybe not at all) this year.
Taylor Leier (2012 – 4th Round)
An assist! I’m sure that assist felt pretty good both because it was a nice play and because Leier has been struggling to put points on the board recently. His drop pass wasn’t his best play of the game against Hershey though as he managed to take 2 defenders to the net and give Laughton a wide open shot from the low slot earlier in the game last Tuesday.
Nick Cousins (2011 – 3rd Round)
1 goal against Norfolk on Friday, but not much other than that. I’ll give Nick a pass since he hasn’t been playing with Akeson. Not sure why you wouldn’t put those 2 back together as they’d been electric before Cousins was called up to Philly. Lehigh Valley are clearly not deep enough up front to provide both Cousins and Laughton with appropriate wingers. Sure Andrew Gordon and Zack Stortini are okay, but they’re not a real offensive dynamos.
Robert Hagg (2013 – 2nd Round)
Hagg found himself in an awful position when Bardreau turned the puck over on a Bears’ goal last Tuesday. Nothing he could do whatsoever and he could hardly be blamed for the goal. Later in the 2nd period he made an outstanding rush up the ice and beat a few defenders himself nearly chipping in a goal; impressive stuff. Hagg also generated 9 shots and picked up an assist in the 4 games this past week so he seemed to have a little jump in his step. Defensively he was hung out to dry quite a bit this week, but that seemed to be true for the entire corps. Bad team game defensively.
We have a fresh Prospect Projection up for Hagg right over here!
Mark Alt (Free Agent)
Showed great patience by Alt to feed Laughton on a goal where he pushed forward into the offensive zone carrying deep into Hershey territory. He was noticeable on a few offensive opportunities, but defensively (more so than Hagg) he was rough. He was beaten cleanly a couple of times in the last week and they resulted in opposition goals. Showed his frustration by slamming sticks, etc. He had a bad finish to a year marred by injuries.
Kevin Goumas (Free Agent)
Goumas made the same play twice in the game against Hershey last Tuesday. While he controlled the puck low he didn’t panic and throw it in front, he instead took it behind the net looking to cross up defenders and find a man through an open seam. The first time he ended up just trying to snap a quick shot past the goaltender, but the second time he spotted Petr Straka busting towards the net and it ended up in the back of the net. Excellent vision. 2 assists for Goumas which is pretty magical considering he was flanked by Derek ‘Sucks-Butts’ Mathers for the entire last week of play.
Cole Bardreau (Free Agent)
A bit of a defensive mishap on the Bears’ only goal last Tuesday, but missing a bouncing puck along the back boards isn’t the end of the world. Was also lazily backchecking on the Landry goal early against Hershey, but neither the goalscorer or passer was really his man. Plus that was a great play at the half-wall by Vrana to generate the goal and throw off everyone’s backcheck. Otherwise Cole was a ghost, which isn’t a bad thing when you’re a checking forward.
Danick Martel (Free Agent)
Finished with 1 goal and 2 assists in his 5 game audition for Lehigh Valley. Danick had a goal (it was an empty-netter but maaaannn he deserved it) and an assist while playing Wing with Cousins/Gordon, and another assist with Hextall/Stortini while at Center. His EN goal was a full-on foot race with Bears’ defender Nate Schmidt which Danick won despite being hauled down. Safe to say his speed won’t be an issue as he looked like he was shot out of a cannon on the play.
Clearly he was moved around a bit so Murray and the organization could start to get a feel for where he’ll fit in next year. If I had to guess I’d say he could play either position pretty well, but it will come down to where Laughton and Cousins are playing next year. If both end up in Philly (quite possible frankly) we could see Martel take on a huge role as a #1 or #2 C next year. I suspect that would be a bit too much for him defensively, but he could produce enough offense to warrant those kinds of minutes.
Nick Luukko (2010 – 6th Round)
After sitting out 4 in a row (I’m sure for dumb reasons since this team was out long ago) Luukko finally got a chance to play a bit. He and Matt Konan (who was playing his first games in a year and a half) formed a pairing for the final 3 games. Luukko took 3 shots, Konan took 4.. Nick was on the ice for just 1 goal against; the last of the season in fact. There weren’t many opportunities for Luukko to succeed on his ATO contract so it’ll be interesting to see if he gets an ELC or not.
Petr Straka (Free Agent)
Scored on a perfect play/pass by Goumas, but points have simply been too few in his 2nd professional season. Straka (much like Bardreau) has been a ghost, but he was expected to score and did not live up to that billing. He may be an effective checking forward, but he’s not scoring like everyone had hoped he would.
Matt Konan (Free Agent)
Finally back! Matt returned after missing about a season and a half of play due to a concussion. That concussion was suffered on a hit from Dave ‘Notorious for blind-siding Crosby in the Winter Classic’ Steckel, whose career is currently fading into the nothingness he deserves in Norfolk. Konan had been practicing with the Phantoms for a few weeks, but I didn’t really expect him to play! It was great news that he was cleared and played 3rd-pairing minutes with rookie Nick Luukko for the final 3 games of the season.
While I couldn’t be happier for him as a person it will be VERY hard for him to stay with the organization given that he hasn’t had an opportunity to prove his level of play for a year and a half under new GM Ron Hextall. He’ll be hard pressed to land a deal t stay in Lehigh Valley as the Flyers will have younger more promising blueliners coming through the pipeline. He’s likely played the last games of his Phantoms’/Flyers’ career. I wish him well and hope his concussion problems are behind him.
Other Flyers Prospects in College or Junior
Radel Fazleev (2014 – 6th Round)
The Hitmen were outshot 36-22 in their 2-1 overtime win in game 4 to go up 3-1 in the series and put Medicine Hat on the ropes. Jake Virtanen scored the only regulation goal on a penalty shot and then Elliott Peterson (who’s just terrible btw) blew a tire on his own penalty shot attempt (right around 2 minutes, it’s hilarious) which would have put the Hitmen up a goal in regulation. It didn’t matter as Calgary eventually got an OT winner from Jordy Stallard, a grinder who has put up some timely goals in the playoffs.
For Fazleev in particular there wasn’t a whole lot to talk about in Game 4, he didn’t make an impact offensively, but also wasn’t victimized defensively. So I guess it was a wash. In game 5 however he was unfortunate to be on the ice for 3 goals against. The 1st Medicine Hat goal which trickled through Mack Shields was no one’s fault but his own, and the 2nd Tigers goal was a brutal break out pass by Harmsworth which was turned around so Fazleev didn’t make any particularly bad plays. He was caught up ice on the 3rd Tiger goal, but he then picked up an assist with 45 seconds left on Virtanen’s game-tying PP goal. He just shoveled it towards the Medicine Hat net, but hey it was a big goal to be on the ice for. I did see 1 particularly great slot drive and shot by Radel, but he missed the net in OT.
Travis Sanheim (2014 – 1st Round)
Sanheim was on the ice for Stallard’s OT winner in game 4, but didn’t really have an impact on the play. He, just as Fazleev, didn’t really make an impact offensively and also was blunder-free defensively. Sanheim got back on the horse quickly though as he contributed a goal and an assist in the Game 5 series win. He started a Virtanen rush picking up a secondary assist early, and was also out for the Jake Bean goal but wasn’t a part of the scoring play. Travis came up big in the series finale as he scored in double OT to set the Saddledome on fire! It was a face-off win by Karnaukhov that sat along the half-wall and Sanheim came in off the point to take a wrist shot short side. It found its way through some traffic and past the blocker of Tigers’ tender Marek Langhamer.
Travis Sanheim celebrates his Double OT Game 7 winning goal (via hitmenhockey.com)
Calgary will prepare for the WHL’s Eastern Conference finals which commence this Friday in Brandon, Manitoba. Brandon are a scary team in that the offense they generate comes from a lot of different sources (7 different Wheat Kings scored better than a point-per-game). They’re led by undrafted 19-yo Tim McGauley who had a breakout season netting 42 goals and 105 points (3rd in the entire WHL), but no Brandon player appears on the playoffs’ leading scorer page. They’re getting it done by committee and it’s going to be tough to match-up against such a deep team.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel (2014 – 2nd Round)
After being completely blown up for an 18-6 deficit through 3 games the Foreurs battled back to win their series 4-3 against Baie-Comeau. Aube-Kubel had difficulty getting on the board in this series as he totalled just 1 goal and 3 assists through 7 games, but his goals for and goals against in all situations pretty much even (8 for and 9 against).
Aube-Kubel and teammates celebrate their 4-3 series win after initially going down 3-0 in the playoff match-up with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar (via TC Media – Valérie Maltais)
We haven’t seen Nic really bust out for a pile of points like we did during the regular season, and I suspect that’s because the coaches have tightened his leash so to speak. He’s known as a defensively sound player and I would imagine he’s getting heavy minutes against tough competition. It’s difficult to score when you’re getting hemmed in and trying to hold on against the league’s best forwards every shift so the fact his goal differential is almost null is probably a pretty good sign. They’ve moved on to play none other than Sam Morin and the Rimouski Oceanic in the QMJHL semi-finals.
Tyrell Goulbourne (2013 – 3rd Round)
In the Western Conference of the WHL playoffs (opposite Calgary who are in the East), Tyrell Goulbourne’s Kelowna Rockets have rolled into the 3rd Round losing just 1 game to Victoria in the process. They’ll match up against the Portland Winterhawks this weekend as they make a bid for a WHL championship. I’m pretty hopeful that we’ll see a Calgary/Kelowna final, but both teams have a lot of work to do to get there.
Goulbourne’s been deployed with Czech center Tomas Soustal lately, which is a bit of a change from what we saw during the regular season. The trade for Draisaitl really gave the Rockets a ton of options up front and Tyrell didn’t really get an opportunity to play in the top-6 after Leon came over. He’s playing in a 3rd line role now, but he really could easily be a 1st line player in the WHL. He’s proven that in his overage season. In saying that, overage seasons are a pretty big wildcard in Canadian Junior leagues and we’ll have to wait until he plays in Lehigh Valley next year to see if we’ve got another Zac Rinaldo, or a player that isn’t a piss-mutant.
Sam Morin (2013 – 1st Round)
The Oceanic completely shut down the Olympiques’ offense through the last 3 games of the series as Gatineau scored only 3 goals. Rimouski on the other hand dropped 12 of their own winning the series handily 4-1. One stat that stands out in this series is that Sam Morin was not on the ice for a single goal against in any situation.. Gatineau only scored 6 goals in 5 games, but I’ll at least give Morin the benefit of the doubt here that he was a big reason they didn’t score any more than that. Having advanced Rimouski will be playing Aube-Kubel’s Val d’Or Foreurs squad in the semis.
There is still however the overarching issue of Morin’s discipline, he took 2 minors in the final 6 minutes of game 5 against Gatineau. Penalties at a crucial time when he should; a) be on the ice and b) not be giving the opposition chances to score. A lot of people want Morin to emulate the game of Chris Pronger, they want him playing feisty. He’s never going to have Pronger’s offensive finesse.. not many do. So if we take away quite a bit of Pronger’s offense that leaves us with a guy who plays very physically (at times very dirty) and that’s not a winning recipe.