As usual lately this report is coming in looking like the Nick Cousins fan-club newsletter. The Phantoms played 3 games last week and Nick had 1 goal and 3 assists in those match ups. Pretty tough to ignore how central Cousins has been to the minor level of success the Phantoms have achieved this year. He’s had too much responsibility stacked on his shoulders for a sophomore player (yes, he’s just a 2nd year pro), and he’s done okay dealing with the pressure. He’s had bad stretches like everyone, but he’s been one of the only consistent scorers on the team (I’d throw Manning, Gordon and Akeson into that category as well). He’s even been keeping up with his agitating reputation lately by fighting Worcester’s Travis Oleksuk.
Nick Cousins has a few words with Darcy Zajac – Fimmano Photography
Our own Matt Bernot has an analysis of Cousins over here that places him as a top-9 to middle-6 forward at the NHL level. I feel given his performance this year he may even be better than that if he’s surrounded by some talent, but.. not a whole lot better than that. I think he has the potential to be a 2nd line wing on his best nights, which is right at the top of Matt’s rating. He’s a creative player with NHL vision, it’ll be a matter of him being able to handle the wear and tear of a regular NHL shift as he’s not the biggest at 5’10” and in the neighbourhood of 170lbs. Now on to the rest of the Phantoms.
Loss (4-3) February 4th vs. Worcester
The Phantoms opened last week’s play with a loss to San Jose’s affiliate the Worcester Sharks. The Sharks are by no means an elite AHL club with 55 points, and Lehigh Valley let this one get away. They have to come up with wins and this is the kind of team the Phantoms need to beat to get into the playoffs. The Sharks leading scorer for example is Freddie Hamilton who has just 27 points! Despite the lack of offense Worcester have been relatively sound defensively and have carved out a 25-17-3-2 record because of that.
On this particular night LV jumped out with an early Powerplay goal by Akeson (assists Manning/Cousins). It was a nice quick shot from the slot and tremendous screen by Stortini as Sharks goalie Aaron Dell didn’t really have a chance. This is the kind of effective play that Stortini can make which goes unnoticed on the stat sheet. At 28-years-old his legs aren’t getting any faster and his opportunity at landing a steady NHL job is probably over, but he can definitely contribute at this level.
After the decent start the Phantoms went in the tank and allowed 4 straight Sharks goals while being outshot 44-33. They didn’t wake up until late in the 3rd when Manning scored with 1:27 remaining to bring LV within 2 (assists Cousins/Gordon). Stortini added to a strong performance by getting the Phantoms 3rd of the night with just 2 seconds left (assists Leier/Manning), but by that point it was way too late. Good start, good finish, they need to figure out that middle bit. Tidy game for Rob Zepp who stopped 40 of 44 shots.. that is just.. way too many shots to give up.
Loss (4-1) February 7th @ Binghamton
In almost identical fashion Akeson scored an early goal (assists Leier/Gordon) to spot the Phantoms a 1-0 lead (5:08 in). Also in identical fashion the opposition scored to tie it in the 1st, added another in the 2nd, and 2 more in the 3rd. To be fair to LV though, this contest was much tighter and the Phantoms were really in this one until the final minutes as the Sens scored 2 empty-netters. Uhh let’s see.. not much to talk about in terms of scoring here.. Derek Mathers fought twice and was ejected.. that’s about it.
The most crucial news for the Phantoms (and also the Flyers) to come out of this game was that Rob Zepp suffered a right leg injury late in the 2nd period. The best I can find out about the situation is that “it’s not that serious” from Phantoms play-by-play guy Bob Rotruck. Either way it has big repercussions for the organization as a whole because of a subsequent injury to Steve Mason. The fallout from that means the Flyers will go with Emery/Stolarz between the pipes and the Phantoms may have to ice a Ouellette/Knapp combo if Zepp can’t go.
This is a great opportunity for Connor Knapp in particular as he’s been excellent lately earning ECHL goaltender of the week honours for Reading last week. Reading have been on a tear with 11 straight wins, but Connor in particular has 7 straight victories. His record this season is 16-7 while his stat line last week was a smooth 2-0 with a .945 save percentage. At 24 Knapp has bounced around quite a bit in the minors, but the former 6th Round Sabres’ pick is playing some of his best hockey and he could turn some heads in the Flyers’ system with a strong showing.
Win (5-4) February 8th @ Hershey
If you read last weeks summation the Phantoms had a TON of trouble against Hershey in the last month or so, but finally.. they’ve beaten them. With Zepp out Stolarz started and was generally pretty good stopping 36/40 shots. LV gave up 40, but they also took 39 of their own shots which definitely makes up for it. Jay Rosehill, of all people, scored his 4th and 5th goals of the season in the 1st period to give the Phantoms an early 2-1 lead (assists Hextall/Fyten, Hagg/Delisle). While the 2nd was a brutal looking bouncer from the point and a tip by Rosehill the 1st was nicely set up!
In a rather weird plot LV and Hershey exchanged goals back-and-forth in this game until the score was 4-4 late in the 3rd. Hershey tied it 23 seconds into the 2nd, Cousins made it 3-2 (assists Straka/Alderson), and the Bears answered to tie it 3-3 late in the middle frame. Akeson scored a beautiful backhand Powerplay goal early in the 3rd (assists Gordon/Manning), but Hershey wouldn’t go away as the evened it midway through at 4-4. The eventual OT winner went to an unlikely candidate in Kevin Goumas (whom I keep saying needs more ice!). It was a pretty little deke in tight by Goumas after a Gretzky-like feed from Cousins. A wonderful goal to end what was a very exciting game for fans of both sides.
Overall it was an underwhelming week despite the fantastic win versus Hershey. The losses to Worcester and Binghamton hurt even more given the Phantoms did beat the Bears on Sunday. If the team wasn’t flat through the 2nd periods of both of those games we could have seen 3 wins and potentially the Phantoms could have been just 2 points out of 8th. Instead they’re 6 points out and fading with a 3-7 record in their last 10.
Flyers Prospects in the Professional Ranks
Scott Laughton (2012 – 1st Round)
Returned from injury on Thursday for the Flyers in a 3-2 loss to the Isles. He hasn’t done much since being activated in terms of scoring, but of course the Flyers played the Capitals.. and he was looking for VENGEANCE against Matt Niskanen who knocked him out with the concussion. It didn’t go so well for the obviously overpowered Laughton who’s not much of a fighter. It was a matter of honour really and it’s nice to see Scott stick up for himself, but it was also kind of scary to see him fight after just coming off a head injury.
Robert Hagg (2013 – 2nd Round)
Possibly broke out of an offensive slump with 2 assists on Sunday in the big 5-4 win over Hershey.
Petr Straka (Free Agent)
1 point in 3 games since returning to the Phantoms from his brief debut with the Flyers. He proved that he can at least skate at an NHL level during his call-up. It’ll be up to Petr as to whether he can use the momentum of a pretty good cup of coffee to boost his play at the AHL level.
Mark Alt (Free Agent)
No games since last update – Nursing a broken hand – 5 points in 19 AHL games.
Oskar Lindblom (2014 – 5th Round)
No games since last update – 10 points in 26 SHL games.
Valeri Vasiliev (2012 – 7th Round)
No games since last update – 4 points in 32 KHL games.
Other Flyers Prospects in College or Junior
Michael Parks (2010 – 5th Round)
No games since last update – 27 points in 27 games.
Radel Fazleev (2014 – 6th Round)
Scoreless in 2 weekend road games for the Hitmen which is odd considering they scored 8 goals and won twice. Fairly slow start to 2015 for Radel, but he’s potted 39 points in 52 WHL games to this point in the season.
Travis Sanheim (2014 – 1st Round)
The Hitmen were getting some goals from unlikely sources on the weekend like big Keegan Kanzig (Flames) who scored his 5th career WHL goal in 4 seasons and Michael Zipp (undrafted) who had his 8th career WHL goal in his 3rd season. So it’s reasonable that Fazleev and Sanheim were almost held of the scoresheet. Sanheim picked up 1 assist giving him 48 points in 48 games this year from the blueline. 16 points in his last 12 games.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel (2014 – 2nd Round)
Nicolas just keeps throwing darts at the board as he has 56 points in 45 QMJHL games; 3 in his last 2 contests for a Val d’Or team that’s come a long way. He had 2 assists in a 5-3 win vs Rouyn-Noranda on Friday before firing in his 26th goal this year in a 4-3 loss to Charlottetown.
Tyrell Goulbourne (2013 – 3rd Round)
No points in 3 games for Goulbourne (34 points in 46 games) this past week, but he did land on a line with new Rocket Leon Draisaitl; who was of course sent down by the Edmonton Oilers. Draisaitl had 3 assists in those 3 games and if Goulbourne can ride shotgun with a guy like that for the WHL playoffs he could put up some gaudy numbers. Leon has 20 points in 14 games since being sent down by Edmonton.
Sam Morin (2013 – 1st Round)
Up to 22 points in 23 games now; Sam has 13 points in 11 games in the New Year. He most recently picked up 2 assists in a 4-3 OT loss to Cape Breton this past Saturday.
Mark Friedman (2014 – 3rd Round)
Hasn’t scored in BGSU’s last 2 games which is a shame considering he was riding a 10 game point-per-game clip. Regardless the rookie is up to 15 points in 28 games and looks to be a fairly solid prospect as he’s held his own at the NCAA level.
Merrick Madsen (2013 – 6th Round)
Still only has 1 partial game of experience for Harvard. Tough being a college back-up.
Marcel Noebels (2011 – 4th Round
No games since last update – hasn’t played since breaking a finger a month ago. 14 points in 28 DEL games.
Nick Luukko (2010 – 6th Round)
Had an assist in a tough 6-3 loss to New Hampshire on Saturday, and was Even through 2 weekend games. The other was a 5-2 win over that same UNH team. 9 points in 28 games for Luukko as a Senior this year.
Reece Willcox (2012 – 5th Round)
Back after missing 3 games, Willcox was in for the 4-2 win over Princeton and was in the starting line-up for the 1-0 OT loss to Quinnipiac. 4 points in 20 games for Willcox, he leads the Big Red with 37 blocked shots.
Terrance Amorosa (2013 – 5th Round)
Dressed for a game! Just his 9th game played this year for Clarkson U. Terrance played in the 2nd half of the back-to-back’s against Union (a 4-1 loss) and RPI (a 5-2 win). Took 1 shot and a minor penalty. 1 point in 9 games as a freshman.
David Drake (2013 – 7th Round)
Scoreless in 2 games for UConn, Drake has 1 goal and 4 assists in 24 games in his rookie season. The Huskies (8-13-7) started with a 2-2 draw vs. Providence last Wednesday, but were absolutely throtlled in the rematch Saturday 10-1. Drake was a -2 and only 3 Huskies weren’t a minus.