Konecny and Provorov
First things first; as the Prospect Report writer it’s my pleasure to remove Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov from my reports. I’ll probably throw in a couple of updates as the season progresses, but they’ve graduated to professionals. I’m so proud *wipes tear from eye*
Neither Travis or Ivan will be eligible to play for the Phantoms this season. So don’t get your hopes up for one being sent down to the AHL if you’re in Allentown. It’s likely they’ll never suit up for Lehigh Valley in their careers. It’s somewhat of a sad moment for fans of the affiliate who will never get to see these highly touted prospects in the Phantoms uniform, but it’s also a bold move by the franchise to keep both at the NHL level.
Ron Hextall is also adamant that they won’t be on 10-game-trials to then be sent back to Junior. They’re in Philly for opening night (tonight) and to stay for the rest of the year! This was absolutely fantastic news, and everyone should be very excited and very proud of this organization. Including Provorov’s father whom Ivan called at 4am Yaroslavl, Russia time to tell him the good news!
Provorov and Konecny to play opener tonight vs. the Los Angeles Kings (image via flyers.nhl.com).
Konecny (at least for now) is slotted in as a 2nd line / 2nd PP guy with Voracek and Couturier. Hakstol seems to think Travis can handle Giroux’s role on the 2nd PP as the distributor along the boards. He probably won’t pull the trigger as much or as effectively as Giroux can sneaking in off the half-boards, but distributing the puck should be no problem. I don’t like having Konecny on Couturier’s wing for the vast amount of defensive draws Coots is subjected too so hopefully they shelter him from that just a bit.
Provorov appears to be matched up with Mark Streit on the back end. This is about as good a partner as could be expected for the young Russian as other options like Del Zotto (hurt), Gudas (suspended), and Schultz/AMac (terrible) would be giving Ivan a rough ride. Pairing him with Manning or Ghost would be nice, but it seems like Hakstol is spreading out the youngsters and putting each with a veteran. Penciling Ivan in for about 20-30 points from the back-end seems pretty reasonable.
Lehigh Valley Phantoms
Opening night for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms is also approaching and there’s a lot to be excited about! Tickets are still available in Allentown as the home side will host new Florida affiliate Springfield this Saturday, the 15th of October.
Management did an excellent job in the off season bringing in experienced veterans who can score, they snagged a couple players on AHL/ECHL contracts that are intriguing, there are young prospects ready to make an impact, and a decent core of returning players. This legitimately looks like a roster that can contend for a Calder Cup. Will all the pieces fit together? We’ll have to wait and see, but it’s certainly the best farm team the Flyers have put together in years.
Here’s some recent practice lines the Phantoms iced (Tuesday the 11th) via Bob Rotruck the Phantoms Radio Broadcaster.
This line-up is also sans Jordan Weal. Weal cleared waivers at the beginning of this week, but then the Flyers sent Lyubimov down. Kind of a confusing move considering the circumstances, but it was due to the Flyers’ financial situation. Lyubimov’s salary is about $300k higher than Weal’s so the Flyers sent him down to get under the cap. With Del Zotto heading to LTIR they needed to max the team salary in order to get the most out of his cap relief so they can have more flexibility down the road.
Jordan Weal in Flyers Pre-Season action (via Fimmano Photography)
That said Weal will be another talented body to add to the Phantoms’ top-6. Adding Jordan probably pushes Zengerle down to the 3rd line and that cascade hopefully forces Derek Mathers into another dimension. It’s very possible one of the defensemen is eventually called up due to the Del Zotto injury / Gudas suspension, but no news on that yet.
There are 2 pre-season games to have a quick chat about. The Phantoms got absolutely torched by Charlotte 6-1, but fired back with a 5-2 win of their own against that same Checkers team.
There weren’t many bright spots in that first tune-up game. It was nice to see new addition Greg Carey score his first as a Phantom, he had 26 tallies last year in the AHL so he’ll be expected to duplicate that this season. TJ Brennan and Travis Sanheim notched the assists on Carey’s goal, with Sanheim having the primary helper. He rushed the puck, beat a defender and feathered a backhand pass to Carey for a tap in.
Anthony Stolarz is clearly the number 1 goalie here, but he didn’t do himself any favours by giving up 6 goals on just 26 shots. He was beaten high blocker, low glove, high glove, high glove again, on a deke sliding to his blocker side, and finally high blocker for a second time on a shot he didn’t see. It’s just a pre-season game, but I’d like to see a stronger start than that.
Greg Carey scored his first goal as a Phantom in his first game (via phantomshockey.com)
Alex Lyon, the newcomer, who will be jostling with Stolarz for starts fared much better than his counterpart in the following game. He allowed just 2 goals in his first ever AHL game on 26 total shots. I’m not going to speculate on Stolarz’s job security yet, but Lyon was heavily sought after coming out of Yale. He could conceivably overtake Stolarz in the Flyers pipeline by the end of this season. It certainly seems like it will be a healthy competition which is better than in previous years with Jason LaBarbera and Rob Zepp clogging the net.
Of the Phantoms 5 goalscorers in the 5-2 win only Chris Conner played for the team last season. Conner’s goal in particular was a nice deke to open up the five hole. The other scorers were O’Neill, Knight, Carey and Fazleev. Danick Martel contributed 2 assists and 2 other fresh Phantoms did as well, Brennan and Zengerle. In short, the players added in the off-season seemed to get the job done. Like I said, tons to be excited about here.
Flyers opener tonight! Phantoms opener tomorrow! Hype!