New Phantoms Roster Coming Into Focus

Yesterday was the first day of signings for AHL free agents and there was much movement within the league.  There are still free agents out there and signings to be made.  The Phantoms are going to need another goalie.  And maybe a forward.  Heck, they’re going to need a coach!  But, here’s what we’ve got so far:

The "Ghost" shall make a triumphant return!

The “Ghost” shall make a triumphant return! Image: Kram

Before we get into the depth chart specifically, a couple notes:  injuries, promotion to the Flyers, and additional signings will certainly impact the lists below.  We’ll try to update things or post additional going forward.  Some of the big news yesterday was the departure of Phantoms favorites Zack Stortini and Jason Akeson.  Many of us remember the two appearing on the “Break the Ice” show on the same night, during a Phan Club meeting.  It’s sad to see them go, in many ways.

Photo: Cheryl Pursell

Photo: Cheryl Pursell

Stortini was a fan favorite in the first year of the Lehigh Valley franchise.  The tough guy made many friends among the fans and volunteered time in the community.  Rumor had it, he and his wife even bought a house in town with plans to remain with the franchise if possible.  Alas, is wasn’t to be.  The big-body forward did score more goals than expected this past season, but was among the league leaders in penalty minutes and wasn’t the fastest skater.  Many of the penalties were of the “sloppy” variety rather than the fighting variety as the season wore on, because most other players were smart enough not to mess with him.  In that way, he was also good for the team in the form of protection for some of the smaller “skill” players on the ice.  One of the teams he fought with the most was Binghamton–which is where he’ll likely end up after signing with the Senators yesterday.  If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, eh Senators?  Bimmington isn’t in our division anymore (somehow), and with the schedule delayed until August, it’s not known when, if, or how many times we’ll see them this season.  Something to watch, though.  Still, he’ll always be one of our favorites in these parts.  In the words of the jersey auctioneer, “You got any more jerseys back there?”  😉

Photo: Jack Mitroka

Photo: Jack Mitroka

Akeson had broken camp with the Flyers, but eventually found his way to the Phantoms.  Little used with the Fly guys, he needed a bit to get his skates under him, and then became one of our leading scorers.  However, criticism among the hockey cognoscenti was that he often held the puck too long, rather than looking to pass.  This would result in some center ice or blue line turnovers which were difficult for the team.  He ended with a -11 for the Phantoms last season.  He’ll join the Sabres organization with the possibility of playing for the AHL Rochester Americans–who may appear on our schedule as an out of division, but within conference opponent this season.

Stolarz.  Photo: Cheryl Pursell

Stolarz. Photo: Cheryl Pursell


1. Anthony Stolarz

2. [unknown]

Discussion: Young Stolarz should be back to continue his development; I’d like to see him get a little more ice time and improve his consistency.  However, he may not be ready to fill the “#3” spot for the Flyers, so the organization will look to add a veteran net minder.  We all want Rob Zepp, of course, but sources tell me re-signing him is doubtful at this point.  This correspondent is holding out hope…

Hagg.  Photo: (c) Jack Mitroka

Hagg. Photo: (c) Jack Mitroka


1. Brandon Manning

2. Mark Alt

3. Shayne Gostisbehere

4. Samuel Morin

5. Robert Hagg

6. Christian Marti

7. Jesper Pettersson

8. Davis Drewski

9. Nick Luukko

Discussion:  They’ll likely carry around seven of these.  We know Manning, Alt, Hagg and Pettersson pretty well.  Some talk late last year that Pettersson may return to the European game, but nothing official on that front lately–you know I’m a fan of the diminutive defenseman!  Gostisbehere we know, too.  His season was cut way short by injury, but he should be at full strength to start this season.  Luukko re-signed an AHL deal, but may find himself in Reading until there’s room in Allentown.  Morin was the first round pick of the Flyers in 2013.  The giant defenseman who averages almost a point per game last season in juniors should be fun to watch develop.  Marti is another big, young, blue liner who signed with the Flyers organization out of the Swiss league.  He’s more of a “stay at home” type, but is said to possess good mobility and a huge slap shot.  Drewski is an AHL and NHL veteran who was signed yesterday as a free agent.  He’ll be charged with leading the young crew.  He was with Hamilton last season where he racked up 22 points in 62 games and wore the ‘A’ on his sweater.

Leier Photo: (c) Jack Mitroka

Photo: (c) Jack Mitroka


1. Scott Laughton

2. Taylor Leier

3. Petr Straka

4. Nick Cousins

5. Brandon Alderson

6. Cole Bardreau

7. Derek Mathers

8. Tyrell Goulbourne

9. Danick Martel

10. Aaron Palushaj

11. Tim Brent

12. Chris Conner

13. Pavel Padakin

Discussion:  There may be some to be added here, but this is what we have at this point–as far as I know.  Let’s break them up into groups:

The Guys We Know:  Laughton and Cousins may challenge for a spot in Philly.  Otherwise, we’ll welcome them back to score goals on the top two lines at the PPL Center.  Straka and Leier continue to develop, and we’ll look for each to take a step forward in consistency and point scoring this season.  Alderson and Mathers kind of jumped back and forth to Reading at times, and may be available to fulfill “bottom six” duties in Allentown as needed this season.

Guys We Kind Of Know:  Bardreau and Martel got a taste of the AHL game late last season.  It’s difficult to say what role they may fulfill this season, but I’m under the impression the gritty centerman Bardreau may be back to center the third or fourth line.

Young New Guys:  Palushaj will be 26 when the season begins.  He does have AHL experience with Peoria, Hamilton, and Charlotte.  He’s seen NHL time with Montreal, Carolina, and Colorado.  He spent last season in the KHL, but contributed 58 points in 68 games in 2013-2014 in the AHL.  He’s most often a right winger.  Young Tyrell Goulbourne will turn 22 during the season, and was a third round pick by the Flyers in 2013.  He’s been in juniors where he’s often played on the left.  He had 45 points in 62 games last season and was +20.  Pakakin, a native of the Ukraine, played in the WHL last season and generated plenty of points and penalty minutes.  The 21-year old is signed to an AHL contract.

Old New Guys:  Tim Brent has been over in the KHL for a couple years as well.  He returns to the states with both AHL and NHL experience.  He had 32 points in 42 games last season.  Chris Conner may be a familiar name having played against the Phantoms the past two seasons with Hershey and Wilkes-Barre.  These two guys should provide some veteran leadership for the group, and don’t usually generate a ton of penalty minutes.

Cousins brings it down... Photo: Jack Mitroka

Cousins brings it down…
Photo: Jack Mitroka

So that’s what I see right now.  Most of the new draftees will play in juniors, college or overseas this season and be candidates to join the Phantoms next year or thereafter as age and other commitment apply.  As always, I feel optimistic, but the quality of our other goaltender and a couple more guys who can put the puck in the net would make me more comfortable.  Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Hershey, Portland, and others were more active in free agency yesterday and may have stocked with better talent via that route–hopefully our young players will be enough to compete.  We await news on a new head coach, and will listen for player information out of “development camp” which starts next week in Voorhees.

Resources and credits:

I just wanted to mention a couple of resources and credit a couple of contributors.  First, I’ve been trying to keep up with the player movement over at “Chirps From Center Ice” run by Jason Iacona.  With help from other bloggers, he has a “big board” ranking all of the free agents and noting when they’ve signed.  Check it out here.  Tony Androckitis over at “Highland Park Hockey” always has his thumb on the pulse of hockey in Pennsylvania–both the Phantoms and the Pens, as well as the Bears.  Click here.

I’d like to credit frequent comment-er “Loose Cannon” for contributing to the depth charts above.  Look for him in the comment sections, always.  Thanks to Cheryl and Jack for the photos above–they are all from last season and were in the “Horn and Bell” files.

Finally, join up with the “Phan Nation” Phan Club to get more involved with Phantoms hockey.  Get in touch via their Facebook page here or their web site here.  The photos on the web site feature Stortini and Akeson from the evening I mentioned above.


See you at the arena–before we know it!






Categories: Kram's Korner - From the Club Level, Phantoms Hockey


3 replies

  1. I was seeing the Phantoms pre-camp roster pretty much the same way you were … and then, low and behold, the Philadelphia Flyers organization signed another forward and another goaltender (as well as their 2015 first round draft pick) in the past two days since this article was posted!

    Starting up front and taking things from the top, I see the Philadelphia Flyers carrying fourteen forwards to start the season — Giroux, Voracek, Simmonds, Gagner, Couturier, Read, Raffl, Umberger, Lecavalier, B. Schenn, VandeVelde, Bellemare, White and a 14th forward yet to be determined. I think the Flyers would like to sign another NHL-caliber forward but it also could be one of the players who, at this point, appear to be heading for Lehigh Valley.

    Colin McDonald, the 30-year-old veteran right wing from Providence College who had 35 points (14 goals) in 40 AHL games for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and eight points (two goals) in 18 NHL games for the New York Islanders last season, could be that fourteenth forward. If not, then McDonald, who spent the entire 2013/14 season in the NHL with the Islanders (70 ga, 8 go, 18 pts) before appearing with the United States at the 2014 IIHF World Championships, should be one of the Phantoms’ more reliable performers.

    Aaron Palushaj, the 26-year-old winger who was once a First Team All-America (West) as a sophomore at the Univ of Michigan and a second round NHL Draft pick of the St. Louis Blues, should be intriguing. The speedy Palushaj had 160 points (66 goals) in 192 AHL games in parts of the last four seasons before heading to Europe. Palushaj was a member of the United States squad that won a bronze medal at the 2013 IIHF World Championships – just the third American team since 1962 to earn any kind of medal (all bronze) at the annual WC tournament.

    At this point, I would project Cole Bardreau, the 21-year-old undrafted free agent out of Cornell Univ who is rather responsible defensively, to be among Lehigh Valley’s top nine forwards along with McDonald, Conner, Brent, Palushaj, Cousins, Laughton, Leier and Straka (who really needs to improve on that horrible -20 plus/minus rating he had last year).

    The rest of the forwards do not necessarily excite me. Danick Martel did some nice things after joining the Phantoms late last season, but the 20-year-old’s severe lack of size (5’8″ 160 lbs) is troubling. But Derek Mathers (40 games, 0 goals, 2 assists, 147 penalty minutes) is nothing more than a goon who belongs in the ECHL. And Brandon Alderson had underwhelming numbers (35 ga, 7 go, 15 pts, – 5 plus/minus) for the Reading Royals after being demoted by Lehigh Valley.

    Tyrell Goulbourne skated last season as a 20-year-old overage junior and, what’s worse, was all but invisible (12 ga, 1 go, 2 pts) in the playoffs. Pavel Padakin has good size (6’3″ 210 lbs) but also skated last season in the Canadians junior system as an overage player. Both players should probably start in the ECHL with Reading.

    As a side note, former Phantoms forward Andrew Gordon has signed with Swedish elite league outfit HC Linkoping.

  2. Moving onto to the defensemen, I see the Philadelphia Flyers carrying seven defensemen to start the season — Streit, MacDonald, Medvedev, L. Schenn, Schultz, Gudas and a 7th defender yet to be determined.

    The Flyers just signed their 2015 1st round draft pick to an entry level contract. Russian defenseman Ivan Provorov (6’0″ 200 lbs) is said to have outstanding stickhandling and playmaking skills; prior to the 2015 NHL Draft, many people said that Provorov was the “most NHL-ready” out of all the defensemen eligible to be drafted. Meanwhile, I find it significant that Provorov managed just one assist in seven games for Russia at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championships last winter. So, I will wait to see how Provorov performs against senior professional players during Flyers training camp.

    Two other young players, the skillful Shayne Gostisbehere (Philadelphia’s 3rd round pick in 2012) as well as the massive Samuel Morin (Flyers’ 1st round pick in 2014), will also be looking to win an NHL spot in training camp. And the veteran Brandon Manning, who had what was easily his best season as a professional both at the AHL and NHL levels, surely has his eyes on a roster spot with Philadelphia, too. Furthermore, the Flyers are unlikely to re-sign the restricted free agent Del Zotto but that doesn’t mean the organization won’t add one more NHL-caliber blueliner in the coming weeks.

    Bottom line, as far as Lehigh Valley is concerned, is that the Phantoms defensive corps should be much more talented, as a whole, than last year’s crew. The addition of stay-at-home-type Davis Drewiske, the 30-year-old veteran from the Univ of Wisconsin who has a decent amount of NHL experience under his belt, seems to be a quality move. Although Drewiske has struggled to stay healthy virtually all of his professional career, the 220-pounder brings good size to the table and an impressive track record of being able to stay out of the penalty box (just 67 minutes in 135 career NHL games; only 28 minutes in 62 AHL games for Hamilton Bulldogs last season).

    Drewiske was a + 15 with Hamilton last season; this, in stark contrast to the plus/minus figures posted by some of the Phantoms’ blueliners — Manning (- 13), Hagg (- 12), Alt (- 15), Comrie (- 21).

    European teams are preparing to start their official pre-season training camps very soon (the continental Champions Hockey League competition starts on August 20th) so I think that if Jesper Pettersson was going to be playing in Sweden this season he would already be listed on an Elitserien club’s roster by now.

    Defenseman Magnus Nygren, Drewiske’s teammate in Hamilton last season who had skated in the AHL All-Star Game during the 2013/14 campaign before earning a bronze medal with Sweden at the 2014 IIHF World Championships, has already returned to his old club BK Farjestad Karlstad. Forward Johan Sundstrom, the former 2nd round draft pick of the New York Islanders who had just seven goals and 19 pts in 72 AHL games for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers last season, has already been gobbled up by HC Vastra Frolunda Gothenburg. Once highly touted goaltender Oskar Dansk, the former 2nd round NHL Draft pick (# 31 overall) who earned a silver medal for Sweden with Lehigh Valley Phantoms defenseman Robert Hagg at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championships and appeared for both the Springfield Falcons in the AHL as well as for the Kalamazoo Wings in the ECHL last season, has already been sent out on loan by the Columbus Blue Jackets to BK Rogle Angelholm.

    Depending upon how things shake out with the Philadelphia Flyers, the small but feisty Pettersson, who also on that Swedish team that won a silver medal at the 2014 IIHF WJC, could find himself in a real battle for an AHL roster spot with Christian Marti, the newcomer from Swiss club HC Servette Geneva … Marti (6’3″ 210 lbs) does have a major size advantage over Pettersson (5’9″ 187 lbs).

    Maxim Lamarche is still under contract to the Philadelphia Flyers organization, but I see the third-year pro ticketed for Reading.

  3. With all due respect to the “Big Board” of AHL Free Agents, to follow is a list of 38 players who skated at least ten games in the American Hockey League last season and have now signed with European clubs :

    75 ga … 59 pts … for – Tim Kennedy … to Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (Russia-KHL)
    75 ga … 54 pts … for – Casey Wellman … to Spartak Moscow (Rus-KHL)
    59 ga … 27 pts … def – Tomas Kundratek … to Dynamo Riga (Latvia-KHL)
    13 ga ….. 2 pts … def – Michal Cajkovsky … to Sparta Prague (Czech Rep)

    44 ga … 44 pts … for – Andrew Ebbett … to SC Bern (Switzerland)

    64 ga … 41 pts … for – Carl Klingberg … to Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod (Rus-KHL)
    25 ga ….. 5 pts … for – Ryan Potulny … to Reipas Lahti (Finland)

    62 ga … 52 pts … for – Alexandre Bolduc … to Traktor Chelyabinsk (Rus-KHL)
    48 ga … 18 pts … def – Evan Oberg … to Augsburg Panthers (Germany)
    23 ga … 12 pts … def – Patrick McNeill … to ERC Ingolstadt (Ger)

    21 ga … 3.57 avg … g – Oscar Dansk … to BK Rogle Angelholm (Sweden)

    33 ga ….. 9 pts … def – Daniel New … to EC Graz 99ers (Austria)

    36 ga … 22 pts … for – Jason Jaffray … to EHC Red Bull Munich (Ger)
    49 ga … 18 pts … def – Julien Brouillette … to HK Karlskrona (Swe)
    40 ga ….. 2 pts … for – Brandon MacLean … to Ravensburg Towerstars (Ger.2)
    21 ga ….. 2 pts … for – Patrick Holland … to HPK Hameenlinna (Fin)

    76 ga … 42 pts … for – Andrew Gordon … to HC Linkoping (Swe)

    54 ga … 21 pts … for – John Persson … to BK Farjestad Karlstad (Swe)
    72 ga … 19 pts … for – Johan Sundstrom … to HC Vastra Frolunda (Swe)

    48 ga … 39 pts … for – Cory Conacher … to SC Bern (Switz)
    41 ga … 2.53 avg … g – Joacim Eriksson … to Dynamo Riga (Lat-KHL)

    67 ga … 26 pts … def – Blake Parlett … to Medvescak Zagreb (Croatia-KHL)

    65 ga … 45 pts … for – Spencer Abbott … to HC Vastra Frolunda (Swe)

    63 ga … 35 pts … def – Derek Meech … to IF Malmo (Swe)

    18 ga ….. 4 pts … for – Steve Pinizzotto … to EHC Red Bull Munich (Ger)

    60 ga … 23 pts … def – Brendan Mikkelson … to HF Lulea (Swe)
    32 ga ….. 8 pts … for – Brad Ross … to Iserlohn Roosters (Ger)

    59 ga … 17 pts … for – Colin Fraser … to Nuremberg Ice Tigers (Ger)
    36 ga … 12 pts … for – Sebastian Wannstrom …. to BK Rogle Angelholm (Swe)
    64 ga ….. 8 pts … def – Jari Hakanpaa … to Karpat Oulu (Fin)
    39 ga ….. 7 pts … for – Benn Ferreiro … to EHC Red Bull Salzburg (Aut)
    28 ga ….. 4 pts … for – Nathan Longpre … to IK Esbjerg (Denmark)

    62 ga … 16 pts … def – Markus Lauridsen … to AIK Stockholm (Swe)
    16 ga … 3.19 avg … g – Sami Aittokallio … to Karpat Oulu (Fin)

    26 ga … 2.77 avg … g – Joey MacDonald … to Schwenninger Wild Wings (Ger)
    15 ga … 10 pts … def – Magnus Nygren … to BK Farjestad Karlstad (Swe)

    65 ga … 12 pts … def – Nolan Yonkman … to JYP Jyvaskyla (Fin)

    35 ga … 3.48 avg … g – Johan Gustafsson … to HC Vastra Frolunda (Swe)

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