As suspected, the Flyers organization has continued to add players and depth in preparation for the 2015-2016 hockey season. Since my post last week, they’ve added Colin McDonald, a veteran right-winger who played last season for the Sound Tigers and Islanders. They also added a veteran netminder in Jason LaBarbera, who was with Norfolk and Anaheim last season. The signings effectively ended the tenure of fan-favorite goalie Rob Zepp and forward Andrew Johnston, who became free agents. Also of note, defenceman Matt Konan was not tendered a contract, and also became a free agent.
In the comment section of the last post, in case you haven’t checked back, some excellent analysis from der Eishockeyzuschauer–frequent commentator and sometimes “Loose Cannon:”
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.
As the Flyers begin to re-tool from the net out, the Phantoms should be the beneficiary of some highly talented defenders over the next few seasons. I don’t have much else to add to the der Eishockeyzuschauer analysis:
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.
Still, even with the benefit of this further analysis, I have to admit my head is swimming a bit amid all of the player movement–both in and out as I try to learn about our new players and keep track of where our favorite players from last season are landing. As I mentioned before, one of the resources I’ve been using is the “Big Board” over at WB-S’s “Chirps” site. However, as the Phantoms’ signings started, I discovered a fatal flaw–European player movement isn’t represented well. I went to look up new Phantoms forward Tim Brent, a name I’d heard before. Surely he’d be in the “top 100” no mater how subjective. However, he played in the Russian KHL last season and was overlooked. With that in mind, another comment post by der Eishockeyzuschauer, tracking players who have left the AHL for Europe:
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)
ST. JOHN’S ICECAPS
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)
LEHIGH VALLEY PHANTOMS
76 ga … 42 pts … for – Andrew Gordon … to HC Linkoping (Swe)
BRIDGEPORT SOUND TIGERS
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)
SAN ANTONIO RAMPAGE
67 ga … 26 pts … def – Blake Parlett … to Medvescak Zagreb (Croatia-KHL)
ROCKFORD ICE HOGS
65 ga … 45 pts … for – Spencer Abbott … to HC Vastra Frolunda (Swe)
63 ga … 35 pts … def – Derek Meech … to IF Malmo (Swe)
OKLAHOMA CITY BARONS
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)
LAKE ERIE MONSTERS
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)
A big thanks to der Eishockeyzuschauer for these contributions–I wanted to re-post them because I thought they were so good. Finally, here’s a look at the players who will be participating in Flyers development camp starting this week in Voorhees:
Many of the newly-drafted players will be headed back to their Junior teams, their college teams, or possibly Europe. However, it’s good to start becoming familiar with some of the young talent in the system.
See you at the arena,