The Phantoms have yet to make the playoffs since leaving the city of Philadelphia in 2009, but there is reason to believe they could finally make it back into the post-season this year. Ron Hextall and the Flyers have made it very obvious that they are not going to rush prospects which lead to tons of depth signings this summer. The Flyers signed 9 depth players, all of which are most likely to see AHL time with the Phantoms.
Combined, the Flyers and Phantoms added eight new forwards this season, including six AHL veterans, four of which have played in over 100 NHL games. One or more of these players could see time with both the Flyers and Phantoms, but most will start in Lehigh Valley.
Tim Brent, 31 – C
Being the only player on this list who has played in over 200 NHL games, he has the best chance to make the Flyers this season. Brent’s defensive-minded game is very similar to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and would be a welcome change to the Flyers 4th line replacing winger Zac Rinaldo, who is now a member of the Boston Bruins. He hasn’t played in the AHL since the ’09-’10 season but if he ends up in Lehigh Valley I’d expect him to be a top-6 center with tons of time on the penalty kill.
Chris Conner, 31 – RW
Conner has 413 games of AHL experience and played for 6 different teams, most recently with the rival Hershey Bears. Last season he scored 19 goals accompanied by 33 assists for 52 points over the course of 61 games. In 180 NHL games, he scored 22 goals and assisted on 28 others for 50 total points which should make him a viable candidate for a stint in the NHL if an injury occurs. I’d expect Conner to start the season with the Phantoms in a top-6 role, whether he sees time on the Flyers or not he should help fill the void left by Jason Akeson who is now a member of the Buffalo Sabres.
Colin McDonald, 30 – RW
The former Islander is someone who may have a shot at cracking the Flyers roster straight out of camp. McDonald will be looking to take the open 4th line wing position, but may have trouble beating Brent for the spot. The stat that really sticks out to me about McDonald is that since the ’10-’11 season he has a +21 in penalty differential. However, if he ends up in the AHL he’s a productive winger who put up 35 points in 40 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers last season. Much like Conner, if he winds up on the Phantoms expect him to play in a top-6 role.
Aaron Palushaj, 25 – RW
A former 2nd round pick by the St. Louis Blues back in 2007 hasn’t been able to get and keep a constant roster spot in the NHL despite having success in the AHL. His last season in the AHL was the ’13-’14 season where he scored 22 goals and assisted on 36 others for a total of 58 points in 68 games with the Charlotte Checkers. He spent last season in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) splitting time with Zagreb Medvescak and Yekaterinburg Automobilist. He is another right wing capable of being a top-6 winger, which leads me to believe someone will have to move to the left side.
Chris Porter, 31 – LW
Over the past few seasons, Chris Porter has split time between the St. Louis Blues and their previous affiliate Peoria Rivermen, and current affiliate Chicago Wolves. Much like everyone on this list thus far, Porter is a fringe NHL player who could see some time with the Flyers this season, or none at all. If Porter joins the Phantoms he’ll be a good defensive forward who could put up around 45 points in a full season. In his most recent season in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves, he scored 7 goals and picked up 11 assists for 18 points in 37 games.
Tyrell Goulbourne, 21 – LW
It’s hard to give expectations to a rookie coming out of juniors. Since being drafted, Goulbourne has been compared to Rinaldo as the “left wing gritty forward” but his most recent season in the WHL tells a story that he’s changing. He had his first 20-goal season and increased his point total from 37 to 45 while his PIM dropped from 114 to 76. Points going up and penalty minutes going down seems to be a pretty good trend if you ask me. He may be looked at to kill penalties for the Phantoms this season.
Pavel Padakin, 21 – RW
Entering his first pro season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Padakin will look to get an opportunity on the penalty kill to progress his two-way game as the season goes on. Even though he ended his junior career with three 20-goal seasons, I would not expect him to put up ridiculous numbers in his rookie season due to the fact that he may not get the amount of ice time that the veterans mentioned above receive. One thing to note is that Padakin is on an AHL contract with the Phantoms, not an NHL contract with the Flyers.
Geoff Walker, 27 – RW
Another AHL-contracted forward like Padakin, Walker has split time between the AHL and ECHL over the past 2 seasons and will most likely end up as a 4th line winger, or in the ECHL with our affiliate, Reading Royals. Last season he split time between the Ontario Reign and Missouri Mavericks of the ECHL where in 60 games he scored 18 goals and picked up 25 assists for 43 points total. His last season in the AHL came with the Syracuse Crunch in the ’13-’14 season in which he scored 6 goals and assisted on 2 others in 43 games.
With a good mix of veterans and prospects, the Phantoms forward core has not looked this good in quite some time. These types of signings by the Flyers are something we should become more accustomed to as it seems Hextall is adamant on having a competitive AHL team year in and year out. Here are my projections for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms lineup based off of past point production and prospect progression. In this scenario, Scott Laughton makes the Flyers squad & 2 or 3 of B. Alderson, K. Goumas, D. Mathers, and G. Walker would end up in the ECHL with the Reading Royals, while the other(s) would be a healthy scratch to start the season.
Note: ignore the salary numbers for the AHL contracted players, this was made with Hockeyscap.com’s arm-chair GM tool and it required a salary number. Part 2 which includes the defense and goaltenders will be coming soon.
Update: The Phantoms have announced that they have signed Jay Rosehill to a 1-year AHL contract. He was used on the penalty kill last season but he may have a reduced role with how much forward depth the Phantoms have this season.