PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 01: Drew Stafford #21 of the Buffalo Sabres skates against Erik Gustafsson #27 of the Philadelphia Flyers on October 1 2010 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
With our fearless leader returning from the All-Star Game, things have been slow around here. So why don't we check in on the Phantoms rookies and how they are doing compared to their preseason projections.
If you recall (or if you clicked the link above), before the season I used Gabe Desjardins' AHL Equivalencies to try and get a feel for what the Phantoms would look like this year. Specifically, I looked at those making their AHL debut.
Then, we looked at their projections at the quarter pole, which yielded some pretty sad results. But things have looked up since then! The Phantoms have won 12 games since December 7th, compared to only 3 games before December 7th. So... Good for them!
Anyway, jump to see how the Phantoms' rookies are living up to their expectations 49 games in.
All the way on the left you see how many games that player has played so far this year. The first set of G, A, Pts are the projections, and the second set are the player's current stats extrapolated to 82 games. Yes, there's no way Shane Harper plays even 55 games this season, let alone a full 82 like his 39.2 point projection is based on, but that's never been what we aim for. Instead, this shows you the point per game ratio and how that looks over the course of 82 games.
Lastly, this isn't about singling them out as deserving of blame or underperforming, but rather to look at how these guys are producing in their first year as professionals compared to what we were expecting in the beginning of the season.
Pither was the one player I was most excited for prior to the season, and while he had a very disappointing start to the year, he had trouble adjusting to the pro game. After being called out and put in the coaches' doghouses, Pither came out and earned the role I penciled him in at the beginning of the season: First-line center.
As a result, 11 of Pither's 14 points have come in his last 26 games. Hopefully he continues to improve as the season goes on. He is extremely unlikely to reach his preseason projection (he needs 38 points in 33 games), but it would be nice if he could get 21 points in his final 33 to show that he's on pace with his points-per-game projection.
Gustafsson quite clearly is the standout star among the Phantoms rookies. He is still outscoring his projections by over 10.5 points, and he's tied for the team-lead in points. He only has 3 assists in his last 15 games, and yet he's still on a 51 point per 82 game pace. That, obviously, is ridiculous.
Unfortunately, Harper just hasn't caught on in the AHL. He's only played 20 games and only scored 3 points, which just isn't good enough, even on a terrible team like the Phantoms. The good news? He has 21 points in 20 games down in the ECHL, as well as a plus-10 rating. He's clearly one of Greenville's best players, but he just isn't producing in Adirondack.
Not sure what else to say except wait for next year. He clearly has skill, it's just a matter of it translating.
Ah, the darling of the summer. What's remarkable is that he's performing slightly worse than expected, which wasn't that great to begin with. But this is exactly what we feared during camp: all that hype for a player who would have a good, but not great, year.
He has as many points as Eric Wellwood (the new darling) in three additional games, but what is surprising is that Testwuide is racking up assists rather than goals. For a power forward, you want to see him slamming in rebounds rather than creating rebounds, but since we can't watch the games, this is all guesswork. Regardless, Testwuide is on a 31 point pace, which isn't bad at all.
Ah, Eric Wellwood. Every Flyers fan's favorite Phantom. As said above, he's the new Testwuide. So much hype yet a disproportionate amount of production. He's a good player, certainly, and we were fans of his from the beginning (read the preseason projection post), but everyone needs to take a breath and give him time.
He has 17 points in 42 games, or a lower points-per-game mark than Denis Hamel, Stefan Legein, Jon Kalinski, Michael Ryan, Erik Gustafsson, and Danny Syvret. Yes, the Phantoms are bad, and yes almost all of those players are AHL veterans, but Wellwood is not ready yet. He is a very good player, performing really well for his age and experience, but he's still learning the game. Don't rush him into an NHL job. He'll get there on his own.
Rowe was someone who impressed at Rookie Camp, but he's currently stuck on the fourth line in Adirondack, fighting to stay in the lineup. He has two goals in his last three games, but before that, he only registered 1 assist in 15 games. He's well below his projections, but he was projected as the 5th highest-scoring forward and he still is.
Going forward, he will have to step his game up.
Holmstrom is someone the organization is high on. He's constantly talked about as a future Flyer, someone in the mold of Blair Betts. He's a penalty-killing center who is good at faceoffs, and he's surprisingly outperforming his projections by over 5 points.
He's currently on the second line with Michael Ryan and Stefan Legein, so he's come a long way since the summer. A pleasant surprise, indeed.
When he isn't suspended, Rinaldo finds himself on the third-line with Mike Testwsuide and Jon Kalinski, He only has 2 assists in his last 32 games, which is actually not far from what was expected. He was only projected to score 15.4 points over 82 games and he's on pace for 12.
Not surprisingly, he has 176 penalty minutes, which puts him on pace to reach 350 this year. That's nearly 4.3 penalty minutes per game. Forgive us if he's not a player we're excited for. A penalty machine who (not surprisingly) doesn't register points. But hey, he's a Flyers-type of player. Don't be surprised if he replaces Dan Carcillo, since he's only a $544,444 cap hit.
As a whole, the Phantoms rookies are underperforming their projections. The good news, though, is that most players are either exceeding them (Gustafsson and Holmstrom) or only slightly below (Testwuide, Wellwood, and Rinaldo). Further, Luke Pither is rebounding nicely, despite still being far below expectations.
But the fact is, when you rely on signing undrafted players and 6th picks (as both Rinaldo and Wellwood are), you aren't going to have a lot of talent. The Flyers found a good player in Gustafsson, but it isn't surprising that almost everybody else is struggling and/or not producing. And next year, when the Flyers could absolutely use young, cheap talent to fill out their roster, they - not surprisingly - don't have many options. But they did do a good job of signing AHL role players, so give them credit for finding Gustafsson, Pither, and Holmstrom.
As a side note, the AHLEquivalencies Gabe Desjardins helped me work out are doing a pretty good job so far of predicting what these players will do.