Phantoms enjoying Lehigh Valley
The first year back in the Philadelphia area for the Phantoms has been an exciting one. They are one of the league’s best home teams with a record of 10-2-3 at the friendly PPL Center in Allentown. Their fantastic home record is keeping them alive in the playoff hunt, as they boast a 16-12-5 record through the season’s first 33 games. Lehigh Valley currently sits 9th in the conference, a mere point away from playoff position.
The Phantoms have a balanced attack at forward. Five different players are tied for the team lead in goals with eight, and nine different forwards have over ten points.
Scott Laughton is one of those nine. He only played 13 games for the Phantoms before being called up by the Flyers and scored 11 points in those 13 games, including six goals and five assists. Jason Akeson is another Phantom who has spent time with the NHL club. Akeson has scored 14 points in just 16 games, including six points in his last five games.
Nick Cousins (8 goals, 10 assists), Andrew Gordon (8 goals, 8 assists) and Taylor Leier (8 goals, 7 assists) have all played over 30 games for the Phantoms and lead the forwards in points.
The Phantoms are led on defense by another player who has spent time with the Flyers this season, Brandon Manning. Manning is the lone Phantoms representative at this year’s AHL All-Star Classic which will take place on January 25th and 26th in Utica. This will be Manning’s second trip to the Classic, after being selected for the 2013 event.
Manning leads the Phantoms in points with 23 (6 goals, 17 assists). Shayne Gostisbehere, before his injury, played five games for the Phantoms, and registered five assists. Robert Hagg is another noteworthy defenseman for Lehigh Valley who recently spent a few weeks away from the team representing his home country of Sweden in the World Junior Championships.
The big story so far this season for the Phantoms has been goaltending. Journeyman Rob Zepp has played extremely well for Lehigh Valley. The 33 year old has a 10-5-4 record with a brilliant .920 save percentage and a 2.60 goals against average. Zepp has combined with Anthony Stolarz to make a formidable duo. Stolarz, 5-6-1, has posted an even better .924 save percentage with a 2.63 goals against average. Stolarz is the hopeful goalie of the future, but Zepp is a good stop gap for now and potential NHL backup in a year or so.
Reading Royals, Road Warriors
Unlike the Phantoms, the Royals are enjoying more success on the road than at home. The Royals are just 9-7-1 at home while they are 10-3-1 on the road for a 19-10-2 record overall, good for 5th in the league overall.
Royals Points Leaders:
Prospects making strides
Samuel Morin (2013 - 1st round, 11th overall)
The gold medal winning defenseman is thriving in the QMJHL. After nearly missing out on the NHL roster, the Flyers sent Morin back to Rimouski Oceanic for his 4th season there. Morin was the receipient of an unlucky puck to the face earlier this season, delaying his inevitable development into a NHL defenseman. However, his play hasn’t missed a beat. After scoring just eight, 16 and 31 points in his first three season in the QMJHL, Morin has scored nine points in 12 games, a great number for a defenseman. Morin was rather invisible on an impressive Canadian Word Juniors team, but that isn’t a reason to panic. That was more attributed to the great players ahead of him, not to his poor play or skillset.
Tyrell Goulbourne (2013 - 3rd round, 72nd overall)
The nearly 21-year old Canadian forward has yet to find his game offensively. After scoring just 27 points in 64 games for the Kelowana Rockets in 2012-13 and 37 points in 68 games last season, he has increased his pace to a respectable 23 points in 32 games. These aren’t the numbers you hope to see out of a 20-year old playing in the WHL, but there is still plenty of time for Goulbourne to find his game as a depth forward.
Travis Sanheim (2014 - 1st round, 17th overall)
Sanheim has been dominating the WHL for the Calgary Hitmen. At just 18 years old, Sanheim has scored 10 goals and 22 assists for 32 points in 36 games thus far for the Hitmen. Mind you, those are numbers of a defenseman. Sanheim put up decent numbers last season with 29 points in 67 games, but this pace is phenomenal. The future is looking bright for the Flyers young defenseman.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel (2014 - 2nd round, 48th overall)
The 18-year old Canadian forward is enjoying his third season with Val-d’Or Foreurs of the QMJHL. After scoing just 27 points in 64 games two years ago, he brought that up to a respectable 53 points in 65 games last year. So far this season he has scored 16 goals and added 22 assists for 38 points in just 34 games, on pace to far surpass his point totals of last season.
Oskar Lindblom (2014 - 5th round, 138th overall)
The 18-year old Swedish winger had a bit of a coming out party at the World Juniors these past few weeks, scoring nine points (including a hat trick) in just seven games for team Sweden. These nine points matched his season total in the SHL for Brynas where he has the same four goals and five assists in 17 games played. As an 18 year old in an under-20 tournament Lindblom showed that he could play. Hopefully this can turn out to be a 5th round steal by the Flyers.
Radel Fazleev (2014 - 6th round, 168th overall)
Fazleev is in the midst of his 2nd season for the Calgary Hitmen with some international play for his home country of Russia mixed in. Last season Fazleev scored just five goals, but added 20 assists for 25 points in 38 games. Fazleev has already played 38 games for the Hitmen this season, scoring 11 goals and 19 assists for 30 points. It will be good to see Fazleev’s point totals continue to climb.
(Note: all statistics through January 6, 2015.)