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Phantoms playoff report: Sleepers

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It’s wrap up time, everybody!

Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

And we’re back! New week, new section, as the saying goes (right?). We spent last week talking about some of our more hyped up Phantoms, who have garnered a lot of buzz and expectation that they’ll be up with the big club next season, breaking down their playoff runs, but we’re shifting gears! We picked out a couple of guys who have been flying under the radar, or only picked up a little bit of buzz, and we’re taking a look at them. That’s right, folks, we’re talking sleepers! Let’s go!

Mikhail Vorobyev: 9 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 7 SOG

Maddie: I was kind of surprised by those numbers when I was pulling them. I know he didn’t score a ton in the regular season, but this feels low compared to that. I mean, it is low. He was at .5 PPG during the regular season. This isn’t even half of that. Where am I going with this? Maybe this is another case (like with Sanheim) where the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Because, to me at least, he felt more impactful than two points in nine games.

Brad: I certainly agree. This comparison may be getting a bit overused at this point but I always fall back on comparing him to Couturier. Prior to this season Couturier never broke the 40-point mark, but it was clear that he had a much bigger impact on the game than his point totals indicated. I don’t think anybody thought of him as a potential 30-goal scorer, but I know that I was already viewing him as a low end first line center prior to his ridiculous breakout season. I think that’s kinda where Vorobyev is for me, just maybe on a bit of a lesser scale.

(Please note I’m not saying Vorobyev is going to be a first line center in the NHL - he may be one of my favorite players to watch but I’m not that biased towards him.)

M: I get where you’re going with this, and I’m right there with you. The comparison’s a good one. One thing that lingers with me, that I think about honestly maybe too much, is how he’s still able to drive play well, even when Gordon keeps stapling him to Not Exactly Noted Playdriver Tyrell Goulbourne.

But what’s also really stuck with me, to sort of circle back, is how good he is on the penalty kill. I mean... oh my. I really feel like he was just running the show on a lot of his PK shifts.

B: Oh yeah, he’s such a good penalty killer. Something that really stood out to me when watching him on the penalty kill was his ability to pursue the puck carrier so efficiently. Like, the route that he would take to close the gap between him and the carrier made it seem like he knew exactly what the opposing player was thinking. Sometimes it really felt like he was mentally one step ahead of everyone else on the ice. Not to go full scout cliche here, but his hockey IQ is really, really evident.

M: A penalty killer that actually gets after the puck/puck carrier, and doesn’t just wait around and maybe try to block a lane? I’ve watched too much of the Flyers this year. That can’t be a real thing.

What also impressed me was how smart he is when he actually gets the puck. It’s not just that he gets it and immediately panic dumps it out of the zone—if he can do some passing or shuffling around to eat up even more time, that’s what he’s doing. Like this!

B: Oh yeah! There’s times where he’ll be able to pin the puck against the boards during the penalty kill just to waste time as well. The majority of his impact during the playoffs was definitely from the defensive side of things.

M: For sure. The scoring was there, if only a little bit, but on the whole it seemed like he was bringing a really well rounded game. He’s kind of my sleeper favorite to make the team out of camp, if the Flyers don’t make a big move to go out and get a center, and I am very excited to see what he can do at the next level.

Cole Bardreau: 13 GP, 0 G, 3 A, 17 SOG

Brad: Everyone’s favorite dark horse candidate to make the Flyers! This was the case prior to the ‘17-18 season as well. That of course didn’t happen, as an injury derailed his chance to make the Flyers out of camp but he’ll certainly have another chance this September.

Maddie: Penalty kill specialist!

B: Who always is in the penalty box! That’s where you were going with that, right?

M: [visibly flustered] Absolutely not! I was simply pointing to the larger, overarching narrative about a player folks have been expecting... yeah that’s pretty much where I was going with that.

Honestly, I think that was my first impression of Bardreau. He’s one who has garnered a bit of buzz for himself, so I was eager to see him to start the playoffs. And I think I mentioned it to you at the time, but my first real impression wasn’t on his game, but rather “for a guy who’s supposed to be so important in killing penalties, he sure seems to be the cause of them a lot.”

B: Yup, I remember that! It was, uh, weird to see him take as many penalties as he did in the playoffs. He only took 14 minors in the 45 regular season games that he played, and then followed that up by taking, what, 7 minors in 13 playoff games? Plus two 10-minute misconducts.

M: That is a lot of penalties. And I know the Providence series was chippy, but still.

B: Quite the chippy series. I think Bardreau’s lack of offensive production was more disappointing than his penalties though. For a guy who scored at a 0.67 point per game pace during the regular season, putting up just three points - all assists - certainly wasn’t enough to meet expectations.

And really, I’m not trying to pile on with negativity here, he did make his impact felt with physicality and continued to give opposing defensemen plenty of trouble by getting in on the forecheck like he had all season long.

M: I think what it comes down to for me was that I did expect more from him, especially with him being one whose name crops up around training camp as a sleeper to make the Flyers, but I was just sort of underwhelmed. In a run where I feel like a number of guys flashed or gave themselves a bit of a boost, Bardreau was just kind of there, for me.

Danick Martel: 13 GP, 4 G, 4 A, 27 SOG

Brad: Martel was one of the most explosive Phantoms during the playoff run for sure. His speed is always evident and his game seemed to pick up physically during the postseason as well.

Maddie: I totally agree. If nothing else, I’d say Martel was objectively one of the most fun players to watch.

But, beyond that, I think what’s most striking to me is that while he was still second in scoring (in goals and overall points), he could have easily propelled himself into first, with a few more good bounces. I feel like for just about every goal (or even point) scored, he had an equally close scoring chance that just missed. Dude was knocking on the door, was generating chances all over the place.

B: It sure did feel that way. He may not have led the team in shots on goal during the playoffs but I do feel like there’s a decent chance that he led the team in shot attempts. He’s been their volume shooter all season long and it felt that way during the postseason as well.

But, going back to your point, he did seem a bit snake bit at times. Eight points is still good, but that number definitely could’ve been higher.

M: It feels a bit like his time up with the Flyers, no?

B: Absolutely.

Speaking of, the whole point of this section of players was to discuss sleeper picks to make the Flyers, so without further to do; what do you think of Martel’s chances to make the team? Because in my opinion it’s quite low given some of the other candidates.

M: This is such a hard question for me. Because, while I would put Martel pretty high on my list of players who just looked too good to still be in the AHL, I don’t know quite where he fits in with the Flyers. I don’t think it’s out of the question—maybe they decide they need to bring up a winger to start the season, and Aube-Kubel has an atrocious camp, and Martel jumps him. But I don’t know how much stock I’d put in that.

B: Yeah, it seems like there are a lot of “ifs” that need to happen for Martel to make the Flyers out of camp. If they don’t sign a depth winger or two from free agency, and if Aube-Kubel and Bardreau fail to impress during camp, then maybe he’d get a spot. It’s not very likely but it is a possibility.

M: Exactly. And, like I said, I really want him to get a shot, he looks like an NHL player. But the where and how remain open questions.