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AHL All-star break Phantoms player grades: the forwards

Which forwards have had the biggest impact on the team sitting ninth in the league?

Casey Liberatore - SB Nation ©

A six day break in the action led to Maddie and I (Brad, hello) sitting down and handing out some mid-season grades! Well, maybe it’s a bit too late to call them mid-season, but the Phantoms did just get done with a stretch of seven games in eleven days so there really wasn’t much time to get this done. A little bit later than mid-season, AHL All-Star break player grades; there we go, that’s totally not a mouthful at all.

Well with that out of the way, we decided to take a closer look at every Phantom that has appeared in at least 20 games this season and give them a letter grade ranging from A+ to F, averaged our grades together, and added some commentary. Today we’ll be focusing on the forwards, while tomorrow we shift to the defensemen and the goaltenders.


Greg Carey

Production: 44 games played, 20 goals, 14 primary assists, 9 secondary assists, 43 points
5-on-5 stats: 49.12% Corsi for, 47.41% scoring chances for
Grade: A

Brad’s take: At face value his on-ice metrics don’t look good, however, the Phantoms as a team have graded out poorly at 5-on-5 this season, and Carey’s numbers are actually better than the team’s 45.45% Corsi for and 46.17% scoring chances for — two numbers that should be kept in mind for the remaining players we’ll be looking at here. So the Phantoms have possessed a better share of the shots taken while Carey was on the ice rather than when he’s been off of it, but they’ve still be out-shot and out-chanced with him. Good, not great. That aside, Carey has one of the best shots in the league and has obviously utilized it a ton this season as he currently sits tied for seventh in the league with 20 goals, and just three days ago won the hardest shot competition at the AHL All-Star game. My biggest takeaway is that the Phantoms would be in bad shape without Carey.

Maddie’s take: Yeah, everything’s relative when it comes to those stats, so I don’t have any complaints about Carey’s numbers. I also don’t have any complaints about his scoring numbers. Consistency’s kind of been the name of the game for Carey so far this season, he’s found a way to produce even when the team was slumping in a big way, and we can’t really oversell the importance of that.

Chris Conner

Production: 44 games played, 11 goals, 8 primary assists, 13 secondary assists, 32 points
5-on-5 stats: 43.54% Corsi for, 47.1% scoring chances for
Grade: B

Maddie’s take: Conner’s been good so far this season. The Corsi and SCF numbers are a little lower than we might like, but he’s had pretty much everything else locked down, in terms of making sure he’s got all of those little things taken care of. He’s been another one of our more consistent producers, and that goes a long way, considering the team’s gone through some rough stretches where they struggled to manufacture offense. He’s also just a lot of fun to watch because apparently I am a child and am easily dazzled by shiny (ie fast, in this case) objects. So there’s that too.

Brad’s take: Conner has rebounded nicely from a down year, and is on pace to once again break the 50-point mark as he did in his first two seasons with the Phantoms. However, he is second on the team in secondary assists and, while not all secondaries are the same, that’s a good bit of noise impacting his points total. It’s also true that for the second year running Conner possesses one of the worst CF% on the team at 5-on-5, but interestingly enough grades out a lot better when low danger shots are removed from the equation — even better than the team. So really when it comes down to his on-ice stats, it depends on what you value more; quantity or quality. On the whole, he’s been a threatening player to play against this year and has put together another strong season to add to his fantastic AHL career.

Phil Varone

Production: 22 games played, 11 goals, 9 primary assists, 8 secondary assists, 28 points
5-on-5 stats: 51.52% Corsi for, 52.26% scoring chances for
Grade: A+

Brad’s take: What is there to say about the reigning league MVP? Through 22 games he scored at even better pace than it took for him to win the Les Cunningham Memorial Award last season, and he had an even larger role on the the penalty kill this year as well. First line center, first power play unit, first penalty kill unit, yeah, Varone did everything for the Phantoms prior to his re-call. This was by far the easiest grade to hand out.

Maddie’s take: A Phantom no longer, and deservedly so! He had what we can really only call a stellar start to the season—leading the team in scoring and hanging out towards the top in the league in scoring, and putting up a CF% above 50 percent where, as Brad said, the team hasn’t been able to across the board. He did just about everything he needed to do to earn his call-up, and it was a real treat to watch him, while he was here.

Mike Vecchione

Production: 45 games played, 10 goals, 10 primary assists, 5 secondary assists, 25 points
5-on-5 stats: 43.83% Corsi for, 48.61% scoring chances for
Grade: B

Maddie’s take: Vecchione is always kind of a weird case for me. He’s been, on the whole, quietly pretty solid for just about the whole season, and definitely deserves credit for that. But somehow, no matter how quietly sound his game is, I always can’t help wishing he’d given me a litte bit more. And maybe that’s unfair, maybe that’s just me looking for some flash that isn’t real a part of his game. He’s still been good so far this season, but I’d like to see those shot metrics improve through the back end of the season.

Brad’s take: I think that Vecchione has had a really strong sophomore season, and has shown improvement from his rookie season a year ago. He’s now an all-situations player, and has been a major part of the penalty kill ever since Varone’s re-call to Philadelphia. His last ten games have led to his SCF% dropping just under 4%. So he’s done well, but has been trending in the wrong direction.

Mikhail Vorobyev

Production: 32 games played, 6 goals, 12 primary assists, 4 secondary assists, 22 points
5-on-5 stats: 48.1% Corsi for, 44.95% scoring chances for
Grade: B+

Brad’s take: Recency bias is in his favor as he found instant chemistry with Justin Bailey following the Taylor Leier trade, but nevertheless Vorobyev has been good overall, and continued where he left off last season as one of the Phantoms’ most effective 5-on-5 forwards. He needs to shoot the puck more, but I can understand why he’d lean on his passing ability as much as he does since he’s so good at it. Strong defensively, and even stronger on the forecheck with his natural ability to read passing lanes and get his stick in the way.

Maddie’s take: I want to give Vorobyev a higher grade because I like him a lot as a prospect and he’s pulled it together and earned himself a call-up to the Flyers, but it’s been sort of up and down for him since he came back down to join the Phantoms. And part of that can almost certainly be attributed to him coming back from injury when he wasn’t 100 percent, but we can’t pin it all on that. Consistency’s been something of an issue, but what’s saving him is that fact that when he was good, he was good, and that there’s been a lot more of that, recently. He’s been pulling it together, and it was nice to see.

Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Production: 32 games played, 10 goals, 5 primary assists, 3 secondary assists, 18 points
5-on-5 stats: 51.27% Corsi for, 50.94% scoring chances for
Grade: B+

Brad’s take: Once again Aube-Kubel hasn’t been able to do much on the power play, not that he gets much time there to begin with, but has been able to rack up the points at even strength. Per Prospect-Stats, at 5-on-5 NAK leads the team in estimated goals per 60 minutes, and is third in estimated points per 60. He’s one of just two Phantoms — the other being Varone — to have both a CF% and SCF% north of 50%, and was having another strong campaign prior to his recent injury.

Maddie’s take: I’ve been really pleased with what we’ve seen from Aube-Kubel so far this season. For a bit it looked like he was going to be getting an increased role with more power play time, but that didn’t quite hold, but even so, he’s been making the best of what he had. Scoring numbers have been good, on-ice metrics have been great, all things considered. He hit a bit of a slump right before being injured, so consistency is still a bit of a trouble spot, but otherwise I have no bones to pick with Aube-Kubel’s start to the season.

Connor Bunnaman

Production: 33 games played, 12 goals, 4 primary assists, 2 secondary assists, 18 points
5-on-5 stats: 44.33% Corsi for, 44.37% scoring chances for
Grade: B-

Maddie’s take: Bunnaman has been really good recently, there’s really no use beating around the bush on that. Since being bumped up to the top line and first power play unit, he’s been flourishing in the new role. He’s turned into one of their more consistent scorers, not necessarily bringing a particularly flashy game, but a sound one (barring the on-ice metrics) at that. What’s holding him back from getting a better grade, then? The fact that we didn’t really see much of this when he was playing in the bottom six, and the open question of how much is him and how much is context.

Brad’s take: If we were grading on his play over the past two months he’d have gotten an A, but we can’t just throw away a little less than half of the games he’s played. Second on the team in goals is a great feat by itself, and the fact that he’s been able to step into Varone’s role at even strength so well just goes to show how good Bunnaman is and can be. He’s done most of his damage on the power play, specifically in 5-on-3 situations, but he generates a ton of high danger chances outside of the man advantage as well.

Colin McDonald

Production: 44 games played, 4 goals, 6 primary assists, 8 secondary assists, 18 points
5-on-5 stats: 46.11% Corsi for, 43.22% scoring chances for
Grade: C-

Maddie’s take: There’s something a little nauseating about the continuity of giving the captain of the team a C grade, but here we are. It’s not to say that McDonald’s been bad this year, by any means, and we should give him credit for stepping up some when the lineup started to get depleted. But even so, 10 primary points in 44 games isn’t a whole lot for someone getting power play time, even if his 5-on-5 role has been reduced. He’s been fine, but we had hoped for a little better.

Brad’s take: His role has been reduced, but you’d still like to see more than four goals from someone on the first power play unit. He’s drawn more penalties than he’s taken, he throws big hits, and is the leader of the team. I have the least amount of things to say about McDonald. He’s been fine.

Carsen Twarynski

Production: 41 games played, 5 goals, 2 primary assists, 6 secondary assists, 13 points
5-on-5 stats: 43.34% Corsi for, 47.85% scoring chances for
Grade: C-

Brad’s take: After a strong preseason with the Flyers, I expected a lot more from Twarynski than what he’s shown. Role surely is a factor here, he’s been in the bottom-six for all 41 games that he’s appeared in, but to my eyes he hasn’t come off as a threat to score much at all. The Phantoms have a larger share of the 5-on-5 scoring chances when he’s on the ice than they do when he’s on the bench, so that’s a positive, but seven primary points leaves you wanting more. He’s blocked a ton of shots over his last few games, and adds a physical presence.

Maddie’s take: Twarynski’s been kind of settling in with the Phantoms well enough, and we want to try and strip out grading him with any kind of bias based on his strong preseason with the Flyers because, and this seems even more evident now, he was playing a little bit over his head. He’s been fine enough, not actively bad or anything like that, but he hasn’t been particularly effective at one particular thing, either. He’s sort of coasting in his bottom-six role, and while he’s doing fine in that, we can’t help but feel like maybe he could do a little more.

David Kase

Production: 20 games played, 4 goals, 6 primary assists, 3 secondary assists, 13 points
5-on-5 stats: 44.95% Corsi for, 45.83% scoring chances for
Grade: B+

Maddie’s take: You guys. I was so excited about Kase’s start to the season and it’s such a shame that he’s had to miss this long stretch of time. He brought a pretty complete game, despite it being his first season in North America—he found a scoring touch, held his own on the power play, played well enough defensively, and looked sharp on the penalty kill. His on-ice numbers leave something to be desired, but he was working at pulling them up, just before he was injured. That considered, I really don’t have any major complaints about his game.

Brad’s take: It’s really such a shame that his promising start the season had to be derailed by a now going on three month long absence thanks to an undisclosed injury, but in the games he did get to play, he was really impressive. The on-ice numbers aren’t good, but he had been trending in the right direction before his injury, and he started the season on a 49 point pace. He saw time on the first line with Carey and Varone, was also able to draw eight penalties in his 20 games, and looked like one of the fastest skaters every night. It’s been way too short, but his time with the Phantoms thus far has been impressive. Now we just have to see more of him to see if that level of play can be sustained over a larger period of time.

Tyrell Goulbourne

Production: 36 games played, 5 goals, 3 primary assists, 3 secondary assists, 11 points
5-on-5 stats: 42.64% Corsi for, 44% scoring chances for
Grade: D+

Brad’s take: Goulbourne is a tough one to grade because there’s something to be said about a player who spends a lot of time on the league’s best penalty kill, but you struggle to find a lot of positives about outside of that. Points aren’t the name of his game, he doesn’t drive play positively at 5-on-5, and, unlike last season, he hasn’t drawn more penalties than he’s taken. There’s certainly an intimidation factor he brings to the table along with being a physical presence, and he’s a good forechecker, but there aren’t enough positives in his game this season for me to point to.

Maddie’s take: Like Brad said, this one’s tough because it’s hard to say “he gets a poor grade because he doesn’t score a lot of goals even though that isn’t his Role (ugh, sorry to drop that word in here),” but at the same time, that’s a pretty necessary contribution if you want to win hockey games. He’s been a key part of the best penalty kill in the league, and he definitely deserves credit for that, but his 5-on-5 contributions have been lacking. And I can’t, in good faith, give him a passing grade for that.

Cole Bardreau

Production: 23 games played, 4 goals, 1 primary assist, 0 secondary assists, 5 points
5-on-5 stats: 42.44% Corsi for, 43.09% scoring chances for
Grade: D

Maddie’s take: I was hoping for more from Bardreau. His season’s been sort of derailed by injury, but even before that, things were a little rough for him. His scoring numbers and on-ice metrics had taken a dip from where they were last season, and somehow he just didn’t quite look as effective. It’s the same as with Goulbourne, in that we give him credit for good work on the penalty kill, but I was just really hoping to see more from him this season.

Brad’s take: Honestly I barely remember watching Bardreau play this season and it feels like so much time has passed since his injury, but the reality is he was still playing in early December! Here’s the thing, five points in 23 games is a 16-point pace across a full season, and that’d be a huge drop off from his 30 points in 45 games last season. Now, given that he’s played so little, it’s unfair to assume that he’d continue to score at that low of a pace, but judging solely on his play this season, and not taking into account what he did last year, he’s been underwhelming. Last season he had pretty good underlying numbers as well, but even those aren’t in his favor this time around.