The new Phantoms season is upon us, and in perhaps a shocking (to at least some of us) development, Philippe Myers was assigned to Lehigh Valley and made his regular season debut with the team this past weekend.
We understand that it was a move that had to be made for the Flyers to be cap compliant to start the season, but it was still somewhat jarring to see, after watching him, ostensibly, graduate to the NHL last season.
And what did we learn from his first weekend back? That Myers is almost hilariously too good for the AHL.
Myers picked up his first point of the season on Friday against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, a primary assist on Joel Farabee’s first goal, and it was, as Farabee called it “a pretty elite pass.” And you can take a look at that here.
Oh my, Joel Farabee! That's Phil Myers with the breakout pass to set him up here as well. pic.twitter.com/t6ErKGUqQ7— Brad Keffer (@brad_keffer) October 12, 2019
We understand why Farabee spoke so highly of that play—it takes a lot of skill to make a stretch pass like that and put it right on Farabee’s tape while he’s moving with speed. It’s a difficult play, and Myers made it look like nothing. He would pick up another point in the following game—another primary assist on a goal by Maksim Sushko—putting him comfortably at a point per game in his first couple of games.
His underlying numbers, also unsurprisingly, are little short of stellar. (Really. After I logged his transition numbers I texted our pal Brad and told him to take a peek at Myers’ numbers and have a good laugh). Myers is second among all skaters in exit attempts (27) and completed exits (24), behind just Mark Friedman, despite playing one fewer game. Myers also registered 10 carries out of the zone, the most among defensemen, and an honestly insane 83,33 controlled exit%, well above the average for the defense corps (50%).
His shot metrics are also really solid. Per Brad’s data, Myers ranks second in individual shot attempts with 13, just one behind T.J. Brennan who, again, played one more game. Myers has also averaged a 70.37 CF% (first on the team), and an 84.62 HDCF% (third on the team). It’s an extremely small sample to be working with, but what we’re getting at here is that Myers has been rolling with the punches and came down to Lehigh Valley and has just been playing lights out in his first couple of games.
None of this is news to us. Myers was too good to be in the AHL for most of last season, and even if he didn’t have a major breakout campaign when he made the jump, it was abundantly clear that he is an NHL player. It was fun to see him come into his first weekend back with the Phantoms and veritably kick the doors down, but it made all of this even more evident—he’s simply too good to be here.
Perhaps the bad news for Myers, and Flyers fans in general, is it looks like Myers will be hanging around in Lehigh Valley for a while longer. With the Flyers announcing on Tuesday that they had officially signed Chris Stewart, leaving them with $283,811 in available cap space, they don’t have room to bring Myers up. To accommodate him, the Flyers would have to send down one of Stewart, Robert Hagg, or Samuel Morin. The former is a possibility that seems even more likely once Nolan Patrick is healthy, but the latter two, the Flyers have made it pretty clear that they don’t feel comfortable waiving either of those two.
So Myers is stuck, in all likelihood, waiting around until someone gets hurt or plays so poorly that the team has so choice but to waive him. And that’s certainly not an ideal situation for a player to be in when he’s trying to take the next step in developing his game.
As fans we’re going to enjoy getting to see Myers as much as we can until he’s back with the Flyers, even if we also feel that he should be there, in the first place. He said on Friday that his “focus is with the Phantoms right now, [he’s] gonna put all [his] energy into here and now.” He believes in the group that they have there, and he’s working to help them as best as he can, while also growing as he needs to. And the Phantoms have gotten something of a gift, in this, and should soak up as much of his help as they can while they have the chance.