Where we are
Week(s) of Feb. 1 - Feb. 14
3 GP. 2 OTW. 1OTL. T-1st in North Division.
We had a little bit of roster movement over the first week, and it’s a bit of a mess, so stick with me here. Samuel Morin, Derrick Pouliot, and Felix Sandstrom are officially listed as being on the Flyers’ taxi squad. But per the AHL transactions page, David Kase and Maksim Sushko have also been called up to the taxi squad, but nothing has been officially announced by the Flyers. This is all likely part of their maneuvering due to their COVID situation, and with some or all of the players on the list being given non-roster status. There seems to be a lot happening behind the scenes, but presumably all of those guys are not eligible to play with the Phantoms, at present. But we’ll see what things look like later in the week.
We also have some injury happenings—Tanner Laczynski and Tyson Foerster both went down with injury in the first game, and per Sam Carchidi the timeline for return was 1-2 weeks (groin) for Laczynski and 3-4 weeks (fractured shin) for Foerster. It’s possible that Laczynski may be able to play this weekend, but we’ll see what happens there.
Chris Bigras and Linus Sandin both missed Sunday’s game, presumably with injury, but we haven’t been given a timeline for their return.
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1. Zayde Wisdom
An interesting change for at least the beginning of this season is that CHL players are allowed to play in the AHL before they would normally be eligible, at least until their junior seasons start back up. And this means that the Phantoms have a couple of OHL players joining the mix, including 2020 draft pick Zayde Wisdom. He’s the youngest player to ever suit up for the Phantoms, and boy has he ever stood out.
We saw him chip in a bit of offense in Sunday’s game with two goals and an assist on the overtime winner, and that was a distinct high point. But what most stands out is the fact that he already looks like he belongs. It hasn’t been a perfect showing for him, but he’s already shown no trouble keeping up with the pace and physicality of play at the professional level, he’s been strong on the forecheck, made a few nice plays in transition, and has all around just been able to hit the ground running. There’s still certainly some work and polish that needs to go into his game, but this is just about a series strong of an introduction to his game as we could have asked for.
2. Zane McIntyre
We have a new goalie around here, folks! After spending last season in Utica with the Comets, the Phantoms added Zane McIntyre to their mix for this season. And with Alex Lyon and now Felix Sandstrom up on the Flyers’ taxi squad, McIntyre has become the de facto starter, number one guy, for the Phantoms, and he’s been really solid to start. He did give up one tough goal in Sunday’s game, but through his first three games, overall, McIntyre has been nothing but solid. He’s put up a .926 save percentage, which is good for 12th in the AHL (sixth among goalies who played more than one game). He’s done well in stopping shots, and he’s had a whole lot to fend off, as he’s faced 95 shots in total, the fourth most in the league (and two of the goalies ahead of him have played an extra game, mind you).
The Phantoms have had some tough stretches in these first three games when they bled a lot of good chances, and McIntyre had to be really sharp and bail them out to keep them in their games long enough to collect at least a point in each. There’s been a fair amount of flux in the lineup of skaters in front of McIntyre, and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon, but in the face of that, it’s been comforting to see that goaltending has been more or less locked down.
3. David Kase
Maybe it’s the fact that he’d been playing for a while in the Czech Republic before he even started this season with the Phantoms and hasn’t had to get his skating legs back under him, but Kase has really been flying so far this season.
He’s sitting first on the team in point scored so far, and he’s scored two big goals—one shorthanded against Binghamton on Wednesday and then he picked up the overtime winner on Sunday in Hershey (right after hitting the post with a huge shot earlier in his shift). He’s been clutch for the team, but he’s also been consistent. He’s settling back into his game easily and his energy and speed has been a real boost to his team. It’s not really clear when we’ll see him back with the Phantoms, how long his stay with the Flyers taxi will be, but if it is longer term, he’ll be sorely missed around here.
Two loose observations
1. Early power play returns
We know that the Phantoms’ power play was a distinct sore spot for them last season, so we’re heading into this year hoping that they can make some improvements and even just get themselves to “fine” levels. The early returns on the power play, though, have not been great—the Phantoms have had 13 attempts over their first three games, and are cruising along with a cool zero percent conversion rate.
But if we’re looking for some good news here, we will note that this stat doesn't tell the whole story. The Phantoms did get a couple of good chances, they’re looking better and more efficient on their entries. and had a few shifts with some really nice sustained pressure in the offensive zone, which we really didn’t see a whole lot of consistently last season. It hasn’t been perfect for them, but the eye tells us that things may be trending in the right direction.
Now, personnel changes certainly didn’t help them this weekend (more on that soon), and assuming they don’t get any players back from the Flyers’ taxi squad before this weekend’s games, they’ll have to bring a whole new look into these two games. They’ve got their work cut out for them, and they’re going to need pucks to start going in sooner rather than later, but we still have seen some flashes that leave us optimistic.
2. Continuity, please?
Heading into this season, there was a feeling that, while new and perhaps a little strange in some ways, the NHL taxi squads were going to be a good thing for the AHL teams, as they would have a bit of a buffer, and their NHL affiliate wouldn’t have to come knocking to steal a player as soon as they had some kind of injury situation. And this is something, we also know, really hurt the Phantoms last year, as the Flyers dealt with unexpected injury and illness losses.
This idea still holds, on paper, the Phantoms gaining a bit more continuity with the buffer between their active roster and the Flyers’, but that only goes so far, and with the COVID outbreak on the Flyers (plus the couple of injuries to their players), the Phantoms’ roster is looking a little thin already. It is what it is, that’s true, and the main takeaway is that the Phantoms are going to have to get a little creative and show some resilience even in the early goings of this season. But really, could you expect any less from this pandemic season?
What’s on deck
The Phantoms had a pretty light schedule to start the season, with just one game in the first week and two in the second (which is why this weekly rundown is a two in one special), and they’re moving into a pretty average workload from here. They have two games on the docket for this weekend—they’ll have a home-and-home series against the Devils this weekend, with them on the road on Friday and finally getting in a home game on Saturday. They dropped their first game against Binghamton in overtime last week, and the Phantoms will be looking to get a bit of revenge, and keep their momentum from Sunday’s win rolling into the next weekend.