Prospect Report - Lehigh Valley Phantoms Mid-Season Grades

Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Who are the Lehigh Valley Phantoms 'Three Stars' of the first half of the season?
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms (19-14-4-1) have completed the first half of the 2014-15 season and are right in the thick of things in the American Hockey League's (AHL) East Division, just four points out of first place.

The format for the mid-season grades post is the same as last week's prospect report on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

After the jump, the three stars of the Phantoms through the first half of the 2014-15 season as well as grades and insights on every player who suited up for the Philadelphia Flyers' AHL affiliate.

Here's some features on Flyers prospects I have done this season:

Hockey's Future
The Home News
NOTE: ALL 2014-15 stats in this article refer to the player's games played in the AHL.

Third Star

Brandon Manning - Grade A-
2014-15 Season Stats: 36GP, 6G-19A, +5, 86 PIM
Role: Top Pairing Two-Way Defenseman

Manning has anchored a relatively young and inexperienced AHL blue line this season, and is the Phantoms' lone 2015 AHL All-Star representative at this point in time. He's been a top pairing, puck-moving defenseman that plays a physical defensive game and plays with an edge for a guy with some offensive upside from the back end. He's been used in all situations this season and is getting a ton of ice time in the AHL.

Second Star

Nick Cousins - Grade A-
2014-15 Season Stats: 38GP, 13G-15A, +6, 45 PIM
Role: Top-six Scoring Forward

Cousins started the season on a tear, with nine points (2G-7A) in the first seven games of the season. There was a bit of a lull from there - eight points (5G-3A) in 24 games with a -6 rating - but he's been on fire again in January with 11 points (6G-5A) in seven games. He's been a top-six forward all season long, mainly as a 2nd line center behind Scott Laughton to start and now Blair Jones. If he can work on bringing more consistency to his game, he'll continue to lead this team in scoring come April.

First Star

Rob Zepp - Grade A
2014-15 Season Stats: 21GP, 11-5-4, 2.57 GAA, .921 SV%, 0 SO
Role: Starting Goaltender

Zepp has been the team's MVP so far this season, especially earlier in the season when the young Phantoms team was adjusting to their new roles in the lineup. Currently in the NHL with Steve Mason's latest injury, Zepp has been earning his fair share of NHL starts in a duo with Ray Emery in Philadelphia.


Anthony Stolarz - Grade B+
2014-15 Season Stats: 17GP, 6-8-1, 2.71 GAA, .921 SV%, 2 SO
Role: Backup Goaltender

Stolarz is still developing in his rookie season of pro hockey, but after being mainly a backup has sort of emerged into more of a 1A-1B situation with Zepp with him back and forth from the NHL to the AHL. He's been improving from the start of the season and will continue to develop with more starts coming in the near future with Zepp back in the NHL.


Robert Hagg - Grade B
2014-15 Season Stats: 33GP, 3G-11A, +1, 32 PIM
Role: 2nd Pairing Two-Way Defenseman

Hagg has been getting solid ice time in all situations this season, recently returning after his final stint at the World Junior Championships - missing five AHL games in the process. He's seemed to have trailed off a bit after a hot start, learning that he needs to bring it every night in a much longer pro season in North America than what he's used to in Sweden.

Steven Delisle - Grade B
2014-15 Season Stats: 32GP, 1G-8A, -2, 71 PIM
Role: 2nd Pairing Defensive Defenseman

Delisle started the season as the team's 6th/7th defenseman, but his physical and solid defensive play has seen him move up the lineup and compliment a younger guy like Hagg most of the season. Delisle is as tough as nails and isn't afraid to drop the gloves with anyone.

Brett Flemming - Grade B
2014-15 Season Stats: 27GP, 0G-6A, +4, 26 PIM
Role: Third Pairing Defensive Defenseman

Flemming started the season in the ECHL but has been quite a nice surprise for the Phantoms on the back end this season.

Oliver Lauridsen - Grade B+
2014-15 Season Stats: 38GP, 2G-3A, +7, 73 PIM
Role: Checking/Defensive Defenseman

Lauridsen has been playing his best hockey of the season the last 10 games or so, and recently has earned his first NHL call up this season. The big, physical defensive-defenseman leads all blue liners on the team in plus/minus - a testament to his improved defensive zone play.

Mark Alt - Grade B
2014-15 Season Stats: 19GP, 1G-4A, -3, 14 PIM
Role: Top Pairing Two-Way Defenseman

Alt has had two separate injuries keep him out of the lineup for an extended period of time, his most recent a broken hand earlier this month. When in the lineup, he's logging big minutes on both the power play and penalty kill.

Jesper Pettersson - Grade C
2014-15 Season Stats: 25GP, 0G-2A, -3, 17 PIM
Role: 6th/7th Defenseman

Pettersson started the season on the third pairing but has found himself sitting out more often than not as a healthy scratch the last 10 games. His grade isn't low for lack of production on the ice as it's just his lack of being out there lately decreases his value to the team at this point. Still a rookie, it's possible he lands in Reading for ice time at some point this season when the team gets healthy on the back end.


Andrew Gordon - Grade A-
2014-15 Season Stats: 38GP, 12G-12A, +2, 16 PIM
Role: Top-Six Two-Way Forward

Gordon is one of the assistant captains of this team and is a leader both on and off the ice. He's formed quite a duo in the last half dozen games or so with Nick Cousins, and has been a top-six scoring winger atop the team's scoresheet much of this season.

Jason Akeson - Grade A
2014-15 Season Stats: 20GP, 8G-9A, Even, 8 PIM
Role: Top-Six Scoring Forward

Since returning to the AHL, Akeson has been the game changer he was last season as one of the league's leading scorers. He's averaging nearly a point per game with the Phantoms this season and has been a staple on the first unit of the power play.

Taylor Leier - Grade B
2014-15 Season Stats: 35GP, 8G-9A, -5, 6 PIM
Role: Top-Six Scoring Forward

Leier has had an up and down rookie season, cooling off after a hot start to the season. Call it a mid-season lull and/or growing pains in his first season of pro hockey but Leier has the potential to be an NHL forward in the future.

Blair Jones - Grade A-
2014-15 Season Stats: 22GP, 5G-11A, +6, 31 PIM
Role: Top Line Center

Jones has been a top line center since joining the Phantoms from Philadelphia earlier this season. His NHL-caliber shot and ability to work the half wall on the Phantoms top power play unit has helped the offense significantly since his arrival.

Zack Stortini - Grade B+
2014-15 Season Stats: 38GP, 6G-9A, +8, 64 PIM
Role: Top-Six Power Forward

Stortini has seen an increased role with the Phantoms, playing net-front on the power play, killing penalties and being a power forward in the top six to compliment the skill-guys like Akeson, Leier and Cousins. His leadership in the locker room certainly doesn't go unnoticed.

Petr Straka - Grade B
2014-15 Season Stats: 36GP, 8G-5A, -4, 16 PIM
Role: 2nd/3rd Line Scoring Forward

Straka has been battling consistency issues, but when he's on he's one of the best forwards on the ice. His skating ability and puck control is top notch at the AHL level, and he's enjoyed moderate success this season as he looks to turn the corner and take the next step in his pro career. Could be a breakout player in the second half.

Darroll Powe - Grade B+
2014-15 Season Stats: 28GP, 5G-6A, +2, 27 PIM
Role: Third Line Two-Way Forward

Brought in for veteran leadership to a younger team this season, Powe has been out of the lineup with an upper body injury since 12/27. When in the lineup, Powe has been a reliable bottom six forward who plays a smart and defense-first style of play. He's also good in the corners and the dirty areas of the ice and isn't afraid to mix it up either when the time calls for it.

Brett Hextall - Grade B-
2014-15 Season Stats: 27GP, 3G-4A, -1, 69 PIM
Role: Top-Nine Checking/Energy Forward

Hextall has been up and down the lineup this season and is able to play in just about any role he's been put in this season. With GM Ron Hextall nearby watching, Hextall has come in and not looked out of place at the AHL level this season.

Austin Fyten - Grade B-
2014-15 Season Stats: 37GP, 2G-4A, -2, 47 PIM
Role: Bottom-Six Penalty-Killing Forward

Fyten has played an underrated role of being a fourth line grinder that kills penalties, blocks shots and hits everything that moves. He's not going be a 20-goal scorer, but plays hard and brings it every shift.

Brandon Alderson - Grade C
2014-15 Season Stats: 24GP, 3G-2A, -6, 49 PIM
Role: Bottom-Six Forward

Alderson started the season with the Phantoms, but after trailing off a few games into the season was re-assigned to get ice time in Reading. He rejoined the team at the beginning of January and has played primarily in the bottom six.

Jay Rosehill - Grade C
2014-15 Season Stats: 33GP, 3G-2A, -3, 107 PIM
Role: 4th Line Checking Forward

Rosehill came to Lehigh Valley from Philadelphia at the start of the season and has played the same game he has for years. He's seen some time on the penalty kill as well this season in the AHL.

Kevin Goumas - Grade C+
2014-15 Season Stats: 31GP, 1G-3A, -3, 19 PIM
Role: Bottom Six, Penalty-Killing forward

Goumas is an energetic bottom six forward who kills penalties and plays a full 200 foot game. He found himself in Reading for a brief ECHL stint, but with current injury to Blair Jones is starting to see some more ice time.

Derek Mathers - Grade C
2014-15 Season Stats: 17GP, 0G-2A, +2, 52 PIM
Role: 4th Line Checking Forward

Mathers is a big, physical forward who has played on the 4th line in his AHL action. Though he's a fourth line enforcer, he's not costing his team games by taking unnecessary penalties. For the most part, he plays a hard-nosed game and isn't a liability when he's on the ice.

**********The following players did not receive a grade because they did not appear in enough games for me to get a real sense of their value at the AHL level.**********

Martin Ouellette
2014-15 Season Stats: 4GP, 2-1-0, 1.62 GAA, .944 SV%, 0 SO

Ouellette has been the guy recalled while Rob Zepp is in the NHL (his second stint). He's played well as a backup to Anthony Stolarz, stopping 28 of 29 in his last start on Saturday.

Scott Laughton
2014-15 Season Stats: 13GP, 6G-5A, -4, 8 PIM

It was quickly evident that Laughton belonged in the NHL.

Shayne Gostisbehere
2014-15 Season Stats: 5GP, 0G-5A, -1, 0 PIM

Gostisbehere tore his ACL back in November, but has started skating again and could return as soon as next month.

Adam Comrie
2014-15 Season Stats: 9GP, 0G-4A, -5, 14 PIM

Comrie signed an AHL deal with the Phantoms for depth purposes and was sent to Reading. He's seen some action in the AHL with injuries to Alt and Gostisbehere.

Chris VandeVelde
2014-15 Season Stats: 1GP, 2G-0A, Even, 0 PIM

VandeVelde scored two goals on opening night and has been with the Flyers ever since.

Ryan White
2014-15 Season Stats: 8GP, 1G-1A, -2, 27 PIM

White missed the start of the season before just returning from injury and getting some AHL games in with the Phantoms. The Flyers waived White and it appears he'll get some more AHL action in the second half of the season.

Maxim Lamarche
2014-15 Season Stats: 3GP, 0G-1A, -1, 2 PIM

Lamarche has been mainly an ECHL defenseman this season, appearing in a few AHL games this season.

Matt Hatch
2014-15 Season Stats: 2GP, 0G-0A, Even, 0 PIM
Hatch is another guy who has been relegated to ECHL duty for a majority of the season.

Andrew Johnston
2014-15 Season Stats: 8GP, 0G-0A, -5, 2 PIM

Johnston started the season with the Phantoms, but when healthy bodies came down from Philadelphia he was re-assigned to Reading.


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