End of the Year Progress Report - AHL Phantoms (Part 1)

Friday, June 5, 2015
Where in the organization Brandon Manning will end up in 2015-16 remains to be seen.
Now that the season is over for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and I've had some time to reflect on the season as a whole, I have put together an "end of the year update" on all Philadelphia Flyers prospects who played in the AHL during the 2014-15 season.

I have split this year's end of the season prospect development report into two parts, with this Part One taking a look at the defensemen and goaltenders. Part Two, which will be posted online later this week, will take a look at the forward prospects.


Rob Zepp (33 years old) - Grade A
Contract Status: NHL UFA

2014-15 Regular Season AHL Stats: 47GP, 21-20-4, 2.68 GAA, .917 SV%, 0 SO

Zepp was the team's regular season MVP, keeping a sometimes overmatched Phantoms team in tight games and keeping their playoff lives alive well into March. The solid veteran had his dream made true when the Philadelphia Flyers called him up and he made his NHL debut after spending the last six years overseas in Germany.

With Flyers backup Ray Emery also an unrestricted free agent this summer, the Flyers could re-sign Zepp to be the team's #2 goaltender or keep him as a veteran mentor to the young Anthony Stolarz in Lehigh Valley. I think after Zepp's first taste of the NHL that he'll be hesitant to bolt back overseas.

Anthony Stolarz (21 years old) - Grade C+
Contract Status: NHL RFA in 2017-18

2014-15 Regular Season AHL Stats: 31GP, 9-13-4, 3.28 GAA, .905 SV%, 2 SO

There's no denying Stolarz's size and athletic ability, but his rookie season was certainly a year in which he had limited success and you saw the inconsistencies in his game that he needs to work on. At times, Stolarz was the best player on the ice for either side. Other times, it was easy to tell he was a rookie netminder lacking confidence in his game.

Goaltenders take especially longer to develop at the pro level than any other position and this will be the case with Stolarz, who started the season seeing his starts in net come primarily at the tail end of 3-game weekends where the team in front of him wasn't at 100%. It wasn't until Rob Zepp was called up to Philadelphia that Stolarz started seeing some regular ice time as the team's number one goalie at the AHL level.

All in all, a learning experience for Stolarz in 2014-15 and something to build upon heading into next season where he could be the Phantoms' top goaltender next fall depending on what the Flyers decide to do with impending free agents Ray Emery and Rob Zepp and whether either will be back with the organization or if the team will look to add a goaltender in free agency over the summer.

Martin Ouellette (23 years old) - Grade Incomplete
Contract Status: AHL UFA

2014-15 Regular Season AHL Stats: 8GP, 3-2-0, 2.90 GAA, .890 SV%, 0 SO
2014-15 Regular Season ECHL Stats: 29GP, 17-10-2, 2.91 GAA, .907 SV%, 1 SO

It wasn't until Rob Zepp was called up and Anthony Stolarz gave up three goals on 14 shots in the first period of a game in Atlantic City against the Albany Devils that Martin Ouellette made his AHL debut on November 28th.

Ouellette was pulled in two of his five starts - allowing three goals on seven shots on both occasions - but how much you put into his inability versus the young and injury ravaged Phantoms blue line determines what you thought of his AHL performance. He only appeared in eight AHL games in his first pro season after four years at the Univeristy of Maine, so it will be interesting to see if he is retained for organizational depth or if the Phantoms will seek another goaltender in AHL free agency.


Mark Alt (23 years old) - Grade B
Contract Status: NHL RFA in 2016-17

2014-15 Regular Season AHL Stats: 44GP, 2G-8A, -15, 18 PIM

When he was on the ice, Alt was a reliable two-way defensemen for the Phantoms - logging big minutes in all situations. Unfortunately, he had a bit of injury trouble last season - limiting him to only 44 AHL games this season. In late October, he separated a shoulder in Binghamton that caused him to be out 11 games. After being back in the lineup for 14 games following the shoulder injury, he broke his hand in a game in Binghamton on New Years Eve that caused him to miss the next 18 contests.

In his 2nd full season of pro hockey after three years at the University of Minnesota, Alt was able to earn his 1st NHL recall at the tail end of regular season - making his NHL debut in Philadelphia in the afternoon and returning to Lehigh Valley later that night. Alt has another season left on his entry level deal and should be a top pairing defenseman for the Phantoms in 2015-16.

Robert Hagg (20 years old) - Grade B-
Contract Status: NHL RFA in 2018-19

2014-15 Regular Season AHL Stats: 69GP, 3G-17A, -12, 42 PIM

Robert Hagg continues to transition from the European pro game to the North American pro game, and it's sometimes hard to remember he started the season as a 19-year old and will only be a 20-year old entering his 2nd full season of pro hockey in 2015-16.

He has mentioned the fact that he's playing more games in North America(69 AHL games plus some games at the World Juniors Tournament with Team Sweden) than he's used to. Phantoms head coach Terry Murray said earlier in the season - maybe about 25 games in - that Hagg's hot start had faded because he seemed too casual in his play and was almost too calm and collected out on the ice.

Hagg continued to develop his defensive game throughout the season, and should be on pace for a more productive 2015-16 in all three zones now having 79 AHL games under his belt heading into next fall.

Steven Delisle (24 years old) - Grade  C+
Contract Status: AHL UFA

2014-15 Regular Season AHL Stats: 62GP, 2G-13A, -8, 133 PIM

Delisle was a steady stay-at-home defenseman who was relentless and physical in front of the net. He began the season as a 6/7th defenseman but worked his way into a regular spot in the lineup on the back end as the season progressed.

Delisle wasn't afraid to drop the gloves either and more times than not, his opponent left the scrap wishing he hadn't dropped his gloves. The biggest surprise in his game this season was the added offensive touch as Delisle tallied 15 points in 62 games compared to just four in his rookie season in 2013-14. He's a solid depth option on defense for the Phantoms on an expiring AHL-only contract, so it wouldn't be surprising to see Delisle extended another season on a similar deal.

Matt Konan (23 years old ) - Grade Incomplete
Contract Status: NHL RFA

2014-15 Regular Season AHL Stats: 3GP, 0G-0A, Even, 0 PIM

Konan missed nearly 16 months after a concussion, but was able to return to game action in April and get in a few games before the end of the regular season. He only participated in three games, but it was still a mental victory for Konan to get back on the ice. A physical stay-at-home defenseman, Konan looked solid in his own end for the most part considering how long he was out of action.  Hopefully for Konan, a pending restricted free agent, he'll be given another year to prove he's a capable defenseman at the pro level.
Oliver Lauridsen (26 years old) - Grade B+
Contract Status: NHL UFA

2014-15 Regular Season AHL Stats: 75GP, 4G-6A, +6, 152 PIM 

Lauridsen was the team's best defensive defenseman, anchoring the third pairing and eating up minutes on the penalty kill in the defensive zone. He was the only Phantoms defenseman to finish in the green in the plus/minus category and finished with the highest plus/minus on the entire team.

Lauridsen left it all on the table for the Phantoms down the stretch when they were already eliminated from postseason contention. Whether or not the impending unrestricted free agent it re-signed remains to be seen, but the big, rangy 6-6 defenseman shouldn't have a hard time finding work in the AHL next season on a similar two-way NHL contract.

Jesper Pettersson (20 years old) - Grade B-
Contract Status: NHL RFA in 2017-18

2014-15 Regular Season AHL Stats: 51GP, 2G-5A, -5, 35 PIM 

Pettersson had a hard time finding a spot in the lineup at the start of the season and was often a healthy scratch. Oddly enough, his first AHL goal (his first goal of any kind in hockey in almost two years) came playing the wing on the fourth line in a game in Wilkes-Barre against the Penguins - a game the Phantoms dressed a lineup of 10 forwards and 7 defensemen due to injuries and call ups.

He found a regular spot in the lineup from about the midway point of the season on as a third pairing defensemen and while he's undersized at 5-8, he plays bigger than that on the ice and isn't afraid to be physical along the boards and in the dirty areas of the ice.

Under contract next season, Pettersson should continue to develop in the AHL with Lehigh Valley in 2015-16.

Shayne Gostisbehere (22 years old) - Grade Incomplete
Contract Status: NHL RFA in 2017-18

2014-15 Regular Season AHL Stats: 5GP, 0G-5A, -1, 0 PIM

Gostisbehere tore his ACL in November and missed the rest of the regular season, after returning to the AHL after a brief stint in the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers. He should be back and ready to go for 2015-16. When he was in the AHL lineup he was an offensive defenseman with good puck-moving skills and a decent shot from the point on the power play as well. Look for more of that next season.

Brandon Manning (25 years old) - Grade A
Contract Status: NHL RFA in 2016-17

2014-15 Regular Season AHL Stats: 60GP, 11G-32A, -13, 150 PIM

Brandon Manning has little left to learn at the AHL level. He was used as a #1 defenseman in Lehigh Valley playing 25-30 minutes a night and in all situations - power play, penalty kill, even strength, 4-on-4 and late game situations.

The confidence in his game continued to grow throughout the season as he was named to the AHL's Eastern Conference All-Star team. He later was called up to Philadelphia, where he ended the season playing the last handful of games and getting experience at the next level.

When Manning signed a one-year deal early into the off-season, it looked as though he would have a legitimate chance of competing for an NHL job out of training camp. With more defensemen being brought in, unless there's a trade or two to move some defensemen out of the organization that are on one-way deals ahead of him on the depth chart it could be back to Lehigh Valley to start the season for Manning.

Nick Luukko (23 years old) - Grade Incomplete
Contract Status: Unsigned Draft Pick

2014-15 Regular Season AHL Stats: 6GP, 0G-0A, -2, 0 PIM

Luukko joined the Phantoms after his season at the University of Vermont had concluded and he appeared in some AHL games close to his hometown. Son of Peter Luukko, Nick got some AHL experience but remains unsigned to date.


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