|Nicolas Aube-Kubel enters his first full season of hockey at the professional level this fall. Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey|
Written by: Tony Androckitis, Twitter/Facebook
Editor's Note: If you missed either of the first two parts of our three-part preview series, you can find links to them below.
The Philadelphia Flyers brought in forwards Andy Miele - a perennial AHL scoring leader - and Greg Carey - a 26-goal scorer last season as a start to bolster their AHL affiliate's forward unit and the Phantoms followed that up with the additions of Miele's talented teammate Mark Zengerle and two-way forward Corban Knight, who spent time in the NHL last season with the Florida Panthers.
Returning forwards Chris Conner, Colin McDonald, Taylor Leier and Danick Martel as well as recently reassigned Jordan Weal also headline an AHL forward group that simply has too much depth and skill on paper for opposing teams to key on any one line or player.
Phantoms Need to 'Buy In' From Day One
While the Phantoms have a top-tier AHL roster on paper, nobody is taking anything for granted. Head coach Scott Gordon said earlier this week that while the team is currently well-constructed it's still up to them to out work their opponent on the ice. Colin McDonald spoke on a similar sentiment after practice.
"I think the tough part is going to be some that guys had a lot of ice time last year that aren't going to get it this year," McDonald said. "Guys have to buy into that and accept their roles, and that's from me down."
With several forwards all capable of playing top-line minutes and on the top unit power play, Miele agreed with McDonald's take, that accepting a role and buying into playing a team game is crucial if this season will have success.
"If you don't buy in, then it just creates negativity and you don't negativity around the team," Miele said, adding, "Unfortunately. that's the case but if you want to be a part of a winning team you have to be one of the pieces of the puzzle and know your role."
Projected Phantoms Lines
Line 1: Greg Carey - Andy Miele - Chris Conner
The top line from the team's two preseason wasn't put together on accident. Miele and Conner played together in Grand Rapids a few years ago, while Miele was also a teammate of Carey for a short bit of time in the past also. The chemistry the trio began to show, especially in Saturday's win over Charlotte, is definitely intriguing as the regular season kicks off.
Line 2: Taylor Leier - Jordan Weal - Colin McDonald
Although Mark Zengerle centered this line in practice earlier in the week, the addition of Weal jumbles the lines a bit and looks to be best fit here in the top-six along with wingers that both spent time in Philadelphia last year also. Pretty scary that Leier and Weal can form a dynamic duo on an AHL second line to begin the year. Who would have thought that'd be the case this summer?
Line 3: Danick Martel - Mark Zengerle - Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Weal's arrival looks to bump a very talented Zengerle onto a third line where his vision and hockey smarts might prove very beneficial to rookie Aube-Kubel, who has a great shot and could be one of the team's best finishers. Martel brings even more speed onto a third line that could give teams fits this year if this trio begins the year together.
Line 4: Petr Straka - Radel Fazleev - Corban Knight
This fourth line could easily rival other AHL teams' middle-six forwards. Straka scored 19 goals last season amidst inconsistency and injury, while Knight split last season between the AHL and NHL. Fazleev enters his rookie year looking to be a two-way guy, so this could be a way to ease him in with defensively responsible wingers.
Extras: Cole Bardreau (extra rest from off-season abdominal surgery), Tyrell Goulbourne (healthy) and Derek Mathers (healthy)
While Bardreau has looked sharp in practice, the sheer depth of the roster and just the one game on the weekend leads me to believe he'll get an extra week to get extra ready for next weekend's games. Goulbourne and Mathers both play a heavy game and could seamlessly be inserted onto the team's fourth line. These three, in addition to Fazleev and Straka, rotated on the fourth line at practice during the week.