Sundher Thankful for a Second Chance with Phantoms

Thursday, October 6, 2016
Kevin Sundher looking forward to returning to AHL action this fall with the Phantoms. Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey
Significant Leg Injury Shortened Sundher's 2015-16 Season

Written by: Tony Androckitis, Twitter/Facebook

After his first three years of pro hockey with the Buffalo Sabres organization didn't pan out as he had hoped, Kevin Sundher signed an ECHL contract with the Reading Royals - the Lehigh Valley Phantoms affiliate - last season looking for a fresh start.

"It was a tough situation in the Buffalo organization, so to get to a fresh place it's what I needed to do," Sundher explained, adding, "No bias, [the Phantoms organization] gave me a fair opportunity [last year] and I thought things were going really well."

Things seemed to be going well for Sundher last fall. The former 3rd round pick in the 2010 draft earned a call up to Lehigh Valley after the first month of the season and was right in the lineup in November. After five points (three goals, two assists) in his first eight games - including a two-goal performance in Providence on November 20th - things were looking up for Surrey, BC native.

Then a week later on November 27th, things fell apart.

An unfortunate injury essentially ended Sundher's season just as his time with the Phantoms was getting started.

During a 3-on-3 overtime scramble at the PPL Center against rival Hershey, he was taken down awkwardly while driving to the net and his leg folded a way in which it never should.

Not only did the Phantoms not give up on Sundher - who was only on a professional tryout contract (PTO) at the time - but they got things started right away with his rehabilitation.

"They took really good care of me last season with the injury that I had," Sundher said, adding how thankful he was to the organization throughout the rehab process.

The Phantoms even signed Sundher to an standard AHL player contract in March before reassigning him back to Reading to test out his leg.

"They were first class from day one, and the treatment I got - they showed a lot of interest and care in me and I really appreciated that."

Sundher's return to the ice even at the ECHL level was a struggle in mid-March - almost four months since his last game.

"It was brutal. I couldn't skate," Sundher recalled of his stint with Reading last spring. "It was bad. I'd play and take a week or two off and play again. I couldn't skate. Anybody that was there could attest to that. It was frustrating trying to get back."

Sundher ended up playing a total of just 25 games last season (10 in the AHL and 15 in the ECHL), and really had trouble getting back into form. The reason why he wasn't at 100 percent upon his return to the ice? He was still playing with screws in his leg.

"Finally, once I got the screw taken out of my leg and did some rehab over the summer, probably halfway through the summer I started to feel like I'm getting there," Sundher said during Flyers training camp. "Now I'm feeling pretty good. I'm happy with the rehab and the organization really took care of me, so I was very lucky."

After all the work Sundher put in over the summer and the commitment by the Phantoms organization to help him through his leg injury, it was an easy decision for Sundher to re-sign an AHL contract with the Phantoms for the upcoming season.

"To work on American league as you know there in Lehigh Valley. It's a great place to play."

Sundher knows his work is cut out for him trying to make the Phantoms opening night roster, but being able to skate and play hockey again is more than enough to keep him happy and motivated this time around.

"It's great to just go on the ice and feel pain free for the first time in awhile. So I'm just going at it day by day."

In Case You Missed It

New writers added to the site this season - Ian Altenbaugh and Tim Riday - wrote their first monthly prospect reports earlier this week. They'll be covering the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers prospects, respectively, and will have regular updates throughout the season. Take a look:
Penguins Prospect Report - September
Flyers Prospect Report - September 
Phantoms head coach Scott Gordon said there will be a lot of expectations for this season's team.

I've featured several Phantoms' players already this preseason. Here's an inside look on some of the new faces as well as some familiar names:
Confident Leier Looking to Leave Lasting Impression
Miele Sees Opportunity With Flyers
Will O'Neill Looks Forward to Facing Penguins
In case you missed it, I launched Highland Park Hockey's YouTube channel. Here are the first two video interviews I have posted so far this season:


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