|Brennan looking forward to 2017 AHL All-Star Classic in front of the hometown fans at PPL Center. Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey|
Written by: Tony Androckitis - Twitter/Facebook
It might seem like just another season in the American Hockey League (AHL) if you checked to find your team's all-star representative(s) for the 2017 AHL All-Star Classic earlier this month.You probably saw a pretty familiar name listed as an All-Star defenseman.
T.J. Brennan will be a part of the Eastern Conference All-Stars in Sunday's Skills Competition and the Atlantic Division's All-Stars roster during Monday's All-Star Challenge, representing the Lehigh Valley Phantoms along with fellow teammates Taylor Leier and Jordan Weal.
"It's always an honor," Brennan said of being named an AHL All-Star for the fourth straight year. "My focus is on winning, and winning a Calder Cup and obviously doing the best I can with this team here," he added of his goal with the Phantoms this season. "Anything on an individual basis is a bonus, and it feels great to be recognized."
This year's selection marks the fourth straight year that Brennan is an AHL All-Star. An offensively-dynamic blueliner, Brennan has tallied at least 12 goals a season in the AHL for seven straight seasons - including this year where has tallied 12 goals and 23 assists in 40 games with the Phantoms this season.
"I've been lucky to go to a few so far. It'll be nice to be able to go to one in front of the home crowd with a couple of really great players and see what the talent is like around the league and really enjoy myself."
Brennan acknowledged the Phantoms' team success over his own, and was quick to point out that the wealth of talent on the roster has certainly helped him and others get Lehigh Valley off to the start they've had the first half of the season (now 27-11-2 through 40 games).
"It seems like we have created a really good environment here in the Lehigh Valley and within the Flyers organization," Brennan explained, adding, "A lot of guys who are probably as deserving, or more deserving, than myself so I definitely try to take it in stride, appreciate it and have a really good time - especially with Leiersy and Wealer there. Another two guys that are more than deserving."
"There's a bunch of guys on our team that probably should have deserved it. I'm sure it was a tough time picking which guys to go. I'm really appreciative, it's always a great time and it's going to be fun to play in front of the home crowd."
Brennan's ability to score goals from his position on the back end is almost second to none. In fact, his 12th goal of this season on Friday versus Wilkes-Barre/Scranton marked his 125th career AHL goal - placing him third all-time on the league's goal-scoring list for defensemen.
Brennan is the active goals scoring leader among defensemen in the AHL all-time, and is five goals away from overtaking Bryan Helmer for second all-time. Former Phantoms defenseman John Slaney is first all-time with 167 goals.
As for the possibility of the three Phantoms' All-Stars getting shifts together in Monday's All-Star Challenge - a three-on-three tournament between the four division's All-Star teams - Brennan is just hoping to have fun and be able to keep up with his speedy forward teammates going to the event.
"We'll see. I don't know if I'm on their level, but if they do I'll try not to embarrass them out there too much - try and keep up with them," Brennan said. "It'll definitely be fun, and it's always a great experience going to those."
The Moorestown, New Jersey native has appeared in 53 NHL games during his career - now in the midst of his 8th season at the professional level. While he hasn't been able to break into the game's highest league on a more permanent basis, Brennan still relishes at the fact the he's playing the game he loves and now with the Flyers organization closer to home.
"As a little kid, you're always dreaming to be in the best - the All-Stars. Maybe it's not the NHL, but it's definitely a very proud moment for myself and my family," Brennan said of being selected to another AHL All-Star event. "I'm really excited, and I want to take full advantage of the opportunity to see what the league has to offer and really have a lot of fun."