Lehigh Valley Phantoms Monthly Prospect Report - December Grades

Thursday, January 12, 2017
Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey
Editor's note: The monthly feature aimed to inform fans about the progress the prospects have made each month is back! This is the third installment of the monthly series keeping you updated on the progress of Philadelphia Flyers' prospects playing in the AHL with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. December spans 12 games from December 2nd to December 30th.

Written by: Tony Androckitis - Twitter/Facebook

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms (23-9-2) are in the midst of their January schedule, but let's take a step back to delve deeper into the month of December - a 12-game month in which the Phantoms went 8-3-1 and continued to keep pace in a top-heavy Atlantic Division that also features rivals Hershey and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

The Phantoms took advantage of their season-high six game homestand in the middle of the month, taking a five-game win streak into the holiday break before dropping the final game of the extended homestand to Hershey on December 26th.

The players admitted a bit of a slow start in returning from Christmas break, as they went 1-2-1 in their first four games back before finishing last weekend's three-game set with back-to-back wins to seemingly get back on track.

With a home and home series with rival Hershey coming this weekend and a three-game weekend against three of the top teams in the Atlantic Division in succession - W-B/Scranton Friday, Providence Saturday and in Hershey Sunday the following weekend - there are a ton of key tests coming the Phantoms' way that will go far in telling just how they stack up against the rest of the division.

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let's take a look at the Phantoms' month of December from all angles, both individually and as a team.

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Special Teams

Power Play

Season Stats: 34 games played, 36 for 162 = 22.2% - 7th in AHL (Six shorthanded goals against)
December Stats: 12 games played, 12 for 63 = 19.0% (Two shorthanded goals against)

Penalty Kill

Season Stats: 34 games played, 108 for 128 = 84.4% - 8th in AHL (Four shorthanded goals for)
December Stats: 12 games played, 39 for 46 = 84.8 % ( Zero shorthanded goals for)

An update on every player on the roster after the jump.

Goaltenders

Alex Lyon - Grade B+
Season Stats: 22GP, 16-6-2, 2.58 GAA, .913 SV%, 2 SO
December Stats: 11GP, 7-3-1, 3.07 GAA, .894 SV%, 0 SO 

Not taking into account his strong performance over the weekend and solely looking at his stats in December, Lyon was a workhorse for the Phantoms last month - appearing in all but one of the team's games and picking up wins while his team out-scored the opposition. The return of Anthony Stolarz will cut into the amount of playing time he'll see going forward, but Lyon is settling in nicely in his first pro season.

Defensemen

Sam Morin - Grade B
Season Stats: 34GP, 2G-4A, -3, 53 PIM
December Stats: 12GP, 0G-0A, -6, 24 PIM

The numbers on the stat sheet don't look pretty, but don't be alarmed - Morin is a physical monster and comes out of most puck battles and plays in the corner with the puck on his stick. Paired with Travis Sanheim, Morin says he's not focusing on offense much at all these days - just honing his craft and working on his defensive game to get ready for the NHL. Morin's been good in all three zones and isn't too far away from being a Flyers defenseman.

Robert Hagg - Grade B+
Season Stats: 28GP, 2G-2A, +3, 20 PIM
December Stats: 12GP, 2G-1A, +1, 12 PIM 

The knock on Hagg in the past has been his decision-making and his non-assertive style of play. The good news is he's playing with edge and appears much more confident breaking out of his own zone since Scott Gordon re-worked his game late last season. He's not going to wow you often, but Hagg plays a pretty steady game and going unnoticed as a defenseman is usually a good thing when you're not being relied on to score goals.

Travis Sanheim - Grade A-
Season Stats: 34GP, 5G-11A, +8, 30 PIM
December Stats: 12GP, 4G-2A, +1, 14 PIM

An interesting month for Sanheim, who was challenged by head coach Scott Gordon to be more assertive and engaged physically. Sanheim wasn't scoring entering the month, but playing with edge in December might have had something to do with his increased offensive production too. Four of his five goals on the season came last month, and he's really developing his game to be a two-way defender with elite offensive abilities who isn't afraid to get his nose dirty in the corners and around the net. Gordon's challenge was accepted by Sanheim, and has helped him improve his overall game.

Will O'Neill - Grade B+
Season Stats: 33GP, 2G-18A, +2, 16 PIM
December Stats: 11GP, 1G-9A, +5, 10 PIM

O'Neill was suspended for one game after an end-of-game incident against Hershey on December 26th, but other than that last month was by far his best of the season. He had a career-high four assist and plus five night against Providence in the team's final game before the holiday break and despite not being "the guy" on the blue line like he was last season with the rival Penguins, O'Neill's passing ability and offensive instincts are a big part of the reason why the Phantoms are at the top of the league in most offensive categories.

T.J. Brennan - Grade A-
Season Stats: 34GP, 11G-19A, +12, 38 PIM
December Stats: 12GP, 5G-7A, +1, 8 PIM

Brennan is an AHL All-Star for the fourth straight year, and for good reason. He simply dominates offensively at this level. His latest goal (in January) moved him into third all-time in goals by a defenseman in the AHL. It's what he does - whether it's scoring goals or getting shots through on the power play that end up in the back of the net. Scott Gordon's wishes of more offense from his defense came to fruition this offseason with Brennan's addition to the Phantoms.

Reece Willcox - Grade C+
Season Stats: 26GP, 2G-3A, +10, 6 PIM
December Stats: 9GP, 0G-2A,+3, 4 PIM

Mark Alt's return seems to have pushed Willcox onto the edge of the lineup moving forward, but the rookie isn't sitting as a healthy scratch because of poor play. With everyone healthy on defense, Willcox is back to where he was probably penciled in on the depth chart in the summer.

Forwards

Mark Zengerle - Grade B+
Season Stats: 33GP, 8G-12A, +1, 8 PIM
December Stats: 12GP, 3G-5A, -2, 0 PIM

Zengerle and his 20 points on the season would be top-five in scoring on just about any AHL roster on the Eastern Conference, and actually leading scorer on two Eastern Conference teams. Yet he served as the Phantoms' healthy scratch for the first time this season last weekend. Talk about putting this team's depth into perspective. Zengerle's eight goals on the year in 33 games is just one less than he had all last year in Grand Rapids, and he's been doing it mainly as a third and fourth line player in Lehigh Valley.

Cole Bardreau - Grade B
Season Stats: 30GP, 5G-3A, +3, 34 PIM
December Stats: 12GP, 3G-0A, -1, 6PIM

Bardreau was on the Phantoms' top line while Taylor Leier was in Philadelphia, and showed instant chemistry with familiar linemate from last year Colin McDonald. With Scott Laughton centering those two, the trio was routinely matched up against opposing team's top lines throughout the month. Bardreau is back into his regular 4th line now, but plays with an edge and kills penalties well. Important role player for Lehigh Valley who might just sneak onto the Flyers' 4th line in the future if he can stay healthy and improve consistency.

Greg Carey - Grade A-
Season Stats: 34GP, 17G-8A, -4, 6 PIM
December Stats: 12GP, 6G-2A, +2, 0 PIM


Carey still leads the team with his 17 goals and continued to add to his league-leading power play goal in December. He seems to always get open and find soft spots in the defensive zone, and being on a line with Andy Miele usually results in the latter locating the former for a goal. Carey has one of the best shots on the team and he isn't afraid to use it (101 shots on the season).

Colin McDonald - Grade A-
Season Stats: 34GP, 13G-6A, -1, 14 PIM
December Stats: 12GP, 4G-4A, Even, 4 PIM

The captain continues to lead by example. His veteran presence and leadership in the locker room doesn't show up on the stat sheet, but he's an important piece of the puzzle in Lehigh Valley. Playing on the top line with Taylor Leier and Scott Laughton, the trio is tough to play against in all three zones. McDonald uses his strength and physical play to create more space for his speedy linemates.

Corban Knight - Grade B+
Season Stats: 31GP, 4G-11A, +8, 14 PIM
December Stats: 11GP, 0G-8A, +2, 8 PIM
Knight has had no problem playing up and down the lineup in whatever role Scott Gordon has placed him in. His versatility and ability to kill penalties, win face-offs and be a reliable two-way player might go unnoticed on the stat sheet from time to time, but Knight's dependability in the defensive zone shouldn't.

Nicolas Aube-Kubel - Grade C
Season Stats: 33GP, 4G-4A, +7, 31 PIM
December Stats: 11 GP, 1G-2A, -1, 4 PIM

Aube-Kubel isn't having the offensive success one might have thought while spending most of his ice time alongside Danick Martel and Jordan Weal. He's sort of had to re-invent himself as a rookie at the pro level, learning to play a more responsible game in all three zones and a more structured style of play than he was used to in juniors.

Danick Martel - Grade B+
Season Stats: 31GP, 8G-13A, +7, 44 PIM
December Stats: 12GP, 4G-5A, +6, 14 PIM 

Martel had just one goal in a span of 18 games leading into the team's final game before the holiday break, but was able to restore confidence in his game with a three-point night (two goals, one assist) in the Phantoms' big 7-1 win over Providence. Almost exclusively on a line with Aube-Kubel and Jordan Weal, Martel brings speed and tenacity for an undersized forward who doesn't let his small stature deter him from battling in the hard areas.

Radel Fazleev - Grade C+
Season Stats: 32GP, 3G-7A, +3, 14PIM
December Stats: 11GP, 2G-0A, -3, 4 PIM

Fazleev has been primarily a fourth line center this season with the Phantoms, being a defensive-minded player that Scott Gordon has entrusted with penalty killing duties in December. While not logging big minutes, Fazleev is still adjusting to hockey at the pro level and figures to remain a role player for Lehigh Valley in his rookie season.

Andy Miele - Grade A-
Season Stats: 23GP, 3G-16A, -3, 15 PIM
December Stats: 11GP, 2G-9A, +2, 13 PIM

Miele returned to the Phantoms' lineup after missing nearly a month with a broken larynx in a freak injury in November. He's been centering veteran Chris Conner and sharpshooting Greg Carey and the trio is dangerous in the offensive zone. Miele is on the team's top power play unit and his vision is second to none, seemingly always finding the open guy on the ice.

Chris Conner - Grade A-
Season Stats: 34GP, 8G-18A, +6, 6 PIM
December Stats: 12GP, 4G-5A, +4, 2 PIM

Conner is another consistent veteran the Phantoms have in their lineup. Every night, it's a different guy stepping up for Lehigh Valley and Conner is no different. The small but strong speedy forward has a knack for creating odd man rushes with said speed and his patented fake wrap around pass back play has netted the team several goals this season.

Jordan Weal - Grade A-
Season Stats: 32GP, 11G-22A, +6, 20 PIM
December Stats: 12GP, 4G-8A, -3, 8 PIM
Weal continues to be a point-per-game player at the AHL level, and is one of three Phantoms representing the team at the 2017 AHL All-Star Classic. Scott Gordon has done a good job of spreading the offense across three lines, creating matchup problems for the opposition every night. Weal centers Aube-Kubel and Martel on a speedy, skilled line that creates chances off the rush. Weal is also an important part of the top power play unit.

Scott Laughton - Grade B-
Season Stats (AHL): 20GP, 4G-8A, +3, 2 PIM
December Stats: 9GP, 1G-1A, -2, 0 PIM

Laughton returned to Lehigh Valley with obvious disappointment of not having a role on the NHL club, but got to work into molding his game to be the defensive center forward the Flyers want him to be. A bit snake-bitten according to Scott Gordon, Laughton was having trouble finishing his scoring chances despite creating Grade-A chances with regularity on the Phantoms' top line. He broke through and scored a big goal early in January and he hopes to breakthrough offensively in the future.

Honorable Mentions

Goaltender Martin Ouellette - Grade Incomplete
Season Stats (ECHL): 8GP, 4-3-0, 3.27 GAA, .889 SV%, 0 SO
December Stats (AHL): 1GP, 1-0-0, 2.00 GAA, .905 SV%, 0 SO

Ouellette's only action came on December 4th in Bridgeport, where he stopped 19 of 21 in a 3-2 win over the Sound Tigers. Other than that, Ouellette served as Lyon's backup for the rest of the month and was later reassigned to Reading when Anthony Stolarz returned to the Phantoms from Philadelphia.

Defenseman Max Lamarche - Grade Incomplete
Season Stats: 9GP, 2G-1A, +1, 4 PIM
December Stats: 4GP, 0G-3A, Even, 6 PIM

Lamarche only saw four games with the Phantoms in December, but played well in his limited time in the lineup at the end of the month. With Mark Alt returning from a preseason shoulder surgery, Lamarche was reassigned to Reading last week.


Forward Steven Swavely - Grade Incomplete
Season Stats: 10GP, 0G-0A, -1, 0 PIM
December Stats: 4GP, 0G-0A, -1, 0 PIM

Swavely got into a few games last month, but with the depth up front in the organization and the return of Taylor Leier to Lehigh Valley he was reassigned to Reading where he's been playing really well this season to the tune of 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in 18 games.

Forward Taylor Leier - Grade Incomplete
Season Stats (AHL): 25GP, 7G-14A, +8, 10 PIM
December Stats (AHL): 3GP, 1G-2A, +2, 0 PIM

Leier made several memories in December, getting an extended look with the Philadelphia Flyers and did not disappoint - tallying his first NHL goal in a game against the Dallas Stars before being returned to Lehigh Valley in the beginning of January. Leier's confidence is soaring, and his return to the top line with Scott Laughton and Colin McDonald is a big boost to the AHL club. Leier is an AHL All-Star for the first time in his career and will represent the host at the 2017 AHL All-Star Classic at the end of January.


1 comments:

perttu junnonaho said...

Where the hell we are buried Tyler Couldbourne, because it"s has being a while, when we last heard something of his play performances! And another thing i must say is why we even don"t speculate in our articles to promote Greg Carey to the Flyers, because in Flyers we have log jam at right wing position and we need badly real good left wingers who can upgrade our line-up! And what i have read about Greg Carey"s play this season, he has played really well! So why we don"t even consider to upgrade our teams left wing position whit Carey, cause he"s still pretty young and up-coming player, who in my mind should be in the same contenders list as Taylor Leier!

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