|Scott Laughton and Taylor Leier reunited at Phantoms practice Tuesday in Whitehall. Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey|
WHITEHALL - The Lehigh Valley Phantoms enter 2017 with some major roster additions, as goaltender Anthony Stolarz, defenseman Mark Alt and forward Taylor Leier have re-joined the team.
Stolarz was reassigned to Lehigh Valley Tuesday afternoon after the Philadelphia Flyers activated goaltender Michal Neuvirth from injured reserve. Alt has been skating with the Phantoms for a month, completing his rehab from shoulder surgery resulting from a preseason fall in a fight on September 28th and Leier was reassigned to Lehigh Valley from Philadelphia on Monday.
There are a lot of weapons and depth already in the Flyers' AHL system, and these three will certainly add to that. Head coach Scott Gordon's decisions on the lineup are getting tougher, and there's still potential to add another player from the NHL as the Flyers are still currently over the salary cap after Neuvirth was activated from the injured reserve.
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Mark Alt To Make Season Debut Friday
Good news coming out of the Phantoms' cold practice rink in Whitehall, Pa. today as head coach Scott Gordon confirmed that defenseman Mark Alt will return to the Phantoms' lineup on Friday in Hartford. Gordon added that the plan is for Alt to play Friday and Sunday in this weekend's upcoming three-in-three set.
"That's the strength of his game, to play good defense and be efficient on breakouts," Gordon said about Alt and how he will be utilized moving forward. "I thought he made a lot of strides last year in being our top defensive guy. I'm sure there's going to be a ton of rust in first game, but I think everybody excited to get him back. He's a great guy, and he brings a lot to our team."
Alt has been skating with the Phantoms at practice for a month now, and it's good to see that he'll be back playing hockey again this weekend. His injuries throughout his pro career have admittedly taken a toll on him mentally, but nonetheless he's looking forward to getting back out there.
In Tuesday's practice, Alt was paired mainly with Will O'Neill - although when Gordon was asked about the pairings, his response was that the team has seven defensemen and offered no definitive answer as to who Alt will be paired with this weekend.
Taylor Leier Returns To Lehigh Valley
Back at practicing with the Phantoms Tuesday was forward Taylor Leier, who was reassigned Monday after the Flyers' west coast trip when Matt Read was activated from injured reserve. In 10 games with Philadelphia, Leier tallied his first NHL goal and an assist during his first real look at the NHL level after a short stint with the Flyers last year.
"When he went up, him, Scott and Colin were playing really well together," Gordon said of Leier's return. "If they get that chemistry going again, that's just going to make us an even harder team to play against. I'm sure Mac and Laughts are excited to have him back because his offensive game and his two-way game make it easier on both sides of the puck."
Leier was essentially a point-per-game player at the time of his recall to Philadelphia back on December 5th, with 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 22 games with Lehigh Valley this season. While he enjoyed his most recent stay in the NHL, he wants to get back there and become a full-time NHL player like any other guy working on his craft in the AHL. Leier is hoping to get back to how he was playing in Lehigh Valley before last month's call up.
ROSTER NOTES - Phantoms
With Anthony Stolarz returned to Lehigh Valley, the Phantoms returned on loan goaltender Martin Ouellette to their ECHL affiliate in Reading.
On Monday, defenseman Max Lamarche and forward Steven Swavely were also reassigned to Reading.
Taylor Leier - Scott Laughton - Colin McDonald
Danick Martel - Jordan Weal - Nicholas Aube-Kubel
Greg Carey - Andy Miele - Chris Conner
Corban Knight - Cole Bardreau/Radel Fazleev - Mark Zengerle
T.J. Brennan - Robert Hagg/Reece Willcox
Sam Morin - Travis Sanheim
Will O'Neill - Mark Alt
Anthony Stolarz* - Alex Lyon - Martin Ouellette**
* Stolarz was reassigned by Philadelphia after Tuesday's practice
** Ouellette practiced with the Phantoms Tuesday, but was later loaned to Reading