|Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey|
Written by: Tony Androckitis - Twitter/Facebook
While the Lehigh Valley Phantoms were on preparing for Wednesday night's game against rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the Philadelphia Flyers announced they signed impending free agent forward Greg Carey to a contract extension.
Highland Park Hockey has learned that Carey's contract is a two-year, two-way contract for the 2017-18 season.
"I really like it here. The fan support is great. The organization is great," Carey said after Wednesday night's 3-0 shutout win over the Penguins. "They treat us incredibly well. I've only had the opportunity to play in two other places, but I definitely feel at home here and am excited to come back here for another two years."
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms organization - with top notch facilities at the PPL Center both on and off the ice - is establishing itself as one of the premier landing spots for veteran AHL-level free agents.
Already having signed the likes of Chris Conner, Colin McDonald, Andy Miele, T.J. Brennan and Will O'Neill in recent years, the re-signing of Carey to an extension proves the players are happy with their situation in Lehigh Valley.
Carey is in his third full season of pro hockey - his 2nd full year in the AHL - following a four-year career in the collegiate ranks with St. Lawrence University and some time with the now-defunct Portland Pirates and Springfield Falcons in recent seasons as a pro.
"We're heading down the stretch, and it's kind of nice to get that from sitting on my mind - what I'm doing next year," Carey said of signing the contract extension some four months before free agency begins later this summer. "I'm happy to come back and hopefully make a real good run at it here."
After a breakout season saw him tally 26 goals last year in Springfield, Carey tallied his 26th of the season with the Phantoms this year back on March 3rd last weekend. He's got plenty of time, with 18 games remaining in the Phantoms' regular season, to potentially be the first forward to tally 30 goals in Lehigh Valley Phantoms franchise history.
The last time the Flyers' AHL affiliate had a 30-goal scorer was in the 2009-10 season when Jon Matsumoto tallied 30 goals with the Adirondack Phantoms. The Phantoms all-time franchise record for goals in a season belongs to Philadelphia Phantoms forward Jon Sim, who tallied 35 goals in the 2004-05 season.
"Just keep doing what I do. Try to help the team offensively, and obviously on the power play," Carey explained of his conversations with the Flyers management prior to signing the contract extension, adding, "and try to be good with the young guys and kind of help the system develop a winning culture down here and keep it going."
The four-year standout at St. Lawrence University went undrafted, perhaps further motivating his effort on the ice - be it at practice or in a game on a power play. His lethal shot has paved the way for the Phantoms' power play to be among the best in the league this season, and his shoot-from-everywhere mentality is a big part of the Phantoms' offensive successes in 2016-17.
Carey's 26 goals are second most in the AHL, one behind Chicago Wolves' forward Wade Megan's 27 tallies.
Meanwhile, Carey's 17 power play tallies lead the AHL by a wide margin.as St. John's Chris Terry has 13 man advantage goals and Grand Rapids' Martin Frk has 12 atop the league in that category.
What kind of a future, if any, does Carey have of making the jump to the NHL - specifically in the Flyers organization where goal-scoring forwards are anything but stocked at the pro level? Carey isn't 100% sure, but long odds haven't stopped him so far in his hockey career.
"Never say never," Carey said about seeing a potential NHL future somewhere down the road. "I'm going to try and keep doing what I do down here, and who knows can happen - what the future holds. I'm just going to have fun with it and it enjoy here."